Friday, December 9, 2016

Why You Need To Stop Christmas Shopping Right Now...And Read This First.

So before you label me a grinch...hear this Mama out.

This Christmas? 
Your kids and my kids?
They simply do NOT need any more presents. 

So stop shopping....NOW.

The rushing and calculating and stress that periodically creeps up in your gut during this season of Advent? That pit in your stomach that you are feeling in this very moment because you are wondering how you are going to get it all done? And if you have the right toy for this kid? And enough presents for that one? 

Mamas, you are bringing this torture upon yourselves.

It's time to stop the madness and enjoy Advent. 

I've fallen prey to this cycle of 
Christmas Craziness some years past. 

And that nasty shopping shenanigans? 

Girls, that ain't NO WAY TO DO CHRISTMAS. 

You can go rogue this year...and actually enjoy ALL of Advent. 

How? (I didn't think you'd ask!)

Here are my SEVEN Advent guidelines that can change your December from CRAZY to INCREDIBLE...

1. Go against the grain (and all of modern society) and discourage your kids from making Christmas lists. I know. I know. This sounds ALMOST "anti-Christmas" and you may get some rolled eyes from relatives. But around here? We scrapped the list-making last year and it has made Christmas an entirely new experience. We're teaching our kiddos that when someone asks them what they "want", to politely smile and say, "Any gift is a great gift! Give whatever your like." Now, of course our crew has toys and gifts they are hoping and wishing to unwrap this December 25th. But nixing the list-making has made our kiddos so much more appreciative of any and all gifts they do receive. It's also done something else. It's created more opportunities for our family members to spend special time with each other, trying to find out gifts might be the biggest blessing.

I inwardly cringe when someone asks our kids to make a Christmas list. Because it unintentionally centers Christmas on self and not on Christ.  And the list making? It also creates a lot of stress on you Mamas! The other big payoff of NOT making Christmas lists? There is NOT masssive dissapointment on Christmas morn when your kiddo doesn't receive a drum set or a four-wheeler or a trip to Disney World - just because he scribbled it on a list. The joy in scrapping the Christmas list? Any present is a welcomed one. Because there is no expectation on "getting", just celebrating. 
Any present become a cherished present.    

2. Kiddos only need one present for each year they are old, up until age 5. You read that right. This isn't cruel and unusual punishment. This is called sanity. I can not tell you how many times I have stayed up late wrapping multiple gifts when my kids were two or three-year-old, only to find that he or she only had the patience to unwrap one or two gifts. And guess what? If you think back to Christmas' past...I'll bet that your kiddos only typically focused on one or two gifts that they instantly LOVED and wanted to immediately play with too! The saddest thing to witness on Christmas morn is when a kid is excited about a new present and wants to actually explore and enjoy it, but we parents insist she MUST FIRST opens up all of her other gifts. Now THAT is cruel and unusual Christmas punishment!

Have a four-year-old daughter? Purposefully select and wrap four gifts. You. Can. Do. This. You will not be handcuffed and turned into the North Pole for killing Christmas. Ok, so let's get real. The first year you try this, it will feel WRONG. On Christmas Eve when you assess her small pile of presents under the tree and you will temporarily freak out. This too shall pass. Spread her gifts around with the rest and she will have NO IDEA how many presents she received compared to her siblings. You are the one keeping track, not her. Trust me on this. You will thank me later. (And so will your bank account).

3. From an early age, have siblings make/buy/give presents to gift to each other. One of our family's greatest joys has been watching our kids unwrap gifts from each other. Priceless. We make this time a priority on Christmas morning as we take turns giving out our family gifts. We all ohh and ahh over what the kids give each other. 

We keep this simple. This could mean a trip to the dollar store (I often do this with my 5-year-old boy because I'm teaching him all about money) where your child gets to select one gift for each brother or sister. It could mean your 10-year-old wrapping up her favorite classical novel and writing a special note to gift it to her younger sister. We use this as a beautiful way to talk about the generiousity of St. Nicholas and keep our hearts focused on giving rather than receiving. 

4. Give "family"and "sibling" gifts that the kids have to share. Does giving one gift to a crew of four crazy kids sound like a nightmare? Before you think I am completely off of my Christmas rocker, hear me out. Teaching siblings to share a gift is one of the BEST WAYS you can grow your children's love for each other and foster a sense of family unity. This could be as simple as gifting a set of Saint books or a few family DVD's with a big bag of popcorn and M and M's to eat together. The goal? We, as a family, SHARE this gift. Everyone together. This year our kids are getting a really neat outdoor mesh swing to use together. Have them unwrap these items together and then talk about how to share them (and no, the family gifts do not count toward your individual tallly!)

5. Be honest with your extended family about gift-giving. This one is the HARDEST one for me because I never want to hurt anyone's feelings! But the more Christmas Craziness I have endured, the easier it has become! Ideally, aunts and uncles and in-laws will take the time to ask you (and not your kid) if it's appropriate to give certain gifts to your crew, particularly to help avoid giving duplicate gifts. And because your family rules on what types of gifts may be acceptable could be different than the givers, it's always best to ask first. This eliminates a world of stress.
But if they don't? No reason to sweat. The standing Christmas rule for most extended family gatherings? Your kiddos will almost always leave with a boat-load of gifts. This is a blessing. Do not fight this! Which is also the reason for Christmas rule #2! 

6. Gifts do not need to be expensive to be super special. My husband and I do not spend a large amount of money on Christmas gifts for our kids. In fact, during the past few years we have been giving less and less. But with the less we give, Christmas has become even more enjoyable. Decreasing the number of gifts and increasing the time spent opening and enjoying each present has become a win-win for everyone.

7. Take a household inventory BEFORE you shop. Do I have any gifts I've already purchased and hidden away? What toys are my kids currently playing with and which ones have they been ignoring.

Our rule at this house? Before we ADD, we RELEASE. 
We give many unused and tossed-aside things and clothes away in the weeks leading up until Christmas. Mamas, have your kids pitch in on this task. Don't go it alone. Releasing what we don't need provides space in our homes and hearts to help us get ready for the birth of our Heavenly King.

Because household clutter? 

My friends, in our shopping and decorating and wrapping, 
we do NOT want to miss Jesus this Christmas.

So this weekend? Instead of hitting Target (again) searching for that perfect present? Choose instead to focus on giving the gifts that are priceless. That have meaning for your children's heart. 

The best gift you can give your children this Christmas? 
Your lap. 

Put your feet up and call the little ones around to climb warm and close as you open the Holy Scripture and share the story of our Savior's coming. 

Because the gift of salvation? 
My friends, if we take the time to share that present now...
our children could be unwrapping that gift for all of eternity. 

May God Bless. 
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