Monday, December 7, 2009

Tis the season to be...stressed?

I believe its supposed to be "Tis the season to be jolly" and I find myself a tad bit less stressed than I usually am at this time of year. I have always considered myself somewhat of a Scrooge and suffer from an over abundance of stress. I do enjoy certain things about this holiday season, but there are a couple that I find extremely annoying. So annoying that they usually over-shadow any joy that the season may bring. Santa and the idea that kids need a bunch of presents are the two biggest thorns in my side during the holidays.

I don't really remember whether I believed in Santa as a child. If I did it was short-lived. My fondest childhood Christmas memories seem to be centered around the decorations, the music, the food and, of course, the gazillion presents that surrounded our tree each year. I come from a family of 5 kids and our parents always over-extended themselves financially each Christmas. It seemed like it took us hours to finish opening all of our packages, and then the next morning our stockings would be over-stuffed with more treasures. It saddens me to think that the one thing that brought so much joy to us kids, more than likely caused strife among our parents. I have a feeling that watching the joy in our faces as we unwrapped each new gift made it seem worth it to our parents. But was it really?

I struggle each year with the urge to over-indulge the Littles. I feel guilty when there are only a few presents under the tree. I would love to be able to give them every item on their wish list. It would be easy to remedy. We could just max out a few credit cards each year and pay them off in time to do the whole thing over again the next year. I really just don't want to give the Littles the message that this time of year is only magical if you receive, receive, receive. I feel like that is the message I received. I can remember the let down when my parents finally had no choice, but to cut back. And I was an adult when that happened. So we don't over-indulge the Littles, but I do feel that we need to have a special holiday tradition to make up for the small amount of gifts they receive.

Please feel free to share whatever the holiday traditions that your family celebrates. I would love to gather ideas.

The other issue is centered around Santa. I think that this is the number one issue that turns me Scroogish. I have not liked how I feel like a liar. I don't like misleading the Littles into believing in this make-believe giver of gifts. I hate answering questions like why do my friends get things like Nintendo DS and Wii from Santa and we don't. Why do some kids get nothing from Santa? I don't even know how I responded to those questions, but I'm sure it was a lame answer. To me anything but the truth feels like a lame answer.

I remember when Not-so-Little #1 found out the truth about Santa. She was not happy with me. Not because I lied to her, but because I told her the truth. She didn't want to know. She wanted to hold on to the magic. Not-so-Little #2 was more like me, he just came to know and was fine with it. That brings me to Little #3. He is 11 years old and refuses to believe that his parents are Santa. I have never told him this and he is wise not to ask. All he ever says is that friends at school tell him that Santa is his parents and he chooses not to believe them. Is this healthy? Should I be concerned? I did overhear him tell his younger brother (who I am sure knows the truth and doesn't care) that he was afraid to ask me for the truth, because that would mean that I had lied to him. I did lie.

I am at a point where I am no longer comfortable with the Santa lie. I know that millions and millions of children are told the same thing and they are all fine, but I associate too much negativity around this fib. Yet when I watch movies like The Polar Express I am filled with the wonder and magic of the season. I get a good feeling when I see adults wearing t-shirts that say I believe in Santa. We have a wall hanging in our house that says "this house believes in Santa", and I really like the idea of holding on to a child-like wonder around the holidays. So I am conflicted as what to do. How can I be honest with the Littles, and still allow them to be filled with wonder and joy? I am really at a loss as to what to do.

Have any of you ever dealt with this conflict? Maybe you could share how you have handled it.

I know that even with these two issues I have with the holidays, this holiday will be wonderful. I know that this year the gratitude I feel for all the blessings I have in my life will be more powerful then the conflicts. I hope that no matter how you celebrate this time of year that you are filled with joy and gratitude. I hope that you are able to enjoy the simple things and not get wrapped up in the hype. Peace be to you all.

Just my thoughts.


Caroline said...

First the new look!!!

OK...I hate the whole santa thing too. My kids and I were just discussing this the other day. They still believe. But my oldest has a Jewish friend and she wonders why santa does not visit her. That is not so easy to explain!

