A gentleman was telling a story about when he was young. He lived in an old farmhouse in Idaho, and during the winter, the house was cold and drafty. He figured it was normal to see his breath when sitting in his bedroom. The only really warm room was the front room that had the wood stove. Other than that, the house was not just chilly; it was downright cold.
One winter, he was walking down the street in a nearby town and saw a brown coat for sale. He wanted that coat so badly! When his mother asked him what he wanted for Christmas, all he could tell her was that he wanted the coat. He knew if he had that coat, he would be warm. His mother told him she would see, but in their financial circumstances, she didn’t know how she could do it.
But on Christmas day, the coat was under the tree. This young boy got just the present he wanted, and he was so happy! However, he also noticed that his mother had gone without. She didn’t get a coat because there wasn’t enough money for both of them.
His mother passed away this year, and her now-grown son still remembers how his brave mother sacrificed so he could be warmer and more comfortable. He tears up when he thinks about the love she showed to him. I am confident that she wanted him to be warm more than she wanted to be warm herself. Several years later, the family was able to purchase a bigger wood stove, and the house was warmer. Now they could all enjoy greater comfort. It was a cause for celebration.
Children have much more these days. Not only a warm house and plenty to eat, but more toys, and more expensive toys, than children had even a few decades ago. Some children have so much that they don’t think anything of it if they break something. They know their parents will replace it. But is this really doing them a disservice?
They know what they want, and they beg and plead and manipulate their parents into purchasing it. The parents often don’t feel very charitable about it, either, because the child isn’t grateful; they are simply demanding. They want the latest video game, the most expensive jeans, and the coolest new gadget on the market.
Do we give our children so much that they can’t be grateful for a simple coat? Do we always have to get them everything they demand, and does Christmas always have to wreck our budget?
I was talking to a mother the other day. She said that in the 1950s or so, parents were able to survive on a single income, but now both parents need to work to survive. I told her, “Perhaps if we lived as they did in the 1950’s, families could live on one income.”
She thought for a moment, and then said, “Yes, maybe you are right. Maybe we bring this on ourselves.”
Back then, we weren’t paying for cell phones. Cars and homes were smaller and less expensive. There were fewer pricey prepared foods. Children played with rocks and rope and sticks in the backyard. There wasn’t an emotional need to have the latest and greatest of everything, or if there was, the cost was not nearly as high.
Christmas was a simpler affair, too. Homemade cookies and candies were central to the celebration, as was a delicious homemade meal. Stockings often held a few small trinkets and an orange. Time was spent with precious family members rather than glued to electronics.
One year we felt our children were becoming a little too demanding about their Christmas presents, so we had them give some of their favorite things to a family that was in less favorable circumstances than we were. We had a large family and money was tight, but we had a warm home and plenty to eat.
Now our children think of others during Christmas. They are the first to suggest that we take cookies to other families. They make and purchase gifts within their means when they know it will mean something. They spend time performing musical programs at the nursing home. They use their own money to buy gifts for their siblings.
Wouldn’t it be delightful if children were as excited to give a gift as to receive one? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have technology-free time when the family can reconnect, play board games, build snowmen, and go sledding?
Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to make cookies together, sampling them as you go, and eating so much that no one wants dinner? Those simple moments, when family members are laughing and spending time together, are when the best memories are made.
Consider making this Christmas memorable in a new, or old, way. Make new memories. Take too many pictures. Bask in a simpler, less-stressful, and peaceful time.