Dear Son, Why I Want You To Fail

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Dear Son,

When you left for school today, I saw the anger in your eyes aimed at me. I saw your frustration. I understand you felt treated unfairly. Your anger was directed at me because you were casting the blame for your mistakes onto me, and I wouldn’t accept the blame. I wouldn’t allow you to throw your mistakes and failures into my lap. I tossed them back into your lap. And that made you angry.

Beneath your anger I saw sadness. I know how sad it made you feel to feel so angry towards someone you love. So I want to talk a little about the situation.

It’s hard to explain to you what I feel when you are so upset, which is why I’m writing you this letter. Keep it and refer back to it over the next few years. Sometimes we can’t hear the other person’s heart when our own heart is full of frustration and anger. Sometimes it’s better to assess a situation when our tempers have cooled down so we can think more clearly.

Part of getting older is becoming more responsible. As a parent, one of my roles is to guide you towards independence. I need to encourage you to take responsibility for yourself and your choices. At your age, one of the ways we do this is by letting you be in charge of when and how you do your homework. You know what is due and when it is due. You know the time available, and you know our schedules. We give you guidelines and timeframes to work within, but we give you the freedom to choose how you use that time. The same for your chores and your free time activities. We are trying to teach you how to organize and prioritize your life.

Here’s a secret you might not know yet. We don’t expect you to do this perfectly. In fact, we expect you to fail more than you succeed. Pause for a moment and read that again then hear this: We expect you to fail, not because you aren’t capable of success, but because you haven’t had much practice. Practice makes us better. Failure teaches us lessons.

Failure is as important as success. Failure at times might be more valuable than success. When we fail at something, we learn what didn’t work and can make adjustments for next time. When we fail, we develop a drive to work harder. We give a task more of us than if success came easily. We value the accomplishment more when we succeed if we have first failed at it.

Failure is ok. Perfection is not ok. We would rather see failure over perfection any day. But. But. But.

Failure is only ok when we are able to take ownership for the part we played in the failure. Can you look at a situation and say, “I messed up there. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.” Those all are hard words to say. Our culture today is struggling at this. I see it in myself, which is why I want to help you now.

Ownership of our failures is the secret key that unlocks us from the chains that keep us from being all we were created to be. 

Part of your frustration comes from the pressure you place on yourself to please us or do things the way you think we expect them to be done. But you are a pre-teen, on the brink of adolescence and adulthood. We don’t expect you to succeed at everything. And guess what, this doesn’t change as an adult. I fail everyday. Multiple times a day.

The most important thing I want you to walk away with now is failure is ok, and owning up to your mistakes is golden. In the culture we live in, we struggle to accept personal responsibility. Don’t follow the way of our culture. Be different. Be able to say, “I made a mistake. My fault. My bad. I’m sorry. I will try harder next time.” It’s ok to mess up. We just have to learn to see that we messed up and clean up our mess.

Be able to say, “I should have….Next time I will…..”

Here’s another secret I want to share with you: I didn’t have this figured out at your age. In fact, at 38 years old, I’m only just now beginning to see the magnitude of this in my own life.

As a parent, my job is not to be your friend, though I cherish our relationship and adore being with you. My primary role is not to make life fun or a trip to the amusement park for you. My role is to love you unconditionally. To love you unconditionally means I have to do hard things like allowing you to fail. I could’ve gathered your homework for you. I could’ve reminded you countless times of your responsibilities. But when you are an adult, no one will be coming behind you cleaning up your messes and clearing a path so you don’t fall. You will fall. I want you to fall as much now as possible so I can be here to lift you back up, dust you off, encourage you, and guide you. We will fall together. A lot. And that is ok.

Many of the roads we travel as we age will feel hard and bumpy, but if we stay the course, we will enter the even bumpier roads ahead prepared. We will have had practice navigating tough terrain- it won’t shock us as much. We will be tougher and stronger for it. The roads don’t become easier as you get older. However, the more practice we give you navigating tough roads while you are living with us, the better you will navigate tougher roads when you are on your own.

Sometimes we won’t feel like friends. And that is ok. It’s part of the growing up we are doing together. It makes for a richer and fuller relationship down the road. Tough days are ok when we are each able to look at the part we played, own up to our mistakes, say I’m sorry, and move forward.

I need as much work in this area as you do, so let’s work on this together.

With all my love,

Mom

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God Bless Our Christmas

 

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I must start right out by telling you that Hannah Hall is my friend. Because of that, you may think my review below is biased, but really it’s not biased because…well, it’s just not, and you have to trust me. We’ve built that by now, haven’t we?

In May I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I felt like a kid going to summer camp, both the day I arrived, and the day I left. I wrote about it here if you care to read it. Day 1 I stood in line with trembling hands and half-hearted smile. I didn’t know a soul and felt very much out of my league. Day 5 I strolled around the bookstore feeling like a kid leaving camp. Friendships formed in a short span of time orchestrated by our sweet God. Hannah is one of those friends.

