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
I must say that I have no memory of things I asked Santa for and did NOT get. I do remember things I was amazed to receive.
Every year my parents would say Santa is poor this year and we were each only getting 1 or 2 presents. Then we were asked what we wanted. I think this made us a little careful not to put a bunch of petty stuff on our list. In the end, we always got more than 1 or 2 things, and we felt that much more excited because the sheer abundance was such a surprise. I remember being so excited to have received 7! presents, including a doll buggy (the big one), doll pj’s, crayons, a couple coloring books, a nightgown, and one other small item. I hope my kids can experience the same joy, though I am not sure they will. They have too many people buying for them.
When I was 9, I requested a violin for Christmas. I was sure I wouldn’t get it, but the truth was that there was nothing else I really wanted. I’m not sure how my parents pulled it off considering their financial situation and all their kids, but I did get a violin for Christmas. I bet my parents don’t even know this, but I still treasure the memory of that Christmas morning. Yes, I got everything I really wanted that year, but I don’t think it spoiled me. Somehow I knew better than to take gifts for granted.
I do have a related pet peeve. Through my past job, I participated in those adopt-a-family Cristmas drives, where a group of “haves” commits to provide Christmas for a family of “have nots” based on a wish list provided by the family. I was on the committee that selected which families to adopt. I have to say some of the wish lists – OK, many of them – gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Bikes, computers, expensive video games, etc. – things many/most people can’t afford for their own kids. I would always pick the families that asked for things like warm clothes for the grown-ups and modest toys for the little ones. Then I would really put together a nice Christmas for them, going above and beyond their list. I just don’t like the idea of being guilted into buying something for a stranger that I would consider a luxury for myself.
*Sigh* Christmas… Always seems like the most beautiful holiday. And I’ll never have that joy of the childlike excitement on Christmas morning. Hopefully I’ll get to celebrate with friends and the populace when I live in the US, but until then, I have candles to light [or not, we’re not all that prudent about keeping holidays].
Our little six year old girl gave me her list yesterday.
1. A toy dog.
2. A Barbie house.
3. Snow (we live on the SC coast)
If she can’t have snow she will settle for petting one of Santa’s reindeer.
mssc54: Would you like some snow? Perhaps we can convince Santa to stop at my house first and bring some for you…I’m sure that fancy ride of his must have a cooler on it somewhere….
I’m MORE than willing to part with some….
I think for a one time thing of asking for only 2 items, why not get both? I see no reason from one time it would make her think she’ll always get everything! She might not even remember next year.
It was fun to hear about your Christmas and your mom’s…I love how it was in the olden days for people. It seems so much better, traditions were valued so much more, and so was respect. My grandma was the oldest of 9 brothers and sisters, now of like 5, and we still all get together for holidays. She shops at the thrift stores for presents! She has so many to buy for, but I love that it has always been the thought that counts, not the gift, and I have always known that being raised by her. Our emphasis has always been good food, family, carols, decorations, and then gifts.
Lists for an infant or anyone under talking age is so ridiculous!! My baby is 2 months, and I guarantee there will be no lists until then, and no trick-or-treating either!! I cannot believe I knew 2 moms that took their babies to get candy!!
My grandchildren are the same way with toy catalogs and commercials. It seems they circle or say “I want that grandma” on every other commercial but when it comes down to making a list, there really isn’t to much on it. When you ask them seriously, they don’t say the “moon sand” but what looks so good on TV, they really only think they want it. They all only have asked for a few things. We spend a certain amount on each person so that’s what I stick to. I would much rather buy a bunch of “smaller” gifts just because opening them to me is the fun part.
When I was a kid I always got clothes and things that I needed. Like the socks and underwear you mentioned. We did get something we really wanted to but to get everything on the “list,” it wouldn’t even have occurred to me.
We would always go to my grandparents in Canada and they had no money. Funny thing is I don’t remember what I didn’t get but I remember what I did. We used to get nuts and candy and those little “Christmas” oranges which are now called Clementines. I loved every minute of it and wouldn’t trade my memories for anything.
As for NOT giving everything a child asks for, won’t you then be “training” the child to ask for more than they want? Sometimes we parents & “grands” over think simple things.
On the other hand… Do you want to teach the Biblicle principle of “you have not because you ask not.”. 😉
That’s a really good point mssc. They will catch on that they won’t get everything so they will simply ask for more. Hhhmmm.
mssc54: You may be right…they might ask for more….I won’t even be naive enough to think that I’ll maintain the upper hand when it comes to outsmarting my kids. But for right now I’ll remind myself that even if they ask for more I’m still the one controlling what they receive.
Tessa: I agree that since she only asked for 2 items it really isn’t a big deal to get her both…my only dilemma is that I had already done some shopping prior to her making the list (I guess I’ve learned THAT lesson!). So then she’d end up with more than her brother that would lead me out in search of more for him which only launches the Christmas beast that I’m trying to avoid…
(Or perhaps I over think again) I know it’s silly to try to have equality in giving gifts to children…and that it’s PROBABLY ok if one year one sibling gets more than another….BUT with that said I still hear my husband whine 30 some odd years later that his parents bought his brother an electric guitar for Christmas and he never got anything that nice or expensive that he didn’t have to save for on his own….
can you return some things?
You know that’s the bad thing about buying early. I pick up things also as the kids mention what they want but I won’t take them back. Some of these things I got months ago. I think with kids, they keep changing what they want daily (some adults to do this too).
Just because they “list” something doesn’t mean the things that aren’t on the “list,” they don’t want anymore. They might even want them more but have just forgotten about. They just may be getting bombarded with other ads and those catalogs.
I think my youngest daughter, who is 9 and still believes in Santa I think, had a total of 54 items on her computer typed (with pictures) Christmas list.
My oldest daughter, who is 16 and a non-believer, knows how the game works. She listed one BIG item and maybe about 4 other small items.
I made lists as a kid and we never got everything on it! That’s just unrealistic and we knew that even as kids. With that said, I only got presents if it was my birthday or if it was Christmas so we got more than 1 or 2 things from Santa. Like Joy mentioned, my kids will say that they want this and that from the toy catalogues, but when you ask them directly what they want it’s only a couple of things. My daughter had 2 things that she was asking for and my son only has 1. Yeah, they think all that stuff in the magazines are neat, but I don’t think they’ll remember what they didn’t get. I stick to a budget for each child, but also go by the number of presents too b/c I can remember sitting by the tree and counting how many presents each of my siblings had compared to me. Until they start buying presents for others with their own money, they won’t get that some things just cost more than others. As far as buying things in advance, I’d take some of them back if you want to get her the 2 things on her list.
I know what you mean. Dylan always says he wants everything he sees on tv and in those catalogs as well but when I asked him what he wanted, all he said was more trains. I feel we are going to start with one “wish” from Santa. I figure they are young and the expectations of what they get, we can set right now. They only expect what we give them and my kids get way to much from other people so it will be one gift from Santa plus the stocking.
Great post Jen. Let us know what you do.