Christmas – Disappoint Your Child This Season

I love Christmas, I truly do. It is perhaps my favourite 2 days of the year. I even like the lead up to Christmas. I love Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, decorating, the music, the food and most of all coming together with family and friends… It is just a great time of year.

Now some of you are already saying to yourself “Bahhhhh Humbug!” but it is true. What is perhaps most peculiar, is that I feel that one can only come to appreciate Christmas as I do by way of repeated disappointment as a child.

“Huh?” you say… Yes disappointment.

I remember looking through the Woodwards Christmas Catalog and pining over all the coolest toys, hoping upon hope that I would get the awesome GI JOE vehicle set or the or perhaps and Atari gaming system that you could play through your TV! It was a time of year when kids had a slim but small chance of getting something which wouldn’t even be considered outside of the context of Christmas and it made for a very exciting time of year.

We would hope right up until the big day, when we would sneak into the living room to see what extra items had found their way under the tree while we slept. We could look but we could not touch but we were allowed to rifle through our stockings which usually had some lego, a hunk of chocolate, a Mandarin orange and perhaps another small trinket to play with while mom and dad slept until a reasonable hour.

When my parents finally did get up, we had to endure at least an hour of breakfast preparation and consumption, followed by the one day a year “no drinking of coffee in the living room” rule. My parents LOVED torturing us, it was sport for them but it was all part of what made Christmas great. Now I do it to my own children just because it is fun.

When we finally got to open presents it was an orderly process where together, we all opened a present at a time and we were grateful for what we received. When we arrived at the feature gift, my heart would be beating fast and I would still be hoping upon hope that I was about to be the recipient of the most coveted gift in the Catalog but alas, it never came. Admittedly, I was always disappointed  but I quickly enjoyed the gifts I did get, as nothing less would have been tolerated.

The rest of Christmas day was about visiting with family and friends, going sledding or skating or both, eating excessively and simply enjoying the season. As an adult, it is this that I enjoy most about Christmas. It is not about what I will get or what I am giving, both are secondary for me. Christmas is about being with family and enjoying what the season has to offer beyond the gift giving. I don’t think that this would be the case if Christmas gift disappointment wasn’t a central part of my Christmas experience as a child.

Fast forward to today and I don’t think that kids get this same experience. There never seems to be any disappointment amongst kids any longer. Today’s media machine constantly bombards us with messages of Buy! Buy! Buy! and if you don’t… Well you are just a BAD parent. My kids come back from school in awe of what their classmates have “scored” over Christmas and then turn to my wife and I with the old “how come we didn’t get” eyes. It never goes beyond this as I would give what they did get away, if they were to press the issue.

This year, the gift du jour is the I-pad and there are 7 & 8 year olds in my youngest daughters class who are sure Santa will bring one this year and I am certain for many, he will. My eldest daughter has graduated from wanting a I-Pod to an I-Touch but it isn’t going to happen, even though 80% of her classmates already have one. What my wife and I have managed to instill in our kids is that, we were not placed on this earth to provide for their every whim or wish. My standard line with them is “ask and ye shall not receive”

I think it is obscene what some people spend over the Christmas season on their children in an effort to avoiding disappointing their little darlings. Yet disappointment is a fundamental part of life and Christmas is a prime opportunity for parents to deliver a small if not significant does of it. What is fundamentally more important here is that Christmas is not about getting stuff. Besides the obvious religious origins, Christmas is about being with family, having a laugh or two, eating, drinking everything you can’t the rest of the year and just being content with your life and those who are in it.

Our modern culture has perverted the purpose of Christmas by making the gift, the only thing that is important and family and fellowship has become secondary to the season. The pressure to find the perfect gift these days is asinine and should not be something one has to go through so they can make someones Christmas enjoyable.

I say, do you and your children a favour this year and disappoint them. Focus on your family and friends and don’t succumb to the Retail madness. Your children will thank you for it in 10 – 15 years.

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