Ahhhhh the season of “Whadda get?” Everyone wants to know the gifts that Santa left you under the tree. I’m not a religious person but I think the meaning of Christmas has little to do with what was under the tree. A number of years ago I experienced some little voices in my house mutter just those words. The disappointment on their faces with what they DIDN’T get was what shocked me.
Christmas Eve was spent preparing. Get all the stockings hung with care (sorry, but not by the fireplace). The customary cookies and milk left out for Santa and a couple of carrots for his reindeer. There was already quite the pile under the tree, I wasn’t really sure where Santa was going to put his gifts. Off to bed the ex and I headed, knowing that Christmas morning was going to be an early one with 4 excited kids. The tradition in our house has always been that you can get up at whatever time YOU like, open your stocking and wait patiently till at least 8am when Mom and Dad woke up. There had to be a coffee in Mom’s hand before the tearing of paper began! Well, Santa didn’t disappoint. The tree was buried with gifts. I guess if you think about it, Santa did have to bring a gift for 4 kids and Mom and Dad. Add in the gifts from us to the kids, the kids to each other, the grandparents to the kids, the aunts and uncles to the kids and well you get the picture. The tree was under siege by all the gifts.
The ripping off of paper began. Gifts that were lovingly wrap took mere seconds to find the treasure hidden inside. The paper was flying! Pictures were being taken! Kids were yelling… ‘Look what I got’. Pure mayhem in our house on Christmas morning. Once the damage was done and the mess cleaned up, well that’s when I heard it. One of the kids started with the “oh, I didn’t get” and the “but I really wanted”. That is around the time I snapped. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! All these gifts and you are complaining about what you DIDN’T get!! I was very disappointed in my kids. Who are these ungrateful little shits!? Who raised them to think this way??! WTF?!
And that is when the idea came to me. I called a family meeting shortly after Christmas. I told them of my disappointment over their greediness. A plan had been hatched to teach these little buggars a lesson. No gifts for birthdays this year! Each of you will pick a charity and ask for donations to that charity on your behalf for your birthday. My kids were much much younger at the time. The youngest was 4, the oldest 14. There were a couple of pouts with the expression of it not being fair that they had to give up valuable gift getting to others. But I stuck to my teaching. Mason and I start the year off for birthdays in January. I choose the Stollery Children’s Hospital for my birthday money to go to. Mason chose the Red Cross. On his birthday invitations we wrote that rather than gifts he would like a donation to be made or money for him to take to the charity. The Moms of the kids that received the birthday invitations were a little shocked. They liked the idea but couldn’t they donate AND bring a gift for Mason? Nope… NO GIFTS. This was repeated for the other 3 of my kids as well.
Mason raised just over $300 for the Red Cross.
Parker took in not only about $400 but she also chopped off about 12” of her long hair to donate to the Make a Wish foundation in February.
Raedean raised just over $200 for the Boys and Girls Club in March.
Mckenzie took in a whole ton of sports related equipment to Santa’s Anonymous in October.
I sent a check to the Stollery Children’s Hospital and the ex had chosen the Crohn’s Foundation to send his birthday money into.
The results? My kids felt good about what they did. I had them research what their money was going to so they understood the charity they were giving to. I helped the younger ones make their choices but it was their choice on where the money was going. The sense of pride on their faces as they explained to the lady at the counter what they were doing was priceless. They told of how instead of birthday gifts they had asked the invitees of their parties to help them help a great cause. I have a picture of Mason standing by a Red Cross truck proudly holding his check. Miss Parker was turned into a Rock Star when she went into the Make a Wish office. They had one of the executives come out and receive her donation. Raedean was a little reluctant in the beginning but soon understood the lesson going on here. Mckenzie and I packed up the back of my suburban and delivered the sports equipment to Santa’s Anonymous where he was met by some volunteers to help unload and pat him on the back.
The lesson was learned. My kids understood that there were people out there that didn’t have what they had; the basic necessities of life. And 10 years later, that lesson still holds true. We can’t walk by a Salvation Army bell ringer in the mall without my kids digging into their pockets for a few bucks to drop in the bucket.
This year I got thinking about what I have received over this past year. It’s a little early and the parcels haven’t been unwrapped yet but here is my list of what I ‘got’ for Christmas…
I’ve GOT 4 health, smart, giving children.
I GOT my 19-year-old son home from 2+ years of being away.
I GET to celebrate my oldest graduating from 4.5 years of earning her teaching degree.
I GET to have all my kids and family around the table at Christmas this year.
I GOT to hear the wonderful news that they managed to get cancer out of my Dad.
I GOT to celebrate my Mom’s 65th birthday with her.
I GOT out of a toxic work situation and I GOT an amazing job.
I GOT to pay my bills and put food on the table.
I GOT to fall asleep in a warm house.
I GOT to spend a summer doing my favorite activity, camping with my family.
I GET to spend time with some wonderful friends.
I GOT the opportunity to learn from an incredible mentor.
I GOT to realize some hidden passions that I am bringing to life.
I GOT to wake every day this year, make a coffee, sit with my thoughts, enjoy the quiet and catch a few sunrises.
I encourage you to do the same. Make your list of what you have received and celebrate it. I’d say that my Christmas is pretty much complete at this time. The gifts under the tree, well those are just a bonus.