I am the meanest mom in the world. My daughter told me so last night. Usually around this time they both tell me that. Why? Because while all their friends are making lists of bazillion things they want Santa to bring them, I only let them ask for three things.
Why do I do this? Because I’ve been struggling with how to remind them of what this season means. It’s not about how much loot you get at the end of the day. It should, in my eyes, be about more than that. So by making them think – really think – about what they want, they can narrow down their selection to three things. They can have a second list that includes things that aunts and uncles can get them – but these are not guaranteed – Santa doesn’t see this list. But they can only ask Santa for three things. I keep thinking they will eventually realize that they always get those three things but every year they get mad that I limit it to three things. And it takes them FOREVER to come up with three favorite things.
There are advantages to doing this. First, they do start to understand that the point of celebrating Christmas is not about getting stuff you play with for a day or two and then just shove aside when boredom sets in. They also really put thought into the gifts they want to get for other people. It used to be that they wanted to get their dad model magic (colored clay stuff) or fuzzy slippers because that’s what they wanted. Now they put a lot of thought into things they think people really want – and will want to keep. A side plus: it also cuts down a little on all the unnecessary junk that makes its way into my house and under their bed.
I think one good thing they’ve learned from this is that everyone doesn’t get everything they want. It’s good to want things. When you get everything you asked for, there’s nothing left to wish for. They’re also very aware that while they will definitely get gifts, there are people out there who won’t. They love cleaning the car, scouring around for coins to give to the bell ringing person next to the big red bucket. They enjoy going shopping for just the right toy for the kid they imagine in their heads that might not have much of a Christmas. They enjoy the praise they receive from the firefighters when they drop off the toys at the Toys for Tots donation sites.
This isn’t a new rule. We did this from the beginning. They figured out that other kids get to ask for everything they want a few years ago. So while, yes, I’m a mean mom, I’ve only been this way to them for about 5 years. I figure I have another 2-3 years left of being mean until they really realize what’s going on.
I measure the success of this by the things they ask for and the ways they ask to help out in their community. In past years we’ve worked in soup kitchens, donated toys for children and made cards and food for elderly people who wouldn’t otherwise have much of a celebration. This year the girls (and their dad!) are making fleece hats for children to be donated to a local charity. They’ve asked to return to a senior living complex to sing Christmas songs. They want to help everyone have an enjoyable holiday season. I’ll call that success.