Consumer Christmas…not.

My wife and I try to be very intentional about not falling into the consumer traps that litter our culture.  Attempting to raise three children in an age of nearly unrestrained indulgence is not necessarily easy, but it seems an absolute necessity if we hope to begin making differences in the future.

One of the big decisions we’ve made in regards to this is Christmas.  We’ve vowed not to shower our children with dozens of gifts.  Not because we don’t love them.  We do love them ginormously.  Not because we can’t afford them.  Well, actually, we *can’t*, and perhaps never will be able to.  But, if it was important enough, we’d figure out a way to do it. 

To help ourselves, we’ve established a Christmas gift-buying tradition.  Each child will receive three gifts on Christmas.  One will be something that they need.  We’re going to strive to make this something a bit more interesting than underwear, but we’re not making any promises, either.  I know I grew up knowing that part of Christmas morning would be opening socks and underwear and other clothing that kept me somewhat socially presentable.  Of course I wasn’t thrilled about it, but at least I knew to expect it.  I’d hate to deprive our children of that kind of disappointment.

One gift will be something that they can use every day.  It needs to be a little more ‘fun’ or ‘useful’ oriented than clothing.  Maybe something that helps them develop or discover a hobby.  Maybe something that helps them develop athletically.  But something that won’t be played with for a week, broken, and then left in a toy box until we go through our annual pre-Christmas toy purging eleven months later.

The final gift is to be something they want.  Something they really want.  That’s more difficult now since they’re young and don’t watch television.  This makes life really nice for my wife and I, since we don’t have to deal with the incessant requests of gifts for Christmas and birthday.  We can actually surprise them with something, instead of have them be disappointed that they only got one instead of both of the Mutant Turtle action figures they wanted.  (is it true that the Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles are making a comeback?  Can anyone explain to me why?)

We feel like this gives us a handle on being able to celebrate a holiday or event for the sake of the event or holiday, and not just for the sake of the loot they look forward to.  Hopefully it can help us emphasize the importance of occasions and being with people for the sake of being with them, instead of just for what they might bring us.  Of course these are somewhat complex and mature concepts.  Our toddler isn’t going to understand them consciously yet.  But every day patterns are laid and reinforced.  Hopefully if we start early enough, by the time they are old enough, they’ll understand.  Maybe someday, they’ll even appreciate it.  But that’s really a secondary issue, after all.

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