Since becoming I mum I have found myself reflecting somewhat around the idea of Christmas and what it means to me. I have always loved Christmas and having a child has brought this whole new level of magic to a beautiful occasion.
On the flip side of that, I can’t help feeling this kind of pressure, in terms of having traditions and making it this really special thing for her each year. I find myself asking, what is Christmas really about for me? And what would I like it to be about for my daughter?
I’m agnostic, so I’m not into the whole birth of Jesus thing. I’ll be teaching my little girl the nativity story just like I would teach her any other ‘story’, rather than telling her that it’s an accurate reflection of an actual event. (Sorry to anyone who’s into it, no judgement, it’s just not my thing.) I will certainly be telling her that lots of people believe it really happened like that and that it is entirely up to her what she chooses to believe in.
Then there’s the whole Santa thing. I get it. It’s magic and I remember getting all excited about Santa coming as a little girl. It’s a lovely idea and it’s something I always looked forward to once I had kids of my own. Now that I do however, I am honestly really struggling with the notion of telling my daughter this big lie. One that involves an old man who ‘sees you when you’re sleeping’ and ‘knows when you’re awake’. Something about that just creeps me out. I see kids at the shopping centre who are downright terrified and they are being coaxed into sitting on some strange guys knee. That is one tradition that I am choosing not to take part in. Sorry to the nannas who won’t be getting a santa photo for the fridge. Something about it just doesn’t sit right with me and I’m going with my gut on it.
I want to make this super clear though. I have zero judgement towards any other parents and their choices. Whether you choose to follow every tradition under the sun or you don’t. Zero judgement. ZERO. There is no hint of self righteousness in this post and I don’t do mummy shaming, ever. We are all doing our best as parents and no matter what we do there will always be someone who’s not into it. I am just here trying to nut out how I personally feel and figuring out what’s best for me and my family.
So that brings me to the Elf on a Shelf phenomenon. At first I was like ‘Oh that’s cute, a little elf that sits on the shelf, how lovely.’ then I found out that there’s a whole story along with it and the idea is that the kids believe that if they are naughty then the elf will tell Santa and they won’t get any presents. I can kinda see how it works. But again, this is in the same vein as the Santa thing for me. I just feel kinda hypocritical telling my child this whole fabricated scenario, when one of the most important things to me is to build her trust. It won’t be long before she’s asking questions, and let’s face it I’m the worst liar in the world. She will be onto me and I will have to admit that I made the whole thing up. I want to encourage her to question things in her life, and to push against the norm if that’s what she wants to do. I can feel all you mummas with older kids rolling your eyes and saying ‘Carlie you are downright crazy girl – you don’t want a kid that questions everything, you want a kid that behaves.’ And check back in with me in a year or two and I will probably agree with you. We’ll see, haha.
I can already tell that I have one incredibly intelligent and extremely head strong little girl. Part of me thinks, ‘man, the next 16 or so years are going to be really hard, god help me’ and then there is this other little part of me that is really excited and thinks ‘watch out world, this girl is going to do big things.’ I am sure I am just a typical doting first time mum thinking the sun shines out of her kid. But I must admit, it’s funny how an adult who is admired for being ‘driven, determined and headstrong’ was quite possibly a child who would have been considered a ‘handful’. Some of the most brilliant and successful people I know are the ones who’s teachers would have thought were going nowhere.
