Wednesday, December 19, 2012
(Not) Losing Christmas
But I read an absolutely fabulous blog post entitled, "You Can't Lose Christmas, Ralphie" that has changed my opinion. (go read it, I'll wait)
Granted, that post is geared towards children who have survived serious trauma that my children have not been subjected to. Their minds and hearts need healing that I cannot even begin to imagine providing for someone. But the sentiment hit me in the gut just the same.
First, the easy part. A parenting lesson I learned long ago and am quite good at sticking to is never make a threat you're not willing to follow through on. If you tell a 3 year old they will have to leave the park if they throw rocks, then you actually give them four or five reminders not to throw rocks before you leave, you haven't taught them anything. Aside from discipline, I view this as a trust issue. I will follow through on what I say, my kids can trust that. So just as they know I'm serious when I tell them the consequences of their misbehavior, they also know I'm serious when I say that shot will only hurt for a few seconds, then just be sore for a day or two. I'm not actually going to take away Christmas. I'm just not. The idea is abhorrent to me. So it's an empty threat, and therefore it's a bad choice to say it.
But why would I never take away Christmas? What if my children are just being whiny and cranky and not doing what I ask? Do they deserve to lose Christmas? In my opinion, no.
The religious basis of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Savior. The one who gave his life so everyone's sins could be forgiven. I've got sins much bigger than anything my 2, 5 or 8 year old could have any hope of committing at this stage in their lives. What message does it send to say "you've done something so terrible, I cannot forgive you"? Is that what celebrating the birth of Jesus is about? Withholding forgiveness?
The cultural basis of Christmas is to celebrate the Christmas spirit. To enjoy family and friends. To show caring and love for those around us. We love our children. Even when they drive us crazy, even when they don't listen, even when they make really big mistakes, we still love them. Love is patient and kind. It is not proud and not easily angered. How can I teach my children to show their love to people around them and to believe they are worthy and deserving of that same type of love in return if I am willing to tell them that I cannot forgive their child-like indiscretions and celebrate a holiday with them that I purport to be all about the importance of family and love and kindness?
This is not to say the holiday is all about expensive gifts. It's not. But when it's affordable and reasonable, every kid enjoys that day he or she gets a special toy they've been wanting for a long time. Or maybe something handmade so they have their own keepsake. In better years, it might be more or more extravagant items. The gift list might even change based on the child's behavior. If they've broken an expensive electronic, they've shown they're not ready for that type of gift, even if they really really want it. But to lose Christmas completely? Never. To even lose gifts completely? Never. If the day comes when I cannot afford gifts for my girls, I will still find a way to make them quilts or dolls out of scraps. They will get something tangible that can be a reminder to them that I love them. Always. No matter what they do.
There was a time I threatened no presents when I was at my wit's end with "bad" (really only childish) behavior. I believe I was wrong. I've made a choice that you cannot lose Christmas here.