We got David a bed for Christmas last year and it was a huge flop. For weeks leading up to Christmas I tried to build excitement (A new bed! A BIG BOY bed! Just for you!) but he was still disappointed.
“Where are all the other presents?” he asked.
When all is said and done, a bed is a pretty expensive gift. We already had the frame, but we had to buy a mattress, sheets, a comforter, and a Lightning Mcqueen pillow (and he did get other gifts, too). That adds up.
But kids don’t care about that stuff. He had expectations for Christmas and he was disappointed.
This year I planned their gifts for a long time and I was really excited. Then on Christmas Eve when everything was wrapped and around the tree it didn’t seem like much.
David’s big gift was a basketball hoop, but he hadn’t asked for it. We got it because Tom wants to play basketball with him, so I thought it’d be perfect. Something fun to do with Daddy, and another reason to play outside. But since he hadn’t specifically asked for it, I worried.
Did we get enough? What is enough? (Our kids already have so much.)
I want Christmas for my kids to be completely magical, wonderful, amazing. I don’t want slumped shoulders and disappointment.
I stared at the tree, circled with the gifts I picked and planned for months, wrapped and arranged, and I worried. Christmas Eve is too late to go out and buy a bunch of giant plastic toys, so my only option was to worry.
That dimly-lit tree was illuminating a lot.
I’d worked to create a meaningful Christmas for my kids, buying gifts, baking treats, and telling them Christmas is about Jesus. And then I worried that the gifts wouldn’t be enough.
This is when being a mom is hard work. When you realize that the lessons you’ve been trying to teach your kids are ones you have to learn. When you realize that Christmas will always be disappointing unless it’s about Jesus. Even the most perfect, thoughtful, handmade, wonderful, most expensive, well-wrapped Christmas will be disappointing. It just will. Unless the celebration is overflowing with the truth that Christ really did come on Christmas Day
There is wonder in the shine and shimmer of Christmas, but the beauty and the truth — the reality of Christmas comes because Jesus came on Christmas day.
I’m learning this anew now that I’m a parent and I feel pressure to curate a perfect holiday. Even though my kids might not believe it, when they’re disappointed, I’m devastated.
But that means we’re both missing it, right? If my children are disappointed, that doesn’t mean that Christmas is ruined, it means that I have an opportunity to point them to Jesus, to remind them of Emmanuel, God with us. To remind them that the longing they feel is met in the person of Jesus.
Advent is all about waiting, anticipation, expectation. And we are fickle people, right? It’s so evident at Christmas time. We wait and we want and wait and want and the whole time our affections change. Just a few days before Christmas Mary Virginia added a primo gift to her list. A week ago she didn’t even know about it, and then it catapulted to the top spot. It was all she talked about. So I texted my mom and said, “Can you please save Christmas and get this for Mary Virginia?”
Her expectations changed at the last minute, and if there had been more minutes they would change again and again.
Sometimes I forget that my job as a parent isn’t to insulate my children from the curse, which at Christmas time often comes wrapped in the packages of disappointment, jealousy, discouragement, selfishness, pride, and so on. My role isn’t to shield them or create heaven on earth; it’s to shepherd them through the curse and guide them straight to Jesus.
David was thrilled with Christmas this year, and so was Mary Virginia. David ran into the living room and said, “A basketball! It’s what I always wanted!
They both got maybe five gifts, and they loved everything. We had the Christmas I always imagined — delight and joy and elation in our cozy living room. Even Brigham loved his gift.
This year Tom wanted to start the tradition of reading the Christmas story with the kids before opening presents. I resisted. Are you KIDDING!?! We cannot place anything between the children and their presents! We are creating MEMORIES!
Tom wanted to at least try it, so we did. First thing Christmas morning we all piled on David’s bed and listened as Tom read from Luke 2. The kids listened. They actually listened. It might not happen that way every year, but it did this year. And I was blessed.