My post for Day 4 is a bit late. I tried to write it last night, but by the time I had a moment to work on it, I was just too tired to think. We watched Downton Abbey instead. So here's a little something different for today (or really yesterday), something that won't help me as much this month as it will later: An open letter to my future Christmas-shopping self.
Dear Future Self,
It's time for Christmas shopping again, huh? Halloween is over. (How was Halloween, by the way? Magical, I hope!) Thanksgiving is swiftly approaching. Maybe they are just starting to put Christmas music on the radio, and the kids are writing out their wish lists. I bet you have a few items "saved for later" in your Amazon cart, don't you? Maybe you're price-tracking a toy or five to get a better deal?! Just can't wait for your Amazon credit card points to hit so you can buy some "free" stuff?!! And you're just certain you're going to find that PERFECT gift, that toy that becomes an iconic memory of their childhood, or the most wonderful educational thingamajig that will revolutionize your approach to homeschool math. This will be the BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER!
Okay, calm down. This is how it always starts. You think, well, I'll find a good deal on the one big thing on their list, and I'll get 2-3 of the smaller things, and then a few surprises. No, seriously, just a few! Small ones!
Jenny, I think part of the problem is that you start shopping too early. According to Amazon's record of past orders, you began buying gifts for the children on November 2. By the time the Christmas order cutoff date rolled around, you'd had a full seven weeks to worry whether you had bought them enough, or if you were missing out on a great deal that would be THE perfect thing to complete their stockings, or (and this is probably the worst part!) if you'd bought for them all equally. So you buy just one more thing. Oh, and that cute thing too. And now Robert doesn't have as much as the girls so let's just get him this. Aw, but that's the perfect thing for Ivey... And Suzi has just written the sweetest letter to Santa saying she knows it's late in the season, but if it's not too much trouble for him to bring her these other little things she needs for her future career in showbiz, she would be forever grateful and would make him some cookies...
You know I normally don't say things like this, but STAAAAHP!!!
I know holiday amnesia has likely set in and you aren't going to want to hear this, but you must. I'm going to remind you of how you felt January 4, 2015 upon entering the children's room to put away laundry and seeing the state in which they had left it. Toys, those precious toys you had shopped for so carefully, along with others lovingly purchased by relatives and even more toys from years past, were strewn everywhere. Pop-O-Matic Trouble had all its pieces thrown about; who knows if they were all there. Robert's Lego set was in complete disarray--and those pieces are so tiny and impossible to keep up with! A game you'd bought for the children because you thought it would be just the thing for family time is open in the floor with its container possibly broken and its pieces scattered. Nerf darts are everywhere. This is all in addition to the dirty clothes you came to collect. Now your laundry momentum is derailed--and this is but the tip of the iceberg, Jenny. It was a truly sobering scene. I could have taken a photo to share here, but I don't want to be petty. I just need you to remember this, because you know what comes next. Oh, yes. The cleaning.
The children don't understand how these things happen. Maybe it's because there are three of them. There was only one of you to mess up your room as a child. Nevertheless, you must help them pick it up. This wastes at least an hour of everyone's time. Robert isn't helping. Suzi is being bossy. One of Ivey's toys is broken but I guess Casper the ghost did it because it certainly wasn't one of the kids, they swear! You feel heartburn coming on and ask if you need to put some of these toys on vacation. You inevitably lay a guilt trip about how they don't care for their things. Sad faces all around. I have to ask you, Jenny--is this the JOY you hoped to ignite when you purchased these wonderful playthings? Sure, some of the gifts are from relatives, but they were generally quite thoughtful in their shopping this year, giving things that would be useful, educational, or at least not take up much space. Look at the gifts that were your idea. You created your share of this. It may be small compared to our society's average Christmas haul, but it's most certainly more than your family needs. So, please--let's not repeat it.
Here are some things you might do instead of buying more gifts for the children:
1) Read the Christmas part of Little House in the Big Woods
2) Watch Little Women
3) Buy gifts for (or donate money to) someone who really needs it
4) Make them hot chocolate again
5) Watch the old Christmas specials while cuddling on the couch
6) Read them all of the Christmas books - at least once
7) Attend Suzi's annual Christmas party she throws in her bedroom
8) Make handmade ornaments for the people you love
9) Find the Advent calendar and use it
10) Go caroling
11) Let them set up the Fontanini nativity scene where they can see it and touch it every day
Are you still worried they'll be disappointed on Christmas morning? A little underwhelmed? Well, what if they are? The best part is not the unwrapping. It's not the getting what you want plus loads more. The beauty of Christmas is that the very best part stretches from Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas Eve, and if you do it right, maybe even through New Year's. Putting up decorations with your family, helping a four-year-old proudly wrap a gift, seeing them spend time with their great-grandmother, going to church and seeing the Advent candles lit one by one, the kids being so happy on the days Daddy is off work. Taking the kids to the tree lighting and the parade, driving home when it's dark and seeing the neighbors' Christmas lights, watching the kids in the church pageant, taking them to see a Christmas play, watching the Grinch for the umpteenth time and remembering how the music always gave you butterflies because it meant Christmas was right around the corner... And Jenny, as a homeschool mom, you get so much time to experience all of this joy with the kids. Soak it all up. Wallow around in it. Toys break, but the time parents spend with their kids lives on forever. It shapes their hearts and flows into future generations.
I have to go now. It's time to homeschool the kids. I think we'll play one of the games they received for Christmas--because that's what iconic childhood memories are made of--the fact that your parents took the time to play a game with you, make you hot chocolate from scratch, read you a book. What good is a game if you don't have time to play it? Mull that over, will you? Think on that before you shop, and maybe next year you'll end up with less mess, more time, more money, and happier kids. And a happier YOU. Because that's important too, Jenny.
Your Recovering-from-Christmas-2015 Self