You can’t teach kids the true meaning of Christmas. I mean you can, if the true meaning is presents, presents, presents and more presents. Obviously you can teach them to humour you, to tell you all the stuff they know you want to hear, about Christmas being a time to show gratitude, love your family, be kind etc etc. But when it comes down to it? It’s about the presents.
This is the first year my seven year old has been fully consumed by Christeria, as her pre-Christmas excitement levels reach a dangerously hysterical peak. And we’re not even into December yet. As a fellow-Christmas lover I can relate to her excitement, but the present-obsession? It’s a bit joy-sapping, to be honest.
“What presents do you think I’ll get this year Mummy?” “How many presents will I get?” “I know it’s not all about the presents, but… do you think I’ll get a bike? And that Lego set? And that jumper? And those Hatchimel toys?” etc etc etc. This went from 6am until the moment we had to leave the house for school. By 8.30am I was ready to cancel Christmas completely, dreading six more weeks of present chat.
I sent my husband a text:
We’ve failed in our duty as parents. Freya doesn’t understand the true meaning of Christmas. We’ve messed up. This is what comes of raising our children in a capitalist culture of meaningless consumerism.
Then I Googled “Off Grid Living” and started planning how we could give up all our earthly possessions and go and live in a yurt away from the evil materialistic civilisation of our current setting.
A conversation with my three year old brought me back to my senses. “Mummy, I know what I want for Christmas!” Oh here we go again, I thought, bracing myself for an onslaught of unrealistic demands because, apparently, Santa’s a sodding millionaire. “I want a packet of baby wipes and a pair of scissors!”
Maybe all is not lost, then.
Once I’d stopped blaming myself for somehow making so many mistakes as a mother to my seven year old, I rationalised it. I chatted to some other mums. I gained perspective. It turns out I’m not alone. My seven year old is not the only child infected by Christeria and an obsession with presents. The presents she wants are the same as her friends – so they’ve clearly been discussing it at playtime at school.
And, when you get it into context, obviously she’s going to be excited about the presents she’ll get on the big C-Day. Heck, as a kid, that’s all I really cared about. Yeah the never-ending chocolate was good. And the music. And the fact Mum and Dad were in a good mood all day and even up for long games of Twister (I’m sure the sherry helped with their openness to join in with that particular game).
But the thing that really gave me thrills of excitement as I lay in bed on Christmas Eve? The anticipation of the feeling of my stocking at the end of my bed in the morning, stuffed with presents. The amazement of seeing the tree bulging with presents. The sheer unrivalled joy of having a whole new set of Sylvanian Families to play with. That’s what really got me. And I don’t think that’s unusual.
Still, even knowing this, I thought I better give one last go at being a Good Parent and teaching my kid that Christmas isn’t all about the presents. We’re not a materialistic family, after all. I don’t want her to be spoiled. And being obsessed with how much stuff you have is not an attractive trait.
So… I chatted with Freya later that day, as she was practising the song for her Christmas choir performance at school. After mooting the idea of a “Kindness Advent Calendar” and having to field questions over “What will I get when I finish it? Will I get more presents for Christmas if I’m really kind?” my hopes at breaking the wall of Christeria and smashing the present obsession were not high.
“CELEBRATE THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS” she sang with gusto. I asked her what she thought the words of her song meant, settling in with my best patient expression and secretly congratulating myself on doing some Good Parenting.
“It means to be kind and to celebrate how lucky we are, Mummy. Like being grateful for our friends and our family and the people we love. That’s what it means.”
At once I was filled with a warm glow of self-congratulatory smugness, having finally managed to teach my child the true meaning of Christmas. Just as I was about to update Facebook with a #blessed status and text my husband letting him know we didn’t need to sell the house and live in a field after all, she came out with her closing statement.
“But it’s also about presents. Because presents are one of the ways your mummy and your daddy and your grandparents show their love for you. You give presents to people you love. So…. how many presents do you think I’ll get then?”
I give up.