Christmas Season Makeover

More than a few years ago, I found myself storing unopened Christmas presents for my children in our hall closet.  This was not on account of being a cruel mom interested in destroying the joy of Christmas for my children.  No, this was an attempt to neatly store all of the toys that we simply didn’t have any more room for in their bedrooms.  These were the “left over” gifts.

It took me stuffing my closet full of unopened presents to realize that I may need to rethink this gift-giving thing.  You see, my husband and I had gotten into the habit of starting our Christmas shopping early.  Think “July.”  I even requested a special key-locking knob to be placed on that closet door just so I could stock up all year long and not worry about needing to hide my “stash.”

We had simply allowed ourselves to become obsessed with presents.  And for what?  It’s not as though our children could possibly have needed, wanted, or even played with all of those things.  To make matters worse, our children had no concept of what Christmas was really about.  Admittedly, they were too young to truly grasp the entire concept, but we weren’t even trying to put Christ in Christmas.  Our idea of an Advent season simply consisted of a Candy Count-Down Calendar.

We knew we needed to make a change.  We didn’t want to raise children who were only interested in Christmas for what stuff they could get out of it.  We wanted our children to understand what made it so special.

We decided to start our Christmas Season Make-Over by rethinking our Advent calendar.  I wanted the count-down to Christmas to reflect the real Christmas story, not just the one with Santa and Frosty.  So I went to my Bible and started compiling verses that chronicled the birth of Jesus, beginning with Prophecy in the Old Testament and ending with Luke 19:10, the reason for His coming.

Next, I divided those verses into 24 days, the idea being to begin on December 1st and finish on Christmas Eve.  The verses were printed on slips of paper which we attached to a small token or candy placed under our special Advent tree.  Our children loved getting to dig under the tree to find that day’s verse.  Once it was found, we would gather together on the sofa to summarize the previous days and to add the new verse into the overall story.  Once Christmas came, we would read the entire story from the book of Luke again before opening our presents.

We also decided to alter the amount of presents we were gifting.  I had been doing some “research” on Pinterest and came upon this nifty gift-giving guide.  The idea was to give four presents.  Maybe you’ve seen it.  “Something you want.  Something you need.  Something to wear.  Something to Read.” 

Somehow I convinced my husband that this would be the perfect solution to our need to reduce.  As we purchased the few items on our list that year, I was absolutely sure we had found a winning combination between our new Advent and gift-giving.

Unfortunately, on Christmas morning, after having a beautiful spiritual experience with our two small children, we were forced to face the reality of my choice.  My children couldn’t read very well and what kid really wants clothes for Christmas??  The thought was a good one; it was the execution that needed some work.  We decided balance would be the way to go.

By the next year, we had found that balance.  Our Advent season went beautifully as we were able to help our children read the verses themselves.  They were even able to recall the story from the previous year, allowing us to expand our discussions with them.  They still enjoyed finding those verses under the tree.

We continued to refrain from over-indulging with presents while still retaining the magic of Christmas morning.  We did go ahead and get more books and maybe a cute outfit or two, but we supplemented with a few things from their wish list as well.

What we ended up with was a Christmas Season that included Christ and a celebration of the greatest gift ever given.


My Kids Have An Addiction And It’s All My Fault

Yes, it’s true, my children have an addiction.  (More than one if I’m being honest, but that post is for another day.)

Recently, on a quest to find a misplaced library book, I dared to step foot in my youngest’s bedroom, on the far side of the bed.  No Man’s Land.

One look told me that I may find more “treasures” than just a book.  Perhaps Jimmy Hoffa??  I was not disappointed.  I began looking in totes and under the bed.  Not surprising, I found crumpled up papers I had supplied to her for study practice over the summer.  (Incomplete I might add.)  What did surprise me were the various pieces of food container trash that I found among the Barbies.  (Pretty sure it’s okay to let go of that applesauce container, kid.)

It took me exactly three pieces of garbage, two minutes on my knees, and four occurrences of shoving my hair out of my face to become exasperated.  Exasperated is a nice term.  I was actually angry.  I looked around at that mess and just Lost My Patience.

Now, the unfortunate side of this is that out of all of us, myself included, the little one is the most organized.  I know that, but it didn’t stop me from increasing the volume of my voice while I expressed my disappointment.  I’d like to tell you that I sat her down and had a reasonable conversation about the proper way to keep her room.  But that’s not what I did.

Instead, I let her know that I was fully capable of cleaning her room myself – with the help of a nice, big trash bag – if she couldn’t handle it.  And then I reminded her that she is told to pick up her room every single day.  And since I know she’s cleaning the other side of her bed (the side that’s visible from the doorway), there must be something more important to her than finishing up.  That’s when it hit me: devices.

She’s rushing to get done so she can use devices.  Again, I’d like to say that I handled that realization calmly, but no.  It was just more fuel for the fire.  In no uncertain terms, I let her know that just wasn’t going to cut it anymore, and since her big sister happened to be in the room at the same time, she got to hear the whole fiasco too.  My parting instructions were to get it clean.  End of story.

I went about the business of getting ready for the day, and decided to go tell the big one something.  She was sitting on her floor organizing her Legos in an attempt to clean up her room like I’d instructed.  Good.  But then she looked up at me and said, “I’m sorry we made you mad.”

It was just like a slap in the face.  A big part of me wanted to say, “That’s right!  You should do better.”  But what came out was, “It’s not your fault.  It’s mine.”  And I’m not talking about being angry (though that’s totally my fault, too), I’m talking about the cause: the overwhelming desire to utilize devices to the point that you abandon other things.  That’s my fault.

My girls were just being kids.  They were only doing what I allowed them to do.  I’m the one that gave them the devices, and over time, they’ve become just as addicted to them as I have.  This addiction has affected our relationships with each other, family, and friends.

Our girls would rather watch Netflix than go outside to play.  I would too!  In a group setting, the kids are all playing games on their devices and I’m on Facebook.  (Though I really don’t know why.  People are mostly posting recipes and I don’t cook.  I guess that’s what makes it an addiction.  There’s no good reason to use it, but you do anyway.)  The girls are rushing through chores and I’m neglecting responsibilities.

Well, no more.  Right then and there all the devices were gathered up and brought to a central location for safe-keeping.  (I don’t even mind locking up remote controls if I have to.)  Now, we don’t take devices in the car, we talk to each other. If they have friends over, they play Legos, or dolls, or go outside.  We don’t come home and veg out, we handle our business.  And if all of our responsibilities and chores are taken care of at the end of the day, we are allowed 30 minutes to watch a show or play a game.

I’m not saying kids can’t have devices, I think it’s important for them to know how to use technology, I’m just saying there has to be a balance.  And it has to start with me.  I’ve even decided to give up my devotional apps and return to the printed versions because I’m just to easily swayed to turn to social media.  I’m on a quest to establish our devices as a communication tool, not a mindless, time-wasting addiction.

God meant for our lives to be so much more that just a life lived in front of a screen.

Since then, I’ve gotten to hear more details about school than ever before.  And I promise I’ve never seen those girls ride their bikes so much, or have so much clean laundry, or be so creative with fort building or skits or drawings.  Who knew the imagination could be so big when you take the time to entertain yourself?

Speaking of, I think I’ll go out and check on those chickens now.