One of the things I was most excited about when I had my first child was the holidays, especially Christmas. Since having kids, I’ve gone overboard in more ways than one, like many other moms trying to set the stage for a magical season. I’ve made so many holiday cookies that we throw most of them out. I’ve exhausted myself standing over the kitchen island making ornaments. I’ve played Christmas music and Christmas movies until my kids have told me to shut them off because they can’t take it anymore.
And I also thought we needed a lot of presents under that tree so they could feel the magic when they walked down the stairs on Christmas morning. I have this vision of gifts flowing from under the tree out into the living room every year. And every year, I have spent too much time and money getting things for my kids they don’t even want for Christmas. But now, they’re old enough to put their feet down — and it’s a hard thing to accept.
Last year, my teen sent me a link to something he wanted for his car, adding: “This is all I want. Don’t get me anything else.” I told him that wasn’t fun. I didn’t want to get him just one thing; I wanted to get him a bunch of gifts and fill his stocking with surprises and watch him open them all with a smile on Christmas morning.
He responded with: “OMG, Mom, just get me this. It’s all I want for real.”
My other two kids followed his lead. My daughter wanted a straightening iron. My youngest wanted sneakers. I got them the gifts they wanted, but I didn’t listen to their requests about not wanting filler gifts like clothes, pajamas, socks, and other lotions and potions.
Well, long story short: My kids barely touched any of the gifts I felt they had to have. They wore their pajamas once, my son was never used the light I got him (which mimics a starry night — I thought it was lovely), and I recently found the outfit I got my son under his bed, with the tags still on it. The candy I got them went in the trash after Valentine’s Day, and all this has made me come to terms with something: My kids are okay with getting fewer gifts, gifts they want, but I was not.
I’ve been hanging onto the notion that more is more over the holidays for too long. I want to give my kids everything I can, but they don’t want everything. They want a happy mom who isn’t stressed out. It’s time for me to let go of playing Santa Claus and listen to my kids this year. For real.
This year, I am going to try and buy into the less is more mentality and mean it. It really does make my life easier, simplifies the holidays, and helps us all realize what this time of year is really about. Yes, there are a lot fewer gifts under the tree but, we all feel like we have more because I’m more present, less stressed, and not trying to make sure everyone has the same amount of gifts. It’s freeing and has been a huge eye-opener for me which really is the best gift of all.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.