"What do you want for Christmas?"
I might be completely alone in this, but it drives me crazy when people ask my kiddos what they want for Christmas, their birthday, or any other holiday or event. Honestly, I think it drives other people crazy when my kids don't have an answer. We don't ask the girls what they want as far as gifts are concerned. We simply pay attention to things they do and say throughout the year. We watch which section of toys they are drawn to when we are shopping for others. (Though admittedly this might become more difficult as they get older.) My reasons for this are two-fold. First, I don't want them to think that holidays are all about the presents. Second, I don't want them to be disappointed.
We live fairly far away from most of our family and friends. The holidays are pretty much the only time we have the opportunity to visit with great-grandparents and other extended family. In addition, our extended family is rather large. My dad is the oldest of 12 children. All of whom are married and have kids. Many of those kids are also married with kids. This means that there are close to 100 people at the family Christmas party. Grandma gets everyone a small present, but generally few other gifts are exchanged. The holidays are simply a time to reconnect with those that have helped us to become what we are today. They are an opportunity to learn what is going on in the lives of others. The holidays are a time for relaxation, joy, connection, history, and tradition.
I have an amazing family. My parents were always (and still are) kind, generous, thoughtful and fun. I have some great memories from the holidays. I remember our traditional night out at our favorite Mexican restaurant followed by a drive around looking at Christmas lights while carols played in the car. I remember going with my dad to pick out the perfect Christmas tree at the farm. I remember hanging lights with dad and baking and decorating cookies with mom and my sister. I remember going to Christmas mass together. I remember the feeling of being safe, secure and loved. Do you know what I don't remember? I don't remember a single specific present that I received. However, I do remember something else. I remember the feeling of disappointment with my gifts. It wasn't that I didn't get what I wanted. I did. I got what was on my list. I think with all the magic of the holidays though, I was expecting more. I was expecting surprises. I was expecting a perfect something that I hadn't even known I wanted. I don't think I'm a greedy person. I don't think that I was ever ungrateful or unappreciative. It is just that the listed items weren't as exciting or glamorous as they looked on TV. There wasn't any magic in the "things" I received.
Just the other day I had to rethink my stance on this issue when Peanut came home from school in tears. They are apparently working on letter writing in school. She said that she had to write a letter to Santa asking for at least two or three things. She didn't know what to do since she doesn't make a list for Santa. "What do I ask for? I don't make a list, I like surprises." was mumbled through her tears. (Whether she really likes surprises, or I have just ingrained that into the girls is an entirely different post.) We talked through it and she did come up with a couple of small items she could write about. It seemed to appease her for the moment. After our conversation, I did decide to stick to my guns . . . for a while. For me, the magic was never in the gifts. It was always in the experiences. Hopefully, by focusing on the experiences rather than the gifts we can keep the magic of Christmas alive for just a bit longer.