We took our children to see Santa. None of them believe in Santa Claus. Garrett and Matthew are too old for that these days and Will doesn't believe in much of anything yet. He believes that I'll feed him. Although, with the way he sometimes screams like a banshee for his next bottle, I'm not even sure he has complete faith in my follow through. One day, I assume his eyes will light up with the magical fairy tale of Santa Claus but, at the moment, we have no believers.
We had to twist Garrett's arm to sit on Santa's lap "one last time" because we wanted just one picture with all three boys together with him. When we got there, Santa was on his break. We waited forEVER. Will very nearly had an exhausted meltdown at the last moment but he rallied and we got this adorable picture which we paid way too much for.
We have never spent more than $100 dollars on each of our children for Christmas. I am not saying that so that you will feel sorry for them and think we're the poorest of the poor. I am not saying it because I want any kind of sympathy. Nor am I saying it to try to make anyone who spends less than that feel like I'm bragging. That is what we choose to spend. More or less. (Usually less.)
We taught our children from the moment they started believing in Santa that he would bring them ONE parent approved gift. Generally, we've limited this gift to roughly $20 or less. Christmas is a wonderful time of gift giving and receiving. It's magical and there are sparkly lights and pine trees erected inside our homes. Our favorite decorations come out and remind of us Christmases long, long ago. We sip hot cocoa and eat cookies. In our family, we focus on the Christ child, come to set us free. We teach our children that Christmas is in the manger, not in the packages under the tree.
Receiving gifts is a fun tradition. Receiving the Savior is a matter of life or death.
Yesterday, when we were just a few minutes away from meeting Santa, Garrett turned to me, his eyes WIDE as saucers. "What?" I exclaimed because, clearly, something was wrong.
"Did you hear what she's asking Santa for?" he whispered the sentence in one long exhale of air.
There was a girl, probably somewhere between my boys in age, standing just a few feet away with who I assume to be her father. I shook my head from side to side, I hadn't heard. He pulled me down closer to him and whispered, "She wants a hatchimal, an iPad, and a phone!" he paused. "She wants all that. SHE IS ASKING HIM FOR ALL THAT!"
When the boys were in preschool, I realized this was going to be an issue. I stood around and listened as parents told other parents what the red-suited man was bringing their children. I did mental math and gave up when I'd estimated the loot to be well over $500. FOR PRESCHOOLERS! I was getting my kid a couple of toys and some clothes. Long ago, we explained to our children that some kids receive a lot from Santa Claus but that the parents have to approve it all. We told them that we only wanted them getting something small. So as not to ruin what Christmas is all about. They understood and this has been our policy ever since.
"What is a hatchimal?" I asked. He gave me a look that shouted, "HEY, MOM, YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT!" What I was impressed with, in my ten-year-old who doesn't believe that Santa brings anything, was that he seemed not jealous but appalled. There was real concern in his eyes that someone would even dare to ask for ONE of those things, let alone all three.
"It's a thing. It...hatches. It's...well it's really expensive."
He wasn't joking. I searched Amazon. The cheapest one I can find is $150. It's true that it hatches. Once hatched, you can teach it to walk, talk, dance, and play games. Alright, but, for that price, I'd also better be able to teach it to do the dishes, fold the laundry, and change diapers.
I have no idea if "Santa" is going to bring all of her requests but I'm willing to bet she also has stuff coming from mom and dad and grandparents. Perhaps even aunts and uncles. Maybe she knows the true meaning of Christmas and maybe she doesn't. She certainly knows the true meaning of consumerism.
I know it sounds like I'm judging because...I am.
I'm judging a society that teaches children that asking for all three of those things isn't pure madness.
I think I was born in the wrong decade. Maybe I'm some kind of old school mom in a new school mom body. I don't know. What I know is that it made me sad. It isn't that we can't afford to spend more than $100. It's that I don't want to. I want them to understand that the stuff will break. The gifts will long go forgotten.
What we remember about Christmas is the ham at Grandma and Grandpa's house, the way the family laughed when great grandma said she wanted some of every kind of dessert ("A little of each," she'd say.), the way the tinsel shined on Grandma's tree. We remember the roast and potatoes at the other grandparents house, the way their mobile home lit up with just the lights from their table top tree, the sound of my grandmother's laugh which still brings tears of joy to my eyes when I hear it ringing in my memory. We remember being five years old and moving the stuffed bear on the advent calendar. We remember daddy rolling sugar cookies and mommy tucking us in so that Santa could come. We remember Christmas Eve candle light services and carols. We remember Linus and what Christmas is really all about.
We remember Luke 2.
Teach your children to remember these things or, rather, their own versions of these things. Teach them that it is not about phones and iPads and hatchimals. Teach them to be thankful for what they get to give, not what they will receive.
Teach them about Jesus.
But, I mean, if someone knows about a hatchimal that DOES fold laundry, can you pass that info on to me? It's just that I could probably get on board with that.