I Think Christmas Ruined My Kids


Well, from this vantage point, five days after the blessed event, I think it is safe to say that Christmas ruined my kids.

When I made the rookie mistake of trying to run a couple errands yesterday, they displayed peak levels of whining and begging the likes the world has rarely seen.

By the sound of the racket coming from upstairs right this second, they have completely lost the ability to share or even tolerate the eyeballs of another human child daring to rest on any of their precious loot.

If I had a dollar for every time in the last five days, when someone was telling on someone else for touching something that was “new and special,” or leading with “But it’s mine!” or “Not fair!”, I would be rich enough to hire the Supernanny and blow this joint.

Instead of filling their proverbial cups to overflowing, it seems as though my (formerly) sweet children have become glassy-eyed, greedy little trolls with a bottomless capacity for want that cannot be satisfied.

And the worst part of it all is that I have no one to blame but myself. (Well, I can probably blame Grandma a little bit?) They didn’t need anything. And they changed their minds about what they even wanted every three minutes the entire month of December. I could have kept it simple. I told myself to keep it simple.

Except that, it is just so fun to give gifts to your kids! That surprise and delight on Christmas morning? Man, it’s something special. And at some point in December, I just succumbed. So, the Amazon Prime boxes just kept coming, and I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped, and then I soaked up all the shrieks and squeals and glee; and it was glorious—all two and a half hours of it.

Now I have to regroup and try to undo the whole selfish, bratty mess before their birthdays roll around.

While it’s fresh, here’s what I want to remember, to save us from the same indulgent fate in 2017:

Stuff Begets Stuff

I remember when I first had babies someone told me, “Sleep begets sleep.” As counterintuitive as it seemed at time, it proved true. I think “stuff” has a similar, intoxicating power. The more “stuff” the kids get, the more stuff they want. And something shifts in them attitude-wise.

Why am I surprised? Because I know this in myself. When I have to wait for something, when I really have to save and think and consider and prioritize, it is significantly more satisfying and valuable and appreciated and enjoyed. This is a truth that isn’t communicated once a year at Christmas, but much more powerfully, in how we live our lives in the day-to-day, and I want to be mindful of what I’m communicating to my kids.

Gratitude Rights A Lot Of Wrongs

If I’m honest with myself, a big part of what has been so frustrating this last week, is my overwhelming feeling that the kids are ungrateful. For all the received. For all they have. For all we did to make it special. It makes me hyper-aware of what I’m modeling, and how I can be more intentional about making gratitude a regular topic of discussion in our home. We’ll start with Thank You notes, but yikes, I think it is going to require a lot more than that.

Getting Outside Ourselves

Despite our best efforts to talk to the kids about how Christmas isn’t about presents, I fear that was largely their experience. I’m thinking about how we could get them more excited or engaged in blessing other people themselves, than they are about counting how many of the presents under the tree have their names on them. Maybe it’s something we do as a family? Or maybe it’s building some more traditions around serving others or giving to others? I don’t have an answer, but I have eleven months to formulate some better ideas.

Traditions Make The Best Memories

When I reflect on the highlights of my own childhood, I don’t remember what I unwrapped, I remember the traditions. (Except for my karaoke machine, I do actually remember unwrapping that beauty!) What I remember is making persimmon chocolate cookies and listening to the Carpenter’s Christmas album. I remember getting out the decorations and driving down Christmas Tree Lane. I remember all the little things, that we did the same way every year, the things that we could hold onto as our own, what Christmas meant to our family. My mom was really good at traditions, and I want my kids to have those same kinds of memories. It’s not about how much money I spend. In fact, in a lot of ways, the more I spend, the more I’m letting myself off the hook, of being creative, and building in the meaning that doesn’t cost a thing.

I remember all the little things, that we did the same way every year, the things that we could hold onto as our own, what Christmas meant to our family. My mom was really good at traditions, and I want my kids to have those same kinds of memories. It’s not about how much money I spend. In fact, in a lot of ways, the more I spend, the more I’m letting myself off the hook, of being creative, and building in the meaning that doesn’t cost a thing.

So, now I just have to split up the kids (again), take away the new toys for a couple days, practice some deep breathing, and come up with memorable Christmas traditions that celebrate putting others first, cultivate a spirit of gratitude, and reinforce the value of people and experiences over things. No big deal.

Any ideas? Anyone? 🙂