Updated: Jul 29
Dear Kids, Merry Christmas.
This is really a letter to me and your dad. We’re the ones that need a talking to. Okay, actually this is just for me, because your Dad is cool with anything, and typically (never) over thinks this kind of thing, and he’s going to get you the huge Lego set anyway, even though we don’t have room for One. More. Lego. In this house.
But, here we are, on the cusp of another Christmas morning and because we are a modern family in the 21st century, we huddled around the phone the other night and took a cruise through Amazon in hopes of updating your wish lists. (Side note: Dear friends that own local stores…I’m coming for you!) Amazon had a lot of amazing suggestions on how we can spend our paycheck on flashy, flying, totally unnecessary items for your Christmas pleasure.
While cruising through that great, on-line rainforest, we quickly ran into a problem: you already have some version of almost everything on there. Writing that makes me cringe. How is this possible?
I know how it’s possible. You are deeply loved by two sets of grandparents, and several aunts and uncles, and lots of friends, and parents who find great joy in getting you cool stuff that we might play with, too. Three kids x 12 years of gifting and we’ve covered most toy categories that exist across the age spectrum.
And it’s all around us, in plain sight. We trip over it, and curse at the clutter (that’s me again), and try to pack it onto the bookshelves, and in already full closets. We shove it into drawers that cannot fit one more thing, and under your beds where toys seem to procreate while you sleep. It’s totally believable that we have some iteration of all the cool kid stuff, but when I take stock like that - in the virtual world of on-line shopping and by just looking around - it’s a little shocking. The curse of upward mobility and privilege.
So, the next question is what do we do about Christmas morning? Besides purge, which I do with ferver and regularity, like it’s my job. Purge, and then what? Buy more?
Every October, I get the same sinking feeling when looking around the house. Christmas is coming and I have to figure out where to put the onslaught of stuff that’s about to happen. It’s a roller coaster ride of cultural expectation that I really don’t know how to get off, or slow down, or turn around. I get a mild panic, knowing it’s coming - a tsunami that’s already headed our way, and there’s nothing to be done about it.
What CAN be done about it? Here’s where this letter takes on two distinct personalities. On one side of the page, this letter lifts its pointy Scrooge finger, and says BUY NOTHING, YOU FOOL. Do not throw a log on that fire. Do not buy the Christmas roast. Go lean. Pinch all of your pennies and let them feel the Holiday Spirit through the lens of minimalism and introspection.
Then the letter flips over, and on the other side elves are gleefully jumping around throwing glitter and eating gingerbread cookies. They’re making shiny, pretty things that look so awesome and fun. Things that will make your eyes glow, and inject that undeniable excitement into your voices that makes us high with pleasure and pride. God, we’re good parents. Look at how happy you are.
Look at how happy you are.
This is why this letter is to me, Dear Ones, and not to you. Because what we hope to deliver to you, you already posses. You are happy, generous children that have a sense of the world that is far beyond your age. You wait your turn in line. You think of ways to give back. You say I’m sorry, offer a helping hand, and check on those around you when they are hurt. You also tell me you don’t really want much for Christmas, maybe just one or two things, but otherwise we can just be together.
You actually say (and do) that stuff, and for some reason, I don’t trust it. For some reason there is this fear that if the tree is not packed with gifts, and I don’t encourage the elf to another shelf every night, or get the Christmas PJs, or decorate the gingy house, or do the advent ornaments, or light the menorah (because somewhere on Grandpa’s side we are Jewish), or have a holiday party, or give gorgeous gifts to all of the teachers and all of the neighbors, and all of the whole wide world that I ever came in contact with this year, then I am failing you, and I’m most definitely failing me.
It reminds me of the children’s Christmas book, Moosletoe. At the beginning of the story, Moose Dad is absolutely killing it. Holiday cards, gifts wrapped early, baked goods galore. He finishes every task exclaiming that it’s perfectly perfect! But on Christmas Eve his three kiddos discover that Dad overlooked getting the tree, and of course, there is no tree to be found on Christmas Eve. So Dad, does what any overachieving parent would do and wraps himself in lights and ornaments and stands in one place all night so that Santa has a place to leave the gifts. Good Lord, Moose Dad, REALLY?? To that I say, really. Totally guilty of that level of commitment to this crazy season.
And of course we want to do and have all of the stuff, but thankfully you don’t demand it. Any expectation you have for it can only fall on our shoulders, because your parents (especially me) queued up that expectation long ago.
So what can be done?
For now, I feel like taking a new kind of stock. Maybe this is the moment to zero out the shopping cart and look instead at the calendar. Maybe a better thing to do is carve out an afternoon for games, and cookies we bake together. Maybe the mantle doesn’t get decorated this year, so we can have time to make gifts that will be cherished, instead of just consumed and later put in a box to donate. Maybe we settle somewhere between Scrooge’s restraint and the elves zealous Christmas spirit, and find a place where what we do is done with care and thought and a lot of heart. Because I do so love Christmas. I do like to celebrate and fully embrace the season. I do like to give and receive and feel that special kind of cozy joy that only comes once a year.
So, Dear Ones, thank you. I will take a page out of your book this Christmas. I will believe you when you say, just enough is okay. Just together is okay. Incomplete is perfectly perfect. Thanks kiddos for letting me write you a letter about how I’ll do better on this. Thanks for showing me real Christmas spirit.
With all my love,
Merry Christmas, Love the Elliotts!!