So, we have thankfully gotten through the dreaded Thanksgiving meal (Update: Owen ate and enjoyed some plain turkey breast, along with some broccoli and a roll, while continuing to refuse mashed potatoes or anything with butter or a sauce on it. Still, I was happy.) Now, we are ready to move onto the ultimate holiday, Christmas. You guys, I am so excited for Christmas this year, I can’t even tell you, because this is the first year that Owen really, truly understands what is going on. We have been talking about Christmas since before Halloween. I want Owen to be excited about Santa, presents, treats, etc, but I also don’t want to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. So, I am attempting to combine the excitement and anticipation of Christmas presents and new toys with–you guessed it–a lesson in values.
I thought about it for several weeks, and ultimately decided that I don’t want to do the Elf on the Shelf–at least, not yet. As a good friend of mine put it, character is doing good, even when no one is watching you (I know not everyone uses EOTS as a tiny, covert spy, but still.) By the same token, I don’t want to use Santa Claus as a behavioral tool. I want Santa to be a magical, fun, and benevolent figure. I also, honestly, want him to be a relatively minor figure. Don’t get me wrong– I want my child to believe in the magic of Christmas, to experience the joy and the awe of waking up on Christmas morning to see presents under a beautiful tree. But I think that I’d like Santa to be kind of a secondary player, not the end all, be all of the holiday. First of all, I don’t want my son to think that toys and gifts just kind of appear from nowhere; I want him to understand that everything you get in life has to be earned in some way. I have been teaching him for a while now that adults have to “work to get the money to buy the things.” And I kind of feel like this lesson shouldn’t just go out the window because it’s Christmas time. So while we have been working on a list for Santa Claus–something I hope that we will make an Owen-and-Mommy Family tradition, I am putting an end-cap on the list. Owen is allowed to ask “Santa” for three presents this year. I also think that limiting the number of gifts he can ask for will help him choose what he wants with more care and thought. We have been working hard on this list; editing and revising. Every time we’re in a store and Owen gets excited about some toy that he sees, I ask him if he wants to put it on the list–and if he does, it means something else has to come off the list. So far, it’s been effective in helping him decide what he really, truly wants (as of this writing, the only item that has consistently stayed on the list is the Imaginext Samurai Castle) With the amount of family we have, I also know he’s going to get a lot more than three gifts, but I want him to be aware that most of his presents come from people who love him–me, his father, grandparents, aunt/uncles etc. People who worked to buy those gifts, and people he can see and show appreciation for, not just some magical being who he can’t actually thank face-to-face.
This year, being that Owen is only three years old, is really just an exercise to establish expectations for the future. But it’s really never too early to start building your child’s character. As he gets older, I want Christmas to be about more than just opening up a few presents; I want him to really understand that Christmas is about what it means to give those presents; what it means to receive them, and how to appreciate both the gift and the giver. That it’s the spirit of it that matters; that it’s truly a holiday about love and family. I know this really isn’t groundbreaking parenting, here. But I feel like these lessons are really the best gifts I can give my son.