So for now I go along with the lie...I want them to hold onto the magic of the season. I don't spoil them too much...they get most items they want...but not all. I don't wish to be mean...but I notice from years past that it's only fun to open the gifts! Then it just becomes overwhelming. They play with the new shiny toys for a day or two...only to forget all about them...

So I focus on the giving to others part of the season. We bake cookies together and enjoy the festive lights of the tree. I try to take the focus off the presents.

inkywasfat said...

As you know, I kind of have 2 sets of kids. The oldest are 20 and 17 and then our surprise is 3 - big gap. What I'm about to tell you may not help, but it's my story.

When my first two were little, I was a very constrained Christan who didn't want to lie to the kids about Santa, Santa wasn't the reason for the season, WE paid for gifts, not Santa, etc. So, I told them the truth, that Santa Clause was not real BUT that it was fun to believe he is. Well, I gotta say, I sucked the life (FUN) right out of Christmas. I may be wrong this time around, but Ian thinks Santa is bringing him a present.

If in the years to come I see that Ian's getting confused, I'm going to tell him the truth, but then I'm going to invite him to keep believing 'cause it's fun (even though it may not be fun after that.)

As far as being accused of lying, I will tell him that I see how children have an openness to believe wonderful things and that I just wanted him to experience that joy. Then I'll ask for forgiveness. Move on.

BTW: I kind of hate Christmas. Too many expectations that I'll never fulfill. Boo to me!

shiny mamaof6 said...

Caroline - I have also noticed that the excitement centered around the present dies down in a few days. Maybe I should just wrap up empty boxes. tee hee!

I would really like to put more focus on giving to others this year. I like the idea of baking cookies and now that the Littles are old enough to help, I may do that. Thanks for sharing here.

Stacey - I love how you will discuss this with your little one. It sounds like a good way to explain that there is magic in the season. This I loved. "children have an openness to believe in wonderful things and that I just wanted him to experience that joy" I'm so going to steal this line from you. Thank you.

Daphne said...

It's good to see you back, Jill! I haven't dealt with the Santa thing yet since we don't have kids. I do identify with the issue of gift-giving though. My family is currently in the process of having an almost no-gift Christmas this year, to focus on doing things together and not on spending money on things that might be quickly forgotten. It's a great conversation to have! Give gifts if they have meaning in the giving, not because they are expected or because you feel obligated. Thanks for asking!

shiny mamaof6 said...

Daphne - I am in love with the idea of an almost no-gift Christmas. Focusing on being together and creating family traditions and memories would be divine. Thanks for sharing this here.

suZen said...

Hi Jill! I'm no fan of Xmas and I'm glad I'm old enough now to just do it MY way! haha!

The whole Santa thing made me nuts 25 yrs ago when my kids were young. I started as early as I could to get them giving away toys to kids who had NONE. And they had to do this before Xmas, before they got more! It was an annual after Thanksgiving project sorting thru all their stuff, really SEEING how much they already had and they were not allowed to give anything broken either - it had to be NICE stuff.

I explained Santa was a legend, he represented hopes and dreams. Some dude somewhere along in history decided the red suit, white beard and the whole "story" of Santa. No, he isn't real, but the concept, the idea of it is ok and lots of kids don't know this truth, this secret, about Santa, so let them think what they want to, but you know the truth.

Also, in regard to the presents - I let them make lists and I told them I would choose one or two ONLY and they'd get a surprise or two as well. That was it. I made Xmas as much as I could be all about giving, giving, giving. And the kids were really proud of themselves. I heard my son tell a friend once he wasn't getting the expensive toy he wanted because we had to share our money with people who had none. I'd do it all over again too - no regrets.

When they were early teens we served holiday dinners in soup kitchens - I wanted them to really feel and see what life is all about and to have some appreciation for the fact that they really had a great life compared to some.

I think you need to decide what your b.s. tolerance level is, eliminate what you want and create your own special meaning for the season. Think outside the box - its fun!

shiny mamaof6 said...

