Ahh the Christmas season, the joy, the love, the imagined picture of what Christmas should be in your home.
I still imagine Christmas as a snow covered lawn and Santa puffing and fluffing his way through the snow to get to our chimney.
Only a couple of problems there; I don’t think I’ve ever had a Christmas that wasn’t pushing the mercury over 27◦C, more like 35◦C and we’re all heading for the pool on Christmas Eve, Santa has a beer in his hand, sweating his butt off. And we don’t have a fireplace. But those images really do drive us to push for the imagined dream of what Christmas should be.
Last year my marriage finally gave it’s last breath to the universe. It needed to happen. But the story I need to share with you all, is that for the first time in 13 years, I didn’t have the husband’s income or credit to do the whole extravagant Christmas. I had a budget of around $300 to buy for 6 kids. I was really stressed, until I decided that I would get them one thing that they asked for, and the cheap $2 toys to fill in the gaps. I got some help from the organisation where I was staying (a Santa sack with gifts).
I organised to spend the day with my sister’s family, my mum and my kids.
My contribution to the day was a sundae bar. I invested about $30 at the most, ice cream, topping, and sprinkles of all kinds, little marshmallow’s, and the whole nine yards. Didn’t seem like much of a contribution at the time, but we set it up (my sister has an amazing artistic flare; and can make anything look fantastic) she put it all on a little stand, ice cream cups and spoons, little bowls for the sprinkles and stuff. And there it was, the kids loved it! By far the best investment for the day.
The kids all woke up to a small Santa stocking with cheap gifts, and each had 4 gifts from me. One bigger gift that they had asked for and the cheaper things I knew they would like, but wouldn’t break the budget.
And do you know what? It was one of the best Christmas days we’ve had.
There wasn’t the big, stressful dinner with a thousand different meats, nothing had to be pushed and pulled and stuffed just so.
My sister did an amazing turkey, wonderful pork (and crackling of course) and I did a leg of lamb the night before. Mum contributed drinks and nibbles, and all the last minute things. I think she may have done the ham too.
That day was the first time my kids have ever sat down and actually eaten Christmas dinner. Ruby, who is probably the pickiest of all, sat quietly munching away and asked for seconds, then thirds. We were so relaxed and had such a great time. It was quiet and relaxed as we all sat and ate, and laughed at how my oven was complete crap, and the lamb I’d cooked for 7 hours was still raw.
So what was different? I still had the same amount of kids, I still had to shop and lug them around, and I was going through a nasty break up. Why was this Christmas so different?
I have a couple of ideas; first of all, I decided that it was useless to put pressure on myself to make it the ‘perfect Christmas’. I had no way of providing Xbox 360’s and Gameboys. So why stress about something that I can’t change?
I knew that I could provide a happy place, and a present that they had asked for. I knew that I could provide a couple of other toys that they liked. I knew that I could provide them with a family to spend a nice day with.
I also knew that kids don’t give a rat’s bum about how much a gift costs. They will throw down an $800 iPad to go play just as they would a $2 toy (yes I have watched this, the cracked screen is a testament).
I know that crappy toys from the cheap shop give them just as much joy, if it is something that you know your child likes.
And I knew that it doesn’t matter how much you give them, nothing is more valuable or craved or needed by your child than your love, time and attention.
I believe that because there were fewer gifts, they appreciated what they had. There wasn’t the total mania of years past of “one more”. They sat outside on our blanket, played with the toys they received, sat on our laps, kissed and cuddled us, swam and ate at their leisure.
This year is much the same, I’m broke as broke can be, the kids know that they are getting at least one gift off their wish list, and not much more. And guess what? They are content with that, they watch me budget and struggle all year, they know that there isn’t a secret stash of money set aside to rain down and shower them with thousands of Christmas presents. And that’s ok.
They know that we will celebrate Christmas with our family; they know that they will celebrate with their Dad and his family. They will go to the beach and swim and build sandcastles, get sick from too many lollies, probably get sunburnt and go to bed with sand in their bum cracks.
And what could be better than that? Children that actually know the joy and spirit of Christmas. Children that know that they have so many people that love them and want to spend the holidays with them.
So many times in our lives, we are given the opportunity to learn, and I have definitely learned.
My children may want the Xbox’s and the Gameboys, but they appreciate what I can give, they know I put so much love and thought into what they get. They have just as much fun with cheaper gifts. They don’t want money, they want me. Simple.
They want to know I love them and appreciate them for who they are, not sending them off with a $400 gift to play alone in a closed room for days in front of a screen.
So put down the catalogues, stop stressing over what the Jones’s are getting their kids. Put a little thought into what your kid wants and leave the rest.
Remember that Christmas is a time for love, and family. Not about how much you spend. Remember that your kids basically want you, all the time. Remember that a BBQ at the beach or sitting outside on a blanket is pretty much the best thing ever.
Your kids want to be with you, and want you to show them how much you love them. Christmas really is the season to be jolly. Merry Christmas, to you and your families. May your days be filled with love and joy.
Love to hear what Christmas means to your family and how you spend Christmas day?