By the time I was sixteen, through various volunteer activities through church and the community, I had walked among shoeless children living in a ‘town’ of cardboard boxes they called home, served meals to the homeless and mentally ill, and had read books to a hospitalized girl my age who would succumb to cancer a few days later.
I guess maybe because I had been around people with so little, that holiday excess always made me a bit uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong: I love getting or giving a good present. I’m just saying that gifts aren’t everything, you know? And the holiday season amplifies this for me even more.
As a teen, there are a few truths I learned in these volunteer experiences: more than likely, you actually have it pretty good even when you think you don’t; it’s almost impossible to remain intolerant if you’ve ever ventured outside of your comfort zone and served with sincerity; and, everyone deserves to feel loved.
The kids participated in their first help-our-neighbors experience last weekend when, as a family, we went to deliver a heater to a family who doesn’t have any heat in their home. We also took some diapers and wipes to a woman who went into pre-term labor the day after her husband was murdered. Two days after Thanksgiving. Sure, the kids aren’t really aware of their participation because BACKYARDIGANS! And we bought them those totally unnecessary flashing Christmas light sabers at the neighborhood parade that night. But we intend to foster a commitment to service in the community is the point.
We especially plan to bridle the commercial madness that is holiday gifting. The kids are still too young to know what to do with the gifts (or maybe it’s because we haven’t emphasized the present part that they lack interest), so we are taking the opportunity to cultivate Christmas gift traditions for our family.
Someone in my neighborhood group posted that they manage the potential excess by limiting kids’ gifts to four:
Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read
We kinda like that. We’ll also add in adopting a family and/or children with the same ages as Mateo and Harper and get our kids involved in the deciding of what to get them.
As for the rest of the family, we are pretty lucky in that all our siblings are agreeable that each child gets only one gift from each of the other families. So, for example, our kids each get one gift from my sister’s family, and one gift from my brother’s family (and the adults do not exchange gifts). Grandparents, thankfully, are equally agreeable.
Managing the excess isn’t for everyone, however, and that doesn’t make it bad, either. I have a friend who firmly believes in spoiling the kids to the brink at Christmastime and that totally works for them. I just hope our kids don’t grow up to be friends with theirs because THE PRESSURE!
What are your gifting traditions and/or gifting traditions you intent to harvest?
Rachel is the birth mom and one of two working mommies to twenty month old boy/girl twins. Her blog is: Motherhood.Squared