I was grumpy all day Christmas Eve.
The kids were acting like children, how dare they. They were overly excited and a little tired and do you know what excited, tired children do? They take the cushions off the couch even though their mother told them not to. They ping pong between being silly and bickering. They cannot think of anything to do to pass the time, so they follow their mother around the house, clipping at her heels.
I blamed my grumpiness on being tired, but I know that tiredness is not unique for me, so if I’m honest, the reason I was grumpy was because I had a lot to do. And my kids would not leave me alone and give me time to do the things I wanted to do. Is it too much to ask for children to be seen and not heard? To play independently without making a mess? To be thankful for all of my hard work? ON CHRISTMAS EVE????
Halfway through the day I cut my to do list in half and decided it was ok if things didn’t get done. If productivity was the problem, I could do something about that. The kids would never remember this as The Christmas Mom Didn’t Make Chocolate-Covered Pretzels.
We made it to our church’s Christmas Eve service, and as if to remind me that these days are special, Anna took her first steps as worship began.
And so this is Christmas…
On the way home, Tom asked me if I remembered that incredible, magical feeling you got as a kid at Christmastime. “Do you have that?” he asked. “Because all I feel is tired.”
Did he seriously want Grumpy Mom to answer that?
We got home and the kids put out a plate of cookies for Santa. David had spent all of December telling me that he knows that Santa isn’t real, but he scrambled to help with cookies and to draw a map from the our fireplace to the tree, just in case Santa couldn’t find it.
And then Christmas morning; it was magical and full of joy — for the adults and the kids.
Do you have a gift-giving strategy for your kids? Some people give three gifts, because that’s how many Jesus received. Some give something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.
We don’t have a strategy, I just sort of buy what feels right. Last year I was pretty minimal, and I will admit, it wasn’t my favorite Christmas. This year we did a little more. We didn’t go over the top, but I tried to add a few fun, Christmas-morning gifts — the kind with flashing lights and sounds. The type of gift that kids only get on Christmas morning, because the 364 other days of the year, parents roll their eyes and say no, because that will break and we don’t have anywhere to put it anyway.
Minimalism is so trendy right now, but I don’t mind telling you — more was better. We seem to have hit our sweet spot with gifts. Turns out Christmas is just another one of those things you have to figure out as a parent.
But then that’s where this post will come to a screeching halt and turn a 180, because I’m willing to admit that I haven’t figured out Christmas, not at all.
Through all of Advent, in the back of my mind was the insurmountable task of delighting my children with presents but also helping them understand that presents aren’t the focus of Christmas. See that tree? The one with lights and decorations? That we put in the middle of our house, circled with everything you’ve ever wanted? That’s not the celebration.
This, too, is something you have to figure out as a parent.
This Advent I’ve been meditating on the reason for Christmas. I don’t just mean the birth of Christ, I mean the reason he had to be born — to die. Jesus had to be born to rescue sinners who could not help themselves. If it were not for my sin, the incarnation would not have to happen. The joy of Christmas is that we need a savior, and he has come.
And so we rejoice with a shower of treats and toys, and we tell the kids that the affections of this world are all just shadows that serve the purpose of pointing us to the goodness and glory of God. These things give us a glimpse of God’s majesty and they are good gifts until we begin to worship them instead of worshiping God. We tell kids, we tell ourselves.
This season I’m thankful for grace as we figure it out. This season can be confusing — for kids, for adults, for caregivers trying to foster God-centered excitement and expectancy that outshines presents.
Our kids will not remember The Christmas Mom Didn’t Make Chocolate Covered Pretzels. They probably won’t even remember the year they got fewer (or more) presents. But they will remember that the excitement of Christmas is made complete in the birth of our Savior, in his life, in his resurrection.
How does your family rejoice in Jesus’ birth at Christmas time? Not just intentions, but now that Christmas is over, what worked for you and for your kids?