Do you hear the hoofbeats?
The gallop approaching from a formerly distant calendar shore?
It’s the coming retail apocalypse. And if history serves as any guide, there will be that one item this year, the one that rises above all the others, that will become the darling of the season, the gift that everyone wants, the object that will be the penultimate present.
The thing that could make or break Christmas morning for your kid.
I’ve witnessed Black Friday frays over bits of plastic and faux fur in the toy aisle, adults fighting like panthers over the ‘it’ item for the season. And I’ve felt the sting of a Christmas morn’ when there was simply no more room at the ‘it’ item inn, and that longed for, uber popular toy didn’t make its way under our tree, regardless of all my seeking.
What to do?
How do we take back the joy of Christmas when whatever the high-demand, short-supply toy item for this year makes its way to the top of the pile?
Or for that matter, what if your kid has their heart set on something that isn’t necessarily the Toy-Du-Jour, but is something that you can’t afford, can’t find, or, as is often our case, is something you’ve decided your kiddo needs to work and earn and save for?
It’s time to rise up, my sisters. We must become Retail Rebels and reclaim Christmas cheer.
- Begin setting expectations now. Talk about how fun it will be to have time together as a family at Christmas. Talk about what dishes you want to make. Celebrate the traditions your family has and create anticipation around that. It’s not wrong for kids to be excited about receiving presents…but in your verbiage and in what you model, make the gift lane stay in proportion to the fuller wonder of the season.
- Focus on experiences. Take a hot chocolate walk around the neighborhood to see the lights. Go to the Christmas show. Schedule Christmas movie nights at the house, complete with special treats and new Christmas socks.
- Don’t get pulled into playing a mental game. I’ll go first…I used to LOVE to pretend like my kids weren’t going to get some longed for item…and the PRESTO WHAMO on Christmas morning, can-you-even-believe-it!!!!!….the item would show up. But here’s the deal. You can only pull that off so many times until your kids equate your denials as the assurance that this Christmas will be bigger than ever. And I’ve also learned that an organic joy, the surprise and happiness over a little gift that I thought was no big deal but ended up being adored by one of my kids, has a much sweeter flavor than a manufactured moment. As I wrote about in one of the chapters in my book, Raising an Original, for several years I tried to replicate for my kids what I thought was the magic of my own childhood Christmases. But over time, I’ve realized that kids are going to make their own magic, playing under the tree with their action figures, scrolling through the children’s Christmas books that come out of storage this time of year, assigning their own sense of wonder to the sights and sounds of the season. I don’t have to be some kind of frenetic Wizard of Oz for them, trying to shape every nuance.
- It’s not your job to protect Santa’s reputation. If you’ve made the decision that Santa comes to your house, you may have felt the fictional pressure to explain elf workshop difficulties, navigate the theological quandaries of why Santa simply can’t make more Furbys, why so-and-so down the street got thus-and-such from St. Nick and we didn’t…and on and on. Look, Santa can only do what Santa can do, right? And he’s on a short time frame anyway, when it comes to who your kids think of as superheros in childhood. Create a plan for gifts that makes sense for your budget and your sanity and call it good. Let Santa take care of Santa. You’re not his PR agent. And it’s not your job to keep your kid on the Santa believer extended play list. Enjoy while it lasts and don’t make yourself bananas.
If you’re like me, you probably proclaim all year that Christmas shouldn’t be about materialism…and then you start getting sucked into the vortex that is Gotta Have It retail. Let’s set the boundary intentionally this year. Let’s be clear about borders of Christmas joy and retail greed. Let’s drink more hot chocolate and wrap fewer presents. Let’s give more to others and not overstuff our closets.
Let’s peer into a manger and remember anew…
The greatest Christmas gift that is available to all.