SuZen - I like how you explained the Santa thing to your kids. I also like the idea of a letting them know they will get 1 or 2 items on their wish list. I always like getting your pearls of wisdom. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Lisis said...

Well, you already know MY take on the Santa thing (I'm glad to be done with it). So... I'll just say, Suzen is a GENIUS.


shiny mamaof6 said...

Lisis - I will be glad to be done with it also, and I agree that Suzen is a genius.

Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord said...

Like Lisis, I loved Suzen's comment! I find the way she approached the holidays with her kids to be inspired and very... suZEN-like. (smile)

When I was little, we made our wish list, knowing we'd get about six things, and we couldn't put really expensive things on there, either. We knew what was possible each year, so why waste a spot on the list with something crazy like a motorized car one could actually DRIVE?!

As a result, while we weren't spoiled rotten at Christmas, my brothers and I had the pleasure of playing with a few new things each year, and these days (probably a little bit because of how we were raised), I'm a minimalist.

Go with what feels right, and leave any guilt behind. Your kids chose YOU when they picked this life to incarnate into (or so I believe), and they picked you knowing all that would go along with that.

Be well & joyful!

shiny mamaof6 said...

Megan - I also believe that we chose our parents. Thank you for the reminder. It helps me to see that all is fine the way it is. Its not the number of presents under the tree that the Littles are counting on. Its love and acceptance from their parents. Mine have that no matter what.

mermaid said...

This year we decided not to send out Christmas cards, but an email greeting. I only have one daughter, and only got her a few things, since her birthday was just before Thanksgiving. When I start to feel guilty about what she doesn't have, she reminds me of all that she does when I just spend time with her.

I don't blame you for feeling stressed. It seems as if every Christmas, there are new ways to be more, do more, get more. It's fine to be merry, but to think we need more things to be this way just deepens the belief that wholeness is outside ourselves.

Kittie Howard said...

I just blogged about an African who wanted Leftovers for Christmas...just wanted his family to sit around and eat and eat and have full bellies and food left, don't know, don't know...Merry Christmas!

Nina P. said...

I'm not sure where the gift giving came from except maybe the kings gift to the star led New Born at Christmas. It is the act of Giving, not the act of receiving that is the key. That said I will admit the excitement of waking up to a few surprises under the tree...or Trying to stay awake and sneak out to catch the jolly old elf in red... Never could quite make it as the sandman always came. I don't remember when I realized "Santa" wasn't "real"... yet... maybe the concept is real... The concept of giving Love and Joy to others. Spreading compassion and smiles. I do agree whole heartedly with SuZen too, giving, serving and having an amazing time with Family building traditions and memories to pass on to future generations. I think your children chose well to have you as their mother. May the Peace, Love, Joy and Hope of the Season fill your hearts this Christmas and always. Love and Light, Nina P

sdsweetland said...

Jill, I have thought alot about why Christmas and birthdays were so special to us as kids and I don't think it had anything to do with being greedy or materialistic. To me it goes back to the fact that we were shown so little affection by our parents, that these occasions were the only times of the year we truly felt loved. Our parents showed affection by giving us things and on Christmas and birthdays they showered us with them. That's why my toys were always so special to me; they were tangible evidence that my parents did love me, something which was very rarely made plain to us. I have stressed for years trying to make Christmas as special to my kids as it was to me until I realized that it never will be and that's actually a very good thing :)

As far as the Santa thing goes, I used to do a trick for my boys that made it look like I was sticking a whole pencil up my nose and then pulling it out again. They were greatly entertained by this until the day they told me they wanted me to show the trick to a friend and in a flash of insight I realized it would probably be unwise to show the neighbor's kid (or my kids for that matter) that large objects can be safely inserted into the nose. So I showed them how the trick worked. Later when the friend came over and asked to be shown the miraculous feat, one boy dejectedly told him "he can't really do it" and the other followed with "he was lying".. So kids don't often understand the things we do to put a little magic in their lives, and sometimes get ticked when they learn they were deceived, but they get over it and I have a hard time believing that the boys will bear a grudge once they are old enough to understand what really happened :)