Ok so I’m a little off track now. Where was I. Right, Christmas presents. My baby is a very lucky little girl and she is so spoiled by our wonderful families. I am so grateful and I know they enjoy giving her lovely things. I have no desire to change that. However, I don’t want my child to ‘behave’ herself for the month of December, simply because she will be rewarded with gifts for doing so. If she does the ‘right thing’ just because of what she will get out of it, then how do I get through the other 11 months?? (No really, tell me, I’m scared ;-))
I guess my plan is to just to try and teach her why she needs to act in a certain way, and not do certain things. I get that it’s a lovely ideal, albeit a bit unrealistic with a 2 or 3 year old who doesn’t quite understand empathy or hasn’t developed impulse control just yet. I realise that there are people in my life who think I am too soft on my kid and that I am building a rod for a own back, or however the saying goes. Again, I am just a mum who is navigating her way through this whole first time parenting thing with no instruction book, like everyone else. In my defence though, deep down I feel this teeny little sense of pride when my child pulls things apart, or rips everything out of a cupboard. It sounds crazy, but I see the concentration on her face when she does and I can see her little mind ticking over, processing what she’s learning. Of course it’s frustrating that things get broken, or lost, or there’s a big mess, or I have to move everything around because she’s figured out the child locks long ago. But I also know that they are little for such a short time and that this time is all about her learning how the world works. So for now I will just let her do her thing, within reason of course, and I will praise her when she helps me clean up the mess she has just made. I will tell her something along the lines of ‘thank you, that helps mummy a lot and now we will have time to go to the park together’ rather than ‘good girl, now the elf will tell Santa and you’ll get that present you wanted’. An over-generalised, simplistic view of it I know, but you get the point I’m making.
To be honest I would happily not do Christmas presents. For the kids yeah, to a point, but I think with the adults a lot of the magic of it has been diluted into ‘Hey I’ve got you this year, what do you want?’ ‘Oh just a voucher will do’. I have a friend who suggested to their family that their Christmas gifts that year be ‘home made or pre-loved’. I actually love that idea as it means you need to get a bit creative and put some thought into it. I am not sure how successful that was but I’m pretty sure most of my family probably wouldn’t be into something like that.
So, I know that for me Christmas is not about Jesus, and it’s not really about Santa and presents either.
Update: before you brand me as a mean old mum that’s robbing her child of the joy of Christmas, I’m not saying that we won’t be doing Santa in our house. I’m just saying that we havn’t decided how we are going to approach it yet. Luckily she’s only little and we have some time. I am hoping I can come at it a bit like the nativity thing, or another fairytale. Telling her this lovely story and enjoying the magic of it, but not necessarily trying to drive home this idea that it’s all very real and she’d better play along or no presents. For me that just feels a bit like religion, and that’s a whole another issue for me. Hmm, I think I just worked out where this is stemming for me.
So personally, and what I want to instil in my daughter, is that Christmas is about family. Its about watching the carols on Christmas Eve as a family, getting all excited about tomorrow. It’s about all coming together, on Christmas Day, to forget any negativity and to enjoy each others’ company. To relax and enjoy some great food. To laugh and play with the kids in the sunshine. To reflect on the year that has been, appreciating our blessings and look to what the following year might hold.
That’s what I really love about New Years Eve. It’s a whole fresh new year and all it’s possibilities laid out ahead of us. Anyone close to me knows my little tradition of asking them as the countdown nears, what was the best thing about the year just gone, and what are they looking forward to for the following year. I think it’s such a nice way to reflect, as well as to connect with one another. I remember last year, when my little girl was in a hip brace and saying that the thing I was looking forward to most in 2014 was seeing her take her first step. That moment came a lot sooner than we expected and I feel SO incredibly lucky that she has recovered the way she has. I don’t take any of that for granted one little bit.
2014 has been a full on year. It’s the year that I have really gotten to know the little person that my daughter is. It’s the year that I have launched my own business. The year that we travelled overseas together for the first time. We saw some very dear friends become husband and wife on a beach on the other side of the world. It’s the year that we have invested a lot of time making our little home more beautiful.
2015 is going to be just as epic I’m sure. It’s the year that I will become a certified Life Coach. The year that we will hopefully find and buy our dream home. I don’t know what else it will entail but I look forward to finding out. So this year on December 25th when I sit down to enjoy time with our families I hope that we all remember what it’s really about. I hope that we take some time to reflect and connect with one another.
I’d love to know, what does Christmas mean to you?
Much love and a big merry christmas to you xx