Every Christmastide, we seem to struggle with the inevitable conflict between a desire for simplicity and an appreciation for generosity and abundance. I want to enjoy and partake in all the delights of the season without getting caught up in the clutter of materialism and wastefulness, but more importantly, I want our kids to learn good habits of moderation, gratitude, and contentment.
This year, the path toward simplicity is pleasantly straightforward. We’re moving soon, and we’re going to be very limited in what we can take with us. We have been in the process of paring down our possessions for some time, so we’re already in the mood for divestment rather than acquisition.
The kids—the older ones, at least—know that their belongings have to fit within a certain limited amount of packing space, and they’re rising to the challenge. For the past few months they’ve been diligently poring over their clothes and toys, setting aside more and more for giveaways. So when we explained that we wouldn’t be buying any more stuff this Christmas, they understood.
Children are remarkably resilient. We know that they’ll adapt marvelously to our changing circumstances, but we still want to do what we can to ease the transition:
We emphasize that the forces driving this change are external. This turns our resolution from a rueful embrace of deprivation to a matter-of-fact acknowledgement of reality. It’s not that we’re simply making the decision to pare down this Christmas—although that would be a valid decision and discussion in itself—but that our circumstances dictate this as the most sensible and viable path. Even our seven-year-old, who has a running laundry list of wants most days, agrees that it would be silly to ask for a brand-new set of binoculars, only to give them up a month later.
We discussed it with the older kids first. This gave us a chance to talk through the logistics, weigh the pros and cons, hear their concerns, and get them on board before bringing the younger kids in the loop. Younger children tend to take their cue from their elders, so when everyone else is on the same page, it creates a sense of affirmation and teamwork.
We continue to frame this as a positive thing for our family rather than a hardship to be endured. For our kids who prize time together and special events over stuff, this is a no-brainer. For younger kids with a short attention span, there’s really no downside: they just love the fun of unwrapping presents, regardless of the contents. (True story: One year, the four-year-old had several birthday cards and few gift bags to open. He opened a very fanciful owl card, which then somehow found its way into an empty bag and got shuffled back into the present pile. When he looked in that bag to discover the card, he exclaimed with delight, “Another owl card!”)
From fancy Christmas Eve brunches to St. Nicholas Day chocolate coins and a solid month of Christmas music, we won’t lack for holiday traditions. Our plan is still to share gifts, but they’ll be of the small and edible variety. Opening should be festive and fun. Disposal should be even more enjoyable.
Photo Credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author.