Searching for simple

fullsizerender-29The holidays can be overwhelming. Thankfully this year, we decided to forego the extended family gathering and enjoy our first Christmas in our new home. Chances are, we will enjoy a quiet thanksgiving with a quick trot to neighboring family and perhaps hosting a close friend, which will make for less stressful festivities.

My biggest challenge is searching for a balance between wanting my young child to enjoy some gifts, but also teaching her that the holidays are about spending time together as a family and in our community. She will adamantly tell me, “Mama, Christmas is about spending time with family, but it can also be about presents too!” Begrudgingly I remind myself that she is four years old.

How do we teach her to be grateful? For our thanksgiving tree, she wrote that she was thankful for “lots of love from everyone.” Every day, she is thankful for the weekend when Dad is home from work and asks daily, “Is Dad working from home today?” In addition to our monthly donations to the Purple Heart Foundation for veterans and their families, N. is also enthusiastic about making donations to the local animal shelter, mainly her stuffed animals.

But Christmas? I struggle to search for a simple balance. With too many toys on every floor of our home, family asking us what’s on N.’s wish list . . . (Why must there be a wish list?! When folks ask about a list, it is so uncomfortable) can we just forego presents and make donations to everyone’s favorite organizations? But my mom, now a Lola, earnestly reminds me, young children especially delight in the surprise of presents.

So how do I find a balance between letting Lola spoil her only granddaughter and ensuring that my child doesn’t develop a thankless attitude?

Limit presents. receives only a couple of presents from Mama and Dad on Christmas morning. Everything else from everyone else is a bonus. When family ask me what N. would like for Christmas, I have included an option for them to gift towards an experience such as the Children’s Science Lab or Flight Trampoline Park. Instead of opening a huge pile of gifts on Christmas Day, which can be an overstimulating whirlwind, we adhere to the 12 days of Christmas, and with packages frequently delivered, she is permitted to open one gift per day from others. That way, she can mindfully note who the gift is from, draw and send a thank you note.

Schedule a field trip. With holiday time off, we will be able to make a family trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where N. can visit the mummies of Egypt and the woolly mammoths of the Ice Age, top priorities on her travel wish list.

Choose a charity together. With N.’s passion for puppies (she is a different dog every day based on her repeatedly and dogearedly read Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds), we as a family have chosen our local animal shelter to donate dog treats and used stuffed toys.

Taking a breath, lighting a candle and wishing you a simple, healthful and meaningful holiday.

How will you search for a simple balance this holiday season?

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