We live in a (very) modest house. We have three young children and two cats. Space is something we frequently run out of and something I am nearly always dreaming about having more of. Four times a year we brace ourselves for an influx of more stuff: each of our daughter’s birthdays and Christmas.
We try to encourage friends and family to give the gift of experience if they feel like they want to give anything at all. We reassure everyone that nothing is a perfectly acceptable option. Our children have SO much. Too much, perhaps.
Then, a birthday rolls around or December happens, the excitement overpowers everyone and we find ourselves in the wake of the festivities drowning in more stuff.
I get it. I have nieces and nephews and I LOVE seeing their faces light up at a new toy. I admit to buying too much for them and even more for my own children. It is just SO fun to shop for them.
I really do completely understand.
My husband and I were discussing Easter recently, trying to decide how to approach it. Somehow, we end up spending just as much on Easter baskets as we do at Christmas. It doesn’t feel right, we are reinforcing some unwanted habits in our children and teaching them to consume more, AND we are running out of space faster than we can cull through the toys.
I made a sobering realization that with the focus on the gifts, our children were not even aware of what we were celebrating. They had no idea why Christmas happens or what Easter is. They saw Santa and a bunny who brought them treats and presents, what else was there to know? It isn’t their fault, somehow the meaning behind it all got overshadowed.
This year we are being much more mindful in our giving. There will still be treats and cuddly bunnies in baskets on Easter morning, and there will also be a discussion of what it is we are celebrating. There will be a focus on time spent together and how grateful we are to have this family and this time.
We are encouraging our extended family to follow our lead. Our children don’t need an assortment of bunny shaped board books or a herd of pink and yellow stuffed bunnies and they certainly don’t need several dozen plastic eggs. What our children need are roots, traditions, and family. Above all our children need love, and that isn’t something that can be nestled in a powder blue basket amongst chocolate rabbits and plastic grass.
We don’t want to raise children who expect to be showered in gifts every time the post office is closed for the day. If we were to buy into the idea that every holiday, no matter how major or minor, religious or secular, is an opportunity to shop ’til we drop, it kills the magic of Christmas. It sucks a bit of the specialness out of a birthday. If every day becomes Christmas then Christmas becomes just another day.
I love giving gifts. Sometimes I will come home from grocery shopping with a little something for each of my girls. I do it because it is part of my love language, it is how I show them that even while I am running mundane errands, I am still thinking of them. They don’t expect it and are always surprised and enormously grateful for whatever it is I hand to them.
That is what we want to preserve.
This Easter we will still welcome that gift-giving bunny into our home, albeit a lighter and less generous version. We will happily search for eggs in our yard and dig through baskets of toys and treats. This year, however, we will not be making that the main event, instead we will focus on the real meaning of the holiday and why we celebrate. We will share a meal with family feel grateful for all we have, shifting the focus away from wanting more.
Keeping clutter down is hard enough with children, we don’t need Christmas to come several times a year to add to it.