What does Christmas mean to you?

I have mixed feelings when I hear people having conversations about how near we are to Christmas, and how they’ve got so much still to do in preparation for this one day of…. well what is it? What is it we are all really doing?… Afterall it is a Christian festival but for some it seems to have morphed into something utterly unrelated and by the way this is not an argument about religion, I am just interested in the psychology of it all.

…I am so grateful that the losing of my mother, my wonderful nurturing, funny, inspirational and much missed mum gave me the opportunity to completely re-evaluate what Christmas means to me.

Her not being here anymore meant that I couldn’t spend it with her the way we always had and at first, in the initial years after her death, Christmas was a strange time (this was before my own children came into the world).  Then it became a time when I would try to re-create what we had, J and I had our gorgeous twins and life began to shine a bit again, but it was always inevitably different.

Just over a year ago when our twins were seven, and again Christmas was approaching, I became aware of lots of exchanges in conversation about ‘being ready for Christmas’ and what everyone would be BUYING and just the sheer time and energy that goes into all this amazed me.

I was also aware that no matter how many presents I got as a child on Christmas day, the expectation always seemed to be washed away by a kind of disappointment once they were all unwrapped.  I had witnessed this a little bit in my own children too. Was this what I wanted to nurture in them? I wanted more for them.

It was beginning to dawn on me just how silly and mindless it all is, and commercially driven! I don’t want to raise children who only think of themselves and what they want, I don’t want to live in a society that thinks like that. Some might argue: well help them to go and choose a gift for someone else, because giving is better than receiving but I think they’re missing the point.  Why do we have to show our love for each other by going out and purchasing something new, adding to an already overloaded, commercially driven world of too much material stuff!

(Click here for a fantastic Youtube video on that subject The story of stuff)

Is it really a good use of our time to go hunting on the high street for something to buy our loved one just because some invisible force tells us we should and on one particular day of the year? What would happen if we put that time and energy into demonstrating our love in other ways? Spending time together, giving our attention, listening, showing kindness.

There is another way.

Even when my mum was alive and life was never really questioned by me, I always hated to be asked on Boxing Day by some well meaning friend or aquaintence: “Did you have a nice Christmas?”  On Boxing Day!? I felt disappointed that they felt it was all over, it was a lovely period of time where my family were all together, and I didn’t want it to end.

I realised that actually my fondest memories of childhood were not the material gifts I received, but the time spent with my family, with our dog Monty in our cosy house, together, playing games, laughing and loving.  I am so grateful for those times and now know how lucky I was.

These days if someone asks me, what am I doing for Christmas, getting for Christmas or what the children are asking for for Christmas, I take a moment, knowing that I have a choice and a right to be authentically me and I reply: “Spending time together, being grateful, thinking of those less fortunate”.  It seems odd to some and of course each of us have lived unique lives with unique influences, and each of us has a choice. You can do something different.

Joshua Becker inspires me on this subject, click here to read more from him http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

and here http://www.becomingminimalist.com/35-gifts-your-children-will-never-forget/

Imagine what could happen if everyone made these shifts in thinking.  What if we all did something for those less fortunate at this time of year?  A friend of mine’s teenage daughter has actually requested that her and her family give some of their time to help at a local soup kitchen this Christmas, admirable I say.

What are your thoughts?  Have you been feeling the same? Do you enjoy ‘spoiling’ your loved ones with material things?  Are you concerned your children will resent you if you try to make changes?  How about holding a family meeting and asking how they’d feel about receiving less in exchange for doing more together as a family? Ask them what they’d like to do together? I’d love to hear how it goes…

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What to do with your little treasure’s treasure.

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Look what I found in my little boy’s school pockets when I was doing the school uniform wash.  It always brings a smile to my face. This is his treasure, each item special to him, worth picking up and stowing in his shorts pockets.

 

May he always have such awe and wonder throughout his life!

 

It reminded me of a really sweet idea I came across a while ago on Pinterest, where a mother had saved all her sons things from his pockets over the years, made a lamp stand from it and the presented it to him as an adult, click here to see it: Little treasure’s treasure

 

Now that’s cute, don’t you think?

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Six easy ways to help your child minimise their possessions


children running away to play leaving a pile of no longer needed possessions behind

1 Lead by example, be vocal about parting with your possessions, demonstrating how much easier and quicker it is to keep the space tidy. Talk about how serene and spacious everywhere feels. How you value the calming space more. How you don’t use this item and that it is just gathering dust. Would someone else get more pleasure from this than me?

2 Make a list together of all their favourite activities, things they’ve done and would like to do. The things that have made them happiest. This is very revealing and the majority of the list will probably be experiences, not actually involving any possessions. Children most cherish family experiences and attention. Use this to help them understand that the possessions themselves do not make them happy.

3 Get their agreement to box up all of the toys and possessions they rarely use and agree a date in the future, say three months from now and label this box with this date. Put the date on your calendar, if by this time, they haven’t wanted to retrieve anything or they simply cannot name the contents of the box then they can make a charity donation and positively influence the lives of others less fortunate.

4 Thank the possession they are considering giving away for the joy it brought them and send it on the next part of its journey, perhaps enabling a child less fortunate to enjoy it via donation. This can help them to part with their things in a positive way, feeling in control and the altruistic nature can feel rewarding in itself. It may also help to agree that for every thing they part with they get to ‘do’ something with you, an experience or outing.

My son gave away a toy dinosaur along with various other toys; we gave it to our local charity. Later that week we went into the charity shop again to donate some more things and he started pulling my sleeve and saying ‘Mummy look, that lady’s buying my dinosaur!’ He was so pleased with himself and was happy to see it going to another home. I reinforced this with ‘maybe she’s buying it for her grandson who likes dinosaurs, I bet he’ ll love that, just like you did when you were younger, well done, it was so kind of you to pass it on, now that you don’t use it anymore’.

5 Most importantly don’t let all the ‘stuff’ into your lives in the first place. Why/how are they acquiring it? Are they bored? or looking for fulfilment in possessions? What are you modelling? Do you go shopping for fun when you’re feeling like this?  How do you feel when you’ve bought stuff?  Happier? Encourage relatives to buy experiences rather than possessions at Christmas/Birthdays.

Become aware of the consumerist society we live in today, constantly being bombarded by marketing messages. This affects not only us but our children too and they don’t have the life experience we have to be able to recognise it and deal with it. Food chain companies giving away toys simply to get your money, but there is always one more toy to collect. TV adverts, internet ads, magazines, junk mail, supermarket and shop layouts.  Encourage your children to do or make something rather than buying something and do this yourself, again overtly verbalising your actions and motives.

6 Give them the responsibility of cleaning and dusting their bedroom in exchange for a reward. Keep being verbal yourself about how quick and easy it is to dust or keep things tidy and organised when there is much less stuff around. Also help them to find a place for everything they own, and again role model this for them yourself with your things.

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Help your children to understand that personal belongings are not the key to happiness. Loving relationships and shared experiences are far more fulfilling to us as humans.

Can you relate to any of the above? Any more ideas? Please leave a comment below.

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Fiona