Each year over Thanksgiving break my family and I break out our holiday decorations. My children look forward to this tradition. They love putting up the tree and revisiting their favorite holiday junk treasures. As we were dusting off our decorations my youngest son was going through boxes clearly looking for something. When I quizzed him, he asked me where the house was. “What house?” I replied. “You know, the house with the sheep and Cheez-Its.” This conversation had me perplexed until I unpacked the final box and found our nativity scene. “There it is, the house and baby Cheez-Its!” he joyfully exclaimed. OMG, literally.
Enter parent-fail #962. My son had referred to the nativity scene and our lord as the “house and baby Cheez-Its”. Where did I go wrong? I guess I shouldn’t feel completely awful. I mean clearly he was at least looking for the Nativity scene. He had remembered this important part of our holiday decorations and was looking forward to seeing it displayed again. Still, it was not my finest parenting moment.
As a mother the holidays are a lot of work. By the time my little ones scramble out of bed at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, I will be thoroughly exhausted. In preparation for the holidays we will have enjoyed two Polar Express themed excursions, three light displays, two tree lightings, three class parties, the Nutcracker ballet, two different Santa visits (just in case Santa’s first helper failed to properly relay requests) and one parade. I have been bargain hunting, shopping, coupon clipping, and scouring the internet for perfect present ideas since August. I have posted more than fifty Christmas cards. I have wrapped, assembled, and shipped like I am a Fed-Ex employee of the month. My menus are planned, my cookies baked and in the freezer. On Christmas Eve, my children will be in matching holiday pajamas. I thought I had it all covered, apparently I was wrong.
It may sound cliché but what I realized, during what my family is now referring to as the “baby Cheez-It incident”, is that in the midst of the holiday madness my children missed one of the most important gifts of all, the true meaning of Christmas. In my effort to capture the magic of the holidays I have failed to really explain the reasoning behind it all.
My children have some understanding of religion but we are not a family that attends church on Sundays. We talk about higher-powers and the idea of beings that are much greater than ourselves. I have discussed faith and being spiritual but we have clearly missed the boat somewhere.
I take full responsibility. I am part of a consumer culture that encourages shopping for deals in lieu of family time. In a rush for holiday perfection I have placed so much emphasis on the gifts, glitz and glimmer that I too forgot about the deeper meaning. My guess is we are not the only family experiencing this. There was a recent blog post in which a Mom actually canceled Christmas. She realized that her children had become so wrapped up in the commercialism of it all that they were neglecting to appreciate what Christmas should truly mean.
While the idea is tempting, I cannot cancel Christmas. In the hopes of regaining the importance of the holiday, my children and I revisited the Christmas Story. We talked about the origins of gift giving. We talked about the idea of gratitude, of selfless giving, and the idea of helping those less fortunate. I hope our talks have helped. It is a conversation that will continue. I am actually kind of glad that “the incident” occurred. It gave me a great jumping off point to begin a discussion about things that are often difficult to talk about with small children.
I am trying to slow down and remember what is really important. We have chosen to “adopt” a child this year for Christmas and give gifts that my children will pick out. They will donate toys of their choosing and we will continue talking about the importance of helping others. My oldest son and I will be helping sort items at the Food Bank in Raleigh for Kids Day. We have plans to visit a living nativity scene. See, I’m trying. Praise Cheez-Its, I hope they have a better understanding now than they did before. How embarrassing…
My goal is for my children to get that the true magic of Christmas is not in the lights, decorations, or even in the jolly man that visits bearing gifts. Christmas is about great love, sacrifice, generosity, family, and gratitude for all of our amazing blessings. After all, the real magic began long ago in a manger on a starry night. My children needed a little reminder of this and apparently I did too.