Well, I don’t know about you, but Christmas snuck up on me this year! 2020 has felt simultaneously like the blink of an eye and a million years all rolled into one. A few weeks ago, I opened my mailbox to find the usual assortment of junk, a couple of bills, and the coveted Target Christmas toy catalogue. My kids each immediately grabbed their own colored pen and went to work circling everything they could possibly ever want (and most definitely will never need). Now we have added the Amazon and Walmart catalogues to our collection, and I’m still like, “What just happened?”
When I was growing up, my parents made a big deal out of Christmas. My brother and I totally bought into the magic. We made our lists, checked them twice, and then sent them off to Santa to make all of our Christmas dreams come true. Of all the Christmases I remember from childhood, I can tell my parents totally put everything they had into making it special for us. The thing I never really thought about until I grew up though, was what that was like for my parents. Did they worry about money? Did they worry about disappointing us? Were they exhausted by the holiday hustle? Was it a little bit fun setting it all up and then watching us on Christmas morning? As Christians, did they worry that our eyes were on the wrong prize? These are all things that as a mother myself now, I have started to worry about.
We have three kiddos, ages 6, 3.5, and 3.5. When our oldest was 2, we started talking about whether or not we wanted to do Santa in our home. I know that sounds a little crazy, but I wasn’t convinced the Christmas magic really hinged on making that happen. To be totally honest, being Santa feels like a lot of pressure. On top of finding the perfect gift for other family members, we also have to purchase, hide, and then put out the perfect gifts for our kids as well? For this people-pleasing procrastinator, that seemed like a lot! We went back and forth, and ultimately decided that we weren’t going to do Santa.
Here was some of our reasoning:
- Financially, playing Santa can be a pretty big undertaking. We thought that for kids it would be really hard to understand why some kids get expensive video game consoles and other kids get much less. I worried that we would disappoint them and create situations where they were comparing themselves to other kids. This was one of the biggest reasons I just wanted to tell our kids that their gifts came from us and their family members.
- We also thought that our kids are spoiled enough by their grandparents, we don’t really need to add even more presents from Santa. I am a firm believer that the more presents they have, the less they know what to do with them. And believe me, their grandparents are totally into the spoiling!
- We didn’t want to use Santa not bringing gifts as a threat to accomplish good behavior. No Elf on the Shelf here. In theory, I still believe this, but in practice I feel like a big dummy not utilizing this most precious behavior modifier! Especially when I see how effective it is with other kids!
- We also really wanted to hold ourselves accountable for remembering to teach our kids about Jesus, empathy, selflessness, and generosity. As cheesy as that probably sounds, it is really important to us!
Now, as a procrastinator, I put off and put off (and put off again) having this conversation with our oldest. I guess I was hoping that if we didn’t really talk about Santa at home, he wouldn’t ask. My husband ended up breaking the news to him in the car one day that Santa wasn’t real. He told my son that Santa is just a fun story and tradition that some people do at Christmas. He was very clear that parents are the ones who pretend to be Santa. We thought that would be the end of it. For the next two years he never had a single present marked “Santa” under the Christmas tree.
And yet, this child… this brilliant, stubborn, and sweet boy is determined to believe in Santa. He’s 6 now and it feels like this year really matters. Like he might start having memories of this Christmas that persist for years to come. He is excited to make his list for Santa. He has already mailed about 3 letters to the North Pole. He talks to his brother and sister about Santa bringing presents. He believes that elves make the toys. There is nothing stopping this boy from hanging onto that Christmas magic.
And honestly, I’m just fine with it. I think in 2020 anything goes. This, like many of my other grand ideas about parenting, is turning out differently than I envisioned. I’m learning what it looks like to lean in and be spontaneous. I am tempted to go all in and buy an Elf on the Shelf named Jingle Bell Jane and see how it goes. In reality, I think we’ll land somewhere around Santa-light, and have just the stockings stuffed by Santa to keep it simple. I still don’t know what I want our family’s Christmas traditions to be, but I am hopeful we will figure it out along the way!