Monday, January 25, 2016

Best Christmas Ever

Several of my children had the same wonderful first grade teacher, Mrs. Coleman.  Each December she would put a sign outside her door that read:  "The best gift you can give your children is your time."

Television commercials and toy catalogs bombard us with advice on great things to buy that will make this year the best Christmas ever.  In many years of mothering, I only once heard a child use the expression, "This is the best Christmas ever." As I tucked my little brown-haired boy into bed on a Christmas night quite a few years ago, his eyes sparkled and he sighed as he said, "This is the best Christmas ever."  When I asked him what had made it so wonderful, he answered, "Because this year I finally got a hamster."  You're not going to see that in a commercial.

When I asked my college age daughter about her favorite Christmas memories, she gave me this list:  Grandma's homemade suckers, Grandpa's pink peppermint candies, hot rolls and kids running in circles around Grandma's house, the family Nativity program with baby Jesus in the doll bed, Christmas morning casserole and hot cinnamon rolls, lots of cousins, and two Christmas Eve dinners, one at each Grandmother's house.  There wasn't a single toy included in her list of memories, but there was lots of food.  Maybe we can amend Mrs. Coleman's list to include sharing good food as well as time as being good gifts for children.
There was a time at our house when the children wanted to get up on Christmas morning much earlier than the parents wanted to get up.  Much, much earlier.  So we instituted a 7 a.m. rule.  Children weren't to come and get parents up on Christmas morning until at least seven.  Jennie reports that she remembers several years being so excited that she and her brother woke up very early and they sat and read Calvin and Hobbes comic books together until seven finally came.  

One year they got up early and sat in the living room reading so long that they fell asleep again on the floor.  Suddenly Jennie awoke, screaming that the burglars were coming in and she ran and jumped in bed with mom and dad.  We got up to investigate and found the noise was the morning newspaper that had thumped against the front door as it was delivered.  It was almost time to get up anyway.

Giving and getting are both important parts of life.  This is a wonderful, stressful, delightful, demanding time of year.  Talk to your children about both aspects of the holiday.  Help them plan some little gifts to give.  It is a wonderful feeling to give something that is opened with delight by the receiver.  Let your children feel that part of Christmas, too.

The stores are coaxing us.  Radio announcers cajole us.  Television tries to lure us.  “Make this the best Christmas ever,” they all say.  What they mean is “Buy my stuff. “  Parents of young children should know that in twenty years, those expensive toys that they stood in line all morning to buy may not even be remembered.  It’s the things families do together that make lasting memories.   My advice:  buy a hamster, help your children make cookies to give the neighbors, and let the kids run circles at Grandma’s house.

 © Diane Mangum