It is, as I write this, the beginning of January. Christmas is a recent memory. There are still lights up in the neighborhood, holiday stamps still adorn letters, and the trash is still overflowing with packaging and opened Amazon.com boxes. Yet the weeks and months will pass. The holiday season will again be a “sweet memory” that will fade into the past, bringing mainly feelings of nostalgia and warmth. Well, I’m here to sound a wake-up call for my pre-Christmas 2013 self. And I want you…me…whatever, to remember a few key bits of information as you head into next year’s holiday season:
- Your. Children. Have. Too. Many. Toys. As you start your November Christmas shopping, please, please, please remember this. You will be unable to prevent kind relatives and friends from bestowing your boys with presents. But you can control what you give them…and, to an extent, even the guy in the Big Red Suit.
- Your kids can’t distinguish a $100 toy from something you can get from a gumball machine. All pieces of plastic are the same to your dear cuties. So, skip the big Lego set or the latest cartoon action figure. Get a few things from the dollar store and a flashlight. Bam. You’re done.
- No matter how much you give them, they’ll always want more. So, there’s no point in buying lots of gifts. It’s still less than infinity. Then again, so is three.
- If a toy looks annoying in the packaging, it probably is. Usually the “lights and sounds” description is a good indicator of this. And the more tiny parts a toy has, the shorter its lifespan will be, since those parts will be lost about seven minutes after opening.
I write this at the risk of sounding jaded, Scrooge-like, and not appreciative of my kids and their childhoods. I just want don’t want my boys to turn into little monsters at Christmas, and I fear we could contribute to that if we’re not careful. We have some awesome memories from this Christmas: our annual hot-chocolate-and-cookie filled drive through the local neighborhoods to look at lights, spending time with family, feasting and Christmas caroling with the neighbors, and even yanking the cat out of the Christmas tree a dozen times. But I’m reminded of my grandpa’s famous story of one of his childhood Christmases. As the youngest child of a large missionary family in Madagascar, he grew up, naturally, without a lot of material spoiling. One Christmas, he was the only child in his family to receive a gift: a fabric napkin holder from his teacher. Well, being a typical child, he threw the napkin holder as far as he could across the room, earning a severe reprimand from his extended family. For many years, we participated in the Napkin Throwing Contest on Christmas, to remind us of this story and its lessons.
I’m not telling you…me…whatever, to get your children a napkin holder for Christmas next year. But remember the famous saying “less is more.” Fewer toys and gifts can lead to greater appreciation. And there’s no better gift than that.