This year will be my eighth year to experience Christmas as a parent. Children add a whole new dimension of fun to the most wonderful time of the year, don’t they? They possess an amazing gift for teaching adults new ways to appreciate the great things Christmas has to offer, as well as what this season is all about – without speaking a word.
Parents are stupid. These people were seemingly normal pre-kids. They move to Crazy Town post-kids. What is it that makes them waste tons of hours and hundreds of dollars at Toys“R”Us so their toddlers can have a toy that will get less play time than the box in which it’s packaged? Why do hoards of formerly law-abiding moms ram shopping carts into each other whilst fighting over the purchase of Tickle Me Elmos? I don’t get it. News flash: Kids don’t appreciate this stuff. Spending $100 on an item, then selling said item for 50 cents at a yard sale next year (on the off-chance he doesn’t break it) is an idiotic financial strategy.
Buy the kid an empty box. Save the money. Save the time. Regain the respect of society.
Those were my thoughts before I had kids. As I mentioned, this is my eighth Christmas as a parent. I now have six kids, ages 8, 7, 6, 5, 5, and 3. Last Christmas I spent hours digging through the squalor that is Craigslist in order to buy them all iPods. The Christmas before, my wife and I waited in line at Toys“R”Us for hours on Black Friday.
Yeah, I was wrong. I get it now, fellow parents. You see, when my daughter opens a gift she loves, she smiles. I didn’t spend a ton of time and money on iPods. I spent it on smiles. Lord, help me when my kids want cars.
What I’ve learned from my kids about Christmas, Lesson No. 1: When I give gifts, it’s a ton more fun when I focus on buying things that make people smile rather than buying things that are practical. Buying gifts for your kids is a blast. Allowing your kids to buy gifts for you is even better. Every Christmas season, our kids’ grandparents take them shopping to pick out gifts for Mommy and Daddy. They are allowed to pick anything in the entire store within a certain price range.
Last year we were blessed with a frog lawn ornament, a towel rack, a disco ball, a tape measure, a hammer, and an empty decorative pink box. Yes, an empty pink box. My 4-year-old looked through an entire store, determined to find the one gift he thought I would appreciate most. He walked past the tools. He ignored the electronics. He skipped the food. Then, he saw an empty hot pink box and said, “Ooohhh! Daddy will like that!” I’m not sure how to take that.
Anyhow, it is always wonderful to see what they personally choose for us. And, it’s a ton of fun to see the pride on their little faces when we open their gifts.
What I’ve learned from my kids about Christmas, Lesson No. 2: When I receive gifts, I need to remember to let people see me smile. People like smiles. Many of my favorite childhood memories revolve around Christmas. I loved everything about it: opening presents, participating in random family traditions, eating food, devouring candy, seeing cousins, opening more presents, etc. However, it often annoyed me that Christmastime family bonding wasn’t organized around my schedule. Why did I have to pause my game of “Zelda” so that we could read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” for the hundredth time? Why couldn’t we sing Christmas carols on a night when I didn’t want to go see a movie with friends?
Now that I’m a parent, I understand. Life is busy. Leading up to Christmas, the fall/winter season is notoriously hectic for families. From school to work to soccer to ballet to gymnastics to church to piano lessons, we often struggle to keep up. Christmas is one of the few times of the year when the craziness tops. It’s a welcome reprieve from the insanity of American life. The reason we make homemade ornaments with our kids every year isn’t because we like cheap decorations. The reason we read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” every year isn’t because we think it’s the best book in the world. The reason we all sing “Jingle Bells” isn’t because it’s a lyrical masterpiece. We do these things because these family traditions provide excuses to spend time together. Society gives us a break. If we, as parents, don’t fill this free time with family traditions, we fill it with something less meaningful… like “Zelda” on Nintendo.
What I’ve learned from my kids about Christmas Lesson No. 3: Creating and maintaining family traditions is important because, in this insanely busy world, we’ve got to take every opportunity to spend time with those we love. Otherwise, we allow busyness to rob us of great memories. More importantly, we rob our kids of great memories due to our busyness.
The moral of the story: If you find yourself frustrated and stressed this Christmas, remember a few things my kids taught me: Spend a little time and money to make someone else smile; allow someone else to see you smile; and take an opportunity to spend time with the ones you love.
by Josh Wood
Josh, a native Amarilloan, is a local author, blogger and managing partner at Wood Financial. He and his wife, Careese, are the proud parents of seven kids and active in their local congregation, Paramount Baptist Church.