Over the Thanksgiving holiday Catherine and I sat down to make out her letter to Santa. Like any good ‘real’ mother/daughter experience, the event was a lot less “Hallmark-esque” and a lot more set in reality, with the two of us bickering over who was going to write, the proper form for a letter, and the need to explain why you deserve the items you are about to ask for.
Catherine struggled to write her letter, being only 4, and in the end I did most of the writing while she dictated. The end result was something that loosely resembled a letter that featured a drawing of Catherine’s of one item on her list, and a sales flier cutout of another.
She only asked for two items, which surprised me. It always seemed to me that whenever a toy catalog had arrived at our house in recent months that she had boldly asked for everything in it. However, when it came right down to what she wanted to ask Santa for, she clearly and decidedly had two items…a Dora the Explorer doll that comes with a magic Pegasus, and a Diamond Castle Barbie.
I had already completed most of my Christmas shopping for the kids already. I knew what her brother wanted, an expensive walking dinosaur that was currently in every department store and sales flier. I wasn’t going to get it for him, and no, neither was Santa……BUT I was pleased to have found a similar dinosaur by the same company that still had lots of cool features and was still pretty big but on clearance for $20…much better than the $130 that his wish list dinosaur cost. I didn’t have a clue though, what Catherine wanted….at least not officially. So I was stumbling around purchasing items that I thought were cool gifts for her and hoping she’d think the same.
We always try to keep our Christmas low-key. Chuck might laugh when I say that. I’m sure he thinks they aren’t low-key, but I really believe they are. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and stop at either Walmart, or Target during any evening this holiday season and check out how full those shopping carts are. I don’t think I buy much in comparison to many people. I’m the first to admit my kids are spoiled, but when it comes to Christmas I’ve always tried to limit the amount of gifts they receive to a couple from us, and then their stocking and a big unwrapped gift each from Santa. They still will receive a ton of goodies by the time they’ve visited each set of grandparents, all of their aunts and uncles and cousins, their daycare provider, close family friends, and even the few coworkers I have that dote on them. I don’t feel for a second like I’m slighting them in the least. They’ll have a wonderful Christmas no matter what. It also sounds silly, but I don’t want them to get used to the idea that they will have a huge Christmas each year. The number of ‘Dear Abby’ style letters I’ve read in advice columns this fall from parents worried about how their children will deal with not receiving everything they ask for, or not having the type of Christmas they’re used to, only make me feel even more assured that what I’m doing is the right thing. Each year though I’ll have coworkers that will check with me to see if I’ve caved yet to the pressure of both the media and kids that are asking for more items each year. I assure them that I haven’t caved yet and I hope I can stick to my guns on this one. I see so many of them give so much to their children each year, always out of love, but I’m always left wondering at the end of the season what next year’s demand will be.
I’ve often had the discussion with close friends of mine who were raised with similar beliefs to mine about Christmas and gift-giving. Christmas lists were often that…lists…they weren’t promises, demands, needs or anything other than a list of things that as children we desired. Most of us admitted that in the ‘good’ years we would get some items from the list but never all items…it was unheard of…
Besides…what child writes “Socks and underwear” on their wish list? Yet each year there it was along with clothing so there’s proof that ‘the list’ is not the end all be all.
I spoke with my mother over the Thanksgiving weekend about Christmas lists. We were reading the newspaper together and the annual publication of local childrens’ letters to Santa. We were appalled at the length of some of the lists and the price of some of the items on there as well as the age of some of the letter writers. Several of the letters were ‘written’ by 1-year-old infants and then contained a lengthy list of toys that would certainly be outgrown before the child would ever play with them.
Over the weekend my mother shared with me stories about her Christmases while growing up. My mother adores Christmas, and has as long as I can remember. Every bit of my love of Christmas comes from my mother who used to passionately sing carols and decorate the house and really go out of her way to make me believe in Santa. Yet, when she speaks of her childhood, she says that she never ever believed herself in the mythical elf. She claims she never received presents on Christmas, although her house was always warm and inviting during the holidays and full of food, and family, friends who would gather to celebrate. Presents, however, were never a highlight, and she can remember her mother going so far as to make her older brothers go out into the yard in the dark and ring bells to try to convince her that Santa was on his way. She said she always knew though that the stories couldn’t be true.
I’m not sure if while my mother was growing up she felt like a lucky girl around the holidays, but I think she was. What she received as a gift from her family in terms of Christmas spirit is more than most and has allowed her when times were financially tight not to become wrapped up in the commercialism that is so prevalent today, but rather once again default to good food, good friends, and merry making.
I can remember a few Christmases from my childhood that were pretty sparse, but I only remember them now that I stop to really think about them. They don’t stand out. I think that speaks volumes.
Catherine only asked for two items this Christmas, which gives me a bit of a challenge, because I don’t want to completely fulfill her list from Santa and have her get used to the idea of getting all that she asks for . Am I over-thinking it? Probably.
First posted on Furore and Frenzy
*Stay Tuned for The Search for the Pegasus