This is a repost from November 19, 2014. It's been getting an uptick in hits recently (and I think for very good reasons).
I've had to gently remind family and friends alike of my policy regarding Christmas gifts this year. If they want to ask me for ideas, okay. But please - never plant the seed in his head that Christmas is the time of year he can make a list of demands that get fulfilled by a fat man if he's able to convince some creepy little Elf on a Shelf that he's been good enough to deserve his list of unicorns, iPads and plutonium.
That's not what Christmas is about, that's not who St. Nicholas is, and can we all just agree that an inanimate (and again, creepy) sprite shouldn't be the motivation behind good behavior?
I was talking to a friend the other day when she lamented the litany her daughter wrote in her annual letter to Santa. She showed me four pages that included everything from Tamogotchis (they're back?!) and Frozen dolls to clothes and electronics like an iPad and digital camera (you're five, kid, you don't need a DSLR).
I was aghast. Her daughter is a shade older than my son (by about four months). How does she already associate Christmas with "I get to have everything I want!"? The thought actually scared me a bit. Is Vince going to turn into this sort of greedy, entitled monster in a few short months?
Then I realized he likely wouldn't. My son won't be writing a list to Santa Claus, and even if he did, I doubt it'd include anything but sincere questions about Heaven, reindeer and his hairy face.
You see, I've never connected Santa Claus with presents. I've never played the "Be nice or I'm telling Santa" game. I've never put that God-forsaken Elf on a Shelf in various places throughout the house in an effort to trick my kid into being a decent human being (can you tell I hate that thing with the fire of the deepest recesses of Hell?). I've also NEVER asked him what he wanted.
In my mind, doing so creates the expectation that he'll get what he asks for. I'm sorry, but Christmas is not about Momma and Poppa Genie granting your shallow wishes for plastic toys that'll be discarded by Valentine's Day, kiddo. Why, then, do we keep teaching kids that it is by asking them what they want, telling them to write endless lists of what they want, and pointing out cool toy commercials with the ever present "Wouldn't you like that?" mantra that seems to fall from parental mouths this time of year?
Instead, I've taught him to be grateful for everything, regardless of what it was. I've also done my best to minimize the commercialism of Christmas. That means the most he sees Santa is ten minutes for a picture at the mall. We don't talk about him beyond the Santa Story I tell him each year. Obviously I would if Vince asked, but if you ask Vince who Santa is, he'll tell you "Saint Nicholas" as if everybody in the world knew that. If you ask him where St. Nicholas lives, he'll tell you "in Heaven with Jesus."
As a result of my active choice to downplay the commercial side of Christmas, my son has never understood the holiday to be anything other than Jesus' birthday party. We get presents because Jesus shares His presents with all of us. Santa Claus exists, but not in the red-suit / jolly elf sense. Vince has never questioned where the presents come from. He knows that on Christmas Eve, they come from Daddy's side of the family and on Christmas Day, they come from Mommy's side.
At home, they come from Mommy and Daddy. There might be one or two in there from Santa, but that's because - in his mind - Jesus made sure to remind Saint Nicholas to bring a few by so Vince knew Jesus was thinking of him, too!
After seeing the letter and the overwhelmed frustration of my buddy who felt pressured to split the items on her daughter's list between herself, her parents, and her husband's parents so that everything was purchased without duplicate, I was thankful that my son hasn't yet picked up on those aspects of the season.
Granted, his special needs sorta help me out in that he's typically blind to the social cues of other kids who are clamoring for the hottest toy or stamping their feet in anticipation for the first giddy glimpses of Santa Claus, but I honestly think that he's got a pretty solid foundation on Who Christmas is really about.
And I assure you, it's not a list of presents.
So please, do not ask my kid what he wants for Christmas; it's not about getting what he wants. Christmas is about celebrating the Greatest Gift of All and sharing in that joy by gifting ourselves to others through time shared, memories made and thanksgiving offered.
If you want to give him a gift, that's great, but please do so without his input. Gifts are meant to come from your heart, not his.
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