So far, I’ve spent 16 Christmases with my children. I wish I would’ve known what they’d miss and wouldn’t miss about the holidays because all through those years, I wore myself out playing Santa trying to make it magical and special for them. I made countless trips to the store, decorated cookies for every event you can imagine, wrapped too many presents (most of which I can’t remember) and I’ve planned for many family memories and traditions. What my teens remember fondly and what they hated about those early years at Christmas surprised me. I’ve learned a few things, made some mistakes and discovered what seems to be most important to my children. What I thought would make their Christmas magical and perfect was different than what I imagined or planned. The following list is made with love and respectfully offered to help the rookies and parents with small children give themselves a little bit of breathing room this holiday season.
Making a list
Now that my kids are teenagers they confessed to me that making a list is not as much fun as it used to be. When they were little, they didn’t have any inhibitions about what to ask for. They never worried about how difficult a gift would be to get or how expensive it was. Now, especially since my oldest worked this past summer, he said he’s more clear about what things cost. He feels limited by what might be considered “too much” for his parents to buy. I explained to him that parents still delight in seeing surprised expressions on their children’s face, no matter how old they are.
D-Daddy’s train set
You guys. This story is a tough one to consolidate but when I was a little girl, I saved up my allowance and bought a train set for my Dad for Christmas. He treasured it for years and then one Christmas when I had two babies of my own, I unwrapped the same train set from my Dad. He gave it back to me to enjoy with my children. So every year, the kids remember setting it up and it watching it make the loop around the base of our Christmas tree. They miss getting out D-Daddy’s Train Set but as you can imagine, the train is now quite old and fragile. Since my Dad passed away in 2012, I haven’t wanted to bring it out, but after writing this post, I might change my mind. What do you think?
It’s one thing to leave out cookies for Santa, but have you ever left carrots or other food in the yard for the reindeer? Our family still hangs onto the Santa’s milk and cookies tradition because you can’t help but create a little bit of magic and whimsy when you leave a snack for him, but when my teens shared that they miss leaving carrots for the reindeer, it got me! All the feels just bunched up in my throat and my bottom lip quivered! Oh, dear! Save the poor reindeer! Parents, please leave out carrots or reindeer “food!” There’s still time!
I don’t know how many of you travel over the holidays or if you stay at home since Santa knows where you live, but there were a few years that our whole extended family celebrated Christmas together and my kids loved it! They weren’t worried about “Santa might not find us,” but they were loving all of the time they spent with their cousins. The togetherness, fun, and games are what they remember, not the presents. Those were great Christmas years so if you have a chance, hang out with your family and stress less about the gifts.
Okay, I might have gone a bit overboard on this one, but for several years, I left notes to the kids from Santa. The letter would explain how proud Santa was of them or how he saw them do something particularly good this past year. Sometimes Santa would “hint” that there was one more present hidden away and would leave clues in the letter for them to figure out where to find the surprise gift. I know. I know. Don’t judge; I’m making a list here! My point is that my kids love notes from Santa probably a little more than writing a list to him.
Sitting in Santa’s lap
Apparently, both of my kids hated this. I have a son and a daughter and they were equally offended by the process of waiting in a line to sit in a stranger’s lap. Honestly, I can’t blame them. I never MADE them sit in Santa’s lap, but we’d go to the mall, stand in line, have the kids’ picture made with him, then watch as they dutifully recited their wish list. If I could have the chance for a “do-over” I wouldn’t have done it.
My daughter disagrees slightly with this because she loves to be creative and decorate, but there was a time when I was a crazy person and had more time and energy. We’d put up seven trees and decorate every inch of the house. The banisters, the kitchen cabinets, the hallways, the bedrooms, even the bathrooms had holly and a wreath. The outside of the house had strings of C9 bulbs along the border of the gutters, the mailbox had greenery, every bush had net lights and there were four lighted reindeer in the front yard. Can you say overkill? Now we decorate two trees and put a sprig of greenery on the mailbox. They both agree that less is more.
Elf on the Shelf
We never played the Elf on the Shelf game and my kids survived! Yours will too if you don’t want to get caught up in the Elf-foolery of all of it. They never missed it and didn’t feel like they were getting less of a childhood because they weren’t waking up to the fellow being moved around the house doing wacky things.
So all the things that I thought were important (the cookies, the decorating, the trips to the mall to see Santa) were completely different than what my kids wanted. What made it perfect was family memories, feeding the reindeer and getting a note from Santa. That’s what made my kids’ Christmas magical.
Link to original published on Chattanooga Moms: