More than 100 years ago, my great grandmother excitedly recorded in her diary that she had found oyster crackers to purchase as a surprise for the Christmas stockings. She was delighted as she anticipated the pleasure of her children when they discovered this special treat. Today’s children would certainly not consider oyster crackers a memorable holiday surprise!
Expectations of both children and their parents have multiplied since my great grandmother’s time. Children expect to have every toy advertised and parents take it as their responsibility to see that their children have a perfect life. Children are exposed, through TV, to an array of toys that my great grandmother could not have imagined. Parents, wanting to make the holidays a perfect time, free of any disappointment or frustration, buy for their children every toy they request. They shop until they are exhausted, do without themselves, and overspend their budget so badly that they must spend the rest of the year worrying about how to pay the bills. If they cannot find or afford a requested toy they worry that they have ruined their child’s life forever. This Christmas attitude does not make children happy. It makes them greedy and prevents them from learning to deal appropriately with the disappointments and frustrations that are inevitable in life. It makes parents so tired and stressed that they can’t enjoy their children. The holidays become a time of lost tempers, harsh words, stress and worry.
It is important for parents to remember that it is part of their job to say “no” when children have unrealistic expectations. As adults, we are lucky if we get even a small percentage of the material things we want and yet we try to give our children everything they ask for. Is it wise or loving to raise our children with unrealistic expectations for the adult world? This holiday, instead of focusing upon extravagant gifts and flawless decorations, concentrate on spending time working together as a family. Children would really rather have family times than perfection. If the children really can’t help in some part of the preparations, then talking with them and including them in the planning makes them feel a part of things. As adults they will recall times spent together not Hokey Pokey Elmo or Kasey the Kinderbot. Make sure that these memories are filled with hugs and laughter not worries and harsh words.
When WRAPPING PRESENTS, choosing the correct size box or paper can be a real challenge to the youngsters. Give them scraps of paper or the Sunday funnies, blunt scissors, and lots of tape, and they can wrap the gifts for home exchange or they can wrap and decorate an empty box for grandma … grandmas like anything!
If you are BAKING COOKIES, give them a small amount of dough to roll and cut out. A soup can with the label torn off makes an extra rolling pin. The results aren’t important, it’s the process that counts. Let them do it their way. If you have other kitchen work and need to keep them occupied, a squirt of shaving cream or dishwashing soap on a cookie sheet on a newspaper covered floor will keep them busy for a long time. The results are very washable.
When it is time to DECORATE THE TREE, if you really can’t stand junior grade creativity, cut off a branch, stick it in a flower pot of sand and let them do it all themselves. They can make decorations, or use old or unbreakable ones.
I would like to wish each Toddle Towne family a very individual Season’s Greetings. Thank you for being a part of our lives. I hope that your holiday celebration is a very special time for you and your family and that you build memories that will last for a lifetime!