Cherish the Gift You’ve Been Given
by Linda Mintle, Ph.D.
My children don’t know there is an American Girl Place shopping bag overstuffed with presents secretly stashed away in my bedroom closet. By the time December hits, I will have a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and toys-to-die-for tucked away on a shelf. My preplanned efforts spread the financial burden throughout the year and help avoid the last-minute holiday shopping rush.
Sounds like a plan, right? Well something happened awhile back that made me rethink my supposedly genius strategy.
It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, but I felt like a louse! As I gazed at the brilliantly wrapped packages, I was aghast! The tree looked bulimic due to my past. I slumped to the floor and grabbed hold of my man, “We have only two children. There’s enough here for 10!”
One by one we started dismantling the swollen pile. This present can wait for a birthday; this one for next Christmas; this one for a special reward. Finally the stack looked sensible. So we made a decision: Christmas gifts for our family were limited to three types: 1) A gift desired; 2) Something needed, and 3) Something educational. Of course, our children hated the idea and hoped that we would eventually come to our senses. We haven’t. But we’ve seen a change. No longer is Christmas an endless list of “wants.”
As I listen to children move through the hallways of our home, I hear the chatter of “more.” Not only is the meaning of Christmas grossly distorted, but also materialism creates ungrateful kids. What I’m saying isn’t new. But I need a reminder and must examine my motives for overindulgence. Is it related to guilt from being absent or unavailable? An attempt to communicate love or a competitive attitude with others? A way to garnish an identity and look successful? Or a lack of self-restraint, and/or misguided thinking?
When Suzie tells me Christmas was no fun because she didn’t get what she wanted, I think: The Grinch hasn’t stolen Christmas, our ungratefulness has. Christmas is about God giving his Son as a glorious gift to mankind. I don’t want to clutter this important gift with so many others that it becomes lost in the fray.
Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She’s the author of 16 books, a national speaker and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. Go to drlindahelps.com.