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What’s Left to Want in Woodbury?

My kids, who still associate birthdays and Christmas with getting stuff, aren’t buying what I’m selling. They’d still prefer a huge pile of presents under the tree. Where have I gone wrong?

A Black Friday that encroached on Thanksgiving Thursday didn’t deter Americans in search of a good deal. According to the National Retail Federation, a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over this past weekend.

By 4 p.m. on Thursday, I’d purchased three items online from Best Buy. A bit of updated electronics for the hubs, the kids and me. Click. Slick. Easy. And free shipping to boot!

But now, I’m in a quandary. Because I’m done. That’s it. I can’t justify spending much more and besides, what more is there to want?

My sons are back to where they were not long ago when they were making birthday wish lists. They can’t think of anything to ask for for Christmas. Maybe my regular insistence on practicality prevents them from requesting extraneous, elaborate or expensive gifts. Or maybe, there truly isn’t anything left to want.

We discuss the reason for the season, light candles and sing carols. And yet, the focus remains on stuff.

I’ve tried to sell this as a good thing. I tell them, “You are blessed to have so much, that you can’t come up with anything worthwhile to ask for.”

But my kids, who still associate birthdays and Christmas with getting stuff, aren’t buying what I’m selling. They’d still prefer a huge pile of presents under the tree. Where have I gone wrong?

We pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Donate gifts to Toys for Tots. We’ve even purchased a farm animal for a third-world family. We discuss the reason for the season, light candles and sing carols. And yet, the focus remains on stuff.

A friend once told me that she buys only three gifts apiece for each of her children because Jesus received three gifts at his birth. This leads me to believe that one gift per child is sufficient… Since my children are, in fact, not Jesus. But I’m not sure this justification for limited gifting will get my boys to nod in persuaded agreement.

I may need to shift the conversation entirely. Not just lecture them about how blessed they are or guilt them into forced generosity. But discover ways to create joyous holiday memories that are less associated with greed.

Maybe we’ll bake more cookies or see more shows. The Christmas concert at Woodbury Lutheran Church is very good. There is the Trans Siberian Orchestra at the Xcel Energy Center, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at Stepping Stones Theater, Cirque Dreams Winter Wonderland at Mystic Lake and The Nutcracker at The O’Shaughnessy. We’ll take a drive though the holiday lights in St. Paul’s Phalen Park. And we’re excited to see The Hobbit.

I’m open to advice. What holiday activities excite your family?

We’re battling a consumer culture that tells kids the best part of Christmas is getting gifts. There will be less stuff under out tree this year.

But by emphasizing charity and family togetherness, I’m hoping to fill hearts to overflowing.

 

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Nancy Schubbe November 27, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Speaking as a mom of grown children...the memories that are laughed over and shared about Christmases past are never about any of the gifts I sometimes agonized over. Their conversations are about the time spent together decorating cookies, the tree, playing games as a family, etc. I think you're on the right track...each family has it's own way if making memories. Scavenger hunts are also an excellent way to torture, er hmm enjoy a fun afternoon together!
Nancy Schubbe November 27, 2012 at 11:18 PM
peaking as a mom of grown children...the memories that are laughed over and shared about Christmases past are never about any of the gifts I sometimes agonized over. Their conversations are about the time spent together decorating cookies, the tree, playing games as a family, etc. I think you're on the right track...each family has it's own way if making memories. Scavenger hunts are also an excellent way to torture, er hmm enjoy a fun afternoon together!
Angela Johnson November 28, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Great point! I can't remember most of the gifts I got as a kid. But I do remember the tree and the traditions. Thank you for speaking from wisdom.
Carl Scheider November 28, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Do good things. Drag them along. Fun and charity. It seemed to work for us. Now grandkids are a different issue entirely!
Kris Janisch November 28, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Good call Carl.
Dixie November 29, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Give them underwear! Buy a 6-pack and wrap each pair individually! They'd have a pile of presents and it would be hilarious! They'd talk about it for the rest of their lives; "remember that year mom bought us all that underwear?" You can never have too much underwear and you've created a fun, family holiday memory. :)
Kris Janisch November 29, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Ha! That's pretty good Dixie. And my folks still get my brother and me socks and underwear each Christmas.

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