Here’s the thing about Hannah. She has the best sense of humor, and you simply don’t see it coming. So when she is funny, it just takes you by surprise. That is how her writing is as well. Please do check out her blog. Your heart will go from tugging, to warming, to chuckling in the span of 3 short sentences.

Hannah’s third childrens book has just released in time for Christmas, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. In our home, we keep a box of books that only appear at Christmas. We spend hours reading these stories each season. Sweet memories created while curled on our sofa, snuggling each other with blankets and words.

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God Bless Our Christmas is a beautiful story that I wish so badly I’d had when my boys were smaller. This book is intended for ages 1-4, but my 5-year-old enjoys it and asks for it nightly.

This rhyming story is a beautiful picture of friends, family, traditions, and memories. See why I love it so much? And at the end, it all points back to Christ, the greatest gift ever given or received. It’s a story of togetherness with family and friends through traditions and fun activities with reminders of God’s blessings throughout.

Even if Hannah weren’t my friend, I would write this post and strongly recommend you add this book to your Christmas bookshelf. But knowing Hannah makes me want to share it even more.

We are giving away a copy! Leave a comment below about something you love about the Christmas season before Thursday November 13th at 11:59 pm. Winner will be announced Friday.

May God bless your Christmas!

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Hannah C. Hall is a blogger, speaker and children’s book author. She blogs weekly about snotty noses, marital moments (the good and the bad), and seeing God’s incredible character in the chaos at HannahCHall.com. Her first book, God Bless You and Goodnight, has been on the ECPA juvenile bestseller list for six consecutive months, and she has released two more books this year, God Bless Our Easter and God Bless Our Christmas.

Hannah, her worship-pastor husband and three children live and make a lot of noise in an otherwise quiet town in Arkansas.

 

 

[box] If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. You will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

When I Want To Take Away My Child’s Pain

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A word, a sentence, a look is all it takes to arouse a fear lying dormant in the heart.

“Mom, I can’t bend at my knees. I think my leg is swelling up again.”

Fears in my heart rubbed the sleep from their eyes.

“I’m sure your knee isn’t swelling. You are probably a little sensitive to the possibility of it happening again.” I was convincing myself as much as my 9-year-old.

The following day he made mention of pain in his leg. We noticed a limp in his walk. Fears in my heart began to stretch their arms, preparing to come fully awake.

Easing himself into a chair, he placed his left leg out so I could raise the leg of his pants. The chattering of fear could be heard in the background. I talked back, telling fear that it was a different leg than last year. I talked back telling fear that this was a coincidence. I talked back telling fear to go back to sleep. He’s not welcome here.

Inching the leg of his pants up, I swallowed a gasp as my eyes took in the sight of his knee. Begging my eyes not to give away the fear now fully awake, I looked at Zachary. “I think it’s fine. It looks like it is a little swollen, but I’m sure it’s fine. We will keep watching it and pray it doesn’t swell like last time.”

One year ago we had a scare and a painful couple of weeks when his right leg became swollen, fluids drained, tests run, and finally no conclusions, but swelling gone. For a year the fear of a reoccurrence has slept in our hearts.

Now we are reliving the experience. This time in the left leg.

In my own heart, fear feeds on the unknowns and the what-if’s. In Zachary’s heart, fear feeds on the pain, the oversized needle, and the inability to do all the things he loves- running, jumping, and playing outside.

The mama heart in me wants to make everything right for my child. To take away every twinge of discomfort, every ounce of pain.

We pray, friends pray, family prays, teachers pray. I listen to his prayers. I hear the courage that wants to dominate, but I hear the fear that fights for its place. We ask God to take away the swelling. We ask God to bring back the normal function of his knee, his whole leg. We ask God to take away the pain.

As we lay our requests at the feet of Christ, my heart silently pleads with God. Please, God, grant us this. I want Zachary to see how you answer our prayers. I want him to see how you work on our behalf. I want Zachary to experience you.

And I hear His whispers back to me. I strain hard to hear. I freeze, making no movement to be sure I hear Him. I always answer prayers. I work all things for good for those called according to my purpose. My ways are not your ways. Trust me.

I argue with God in the privacy of my soul. No, God, really. I don’t want my child to hurt. I want to take away all his pains. I don’t want to watch him struggle. And more than anything I want him to grow in his faith. I want him to know you fully and trust you with everything he has.

Patiently, God listens to my moanings. He is my child. I love him even more than you do. I want the same things for him.

I see my shallow faith. I see my temptation to believe the lie that my child must get his way to believe God. That my child must have his prayer answered immediately the way I believe is best to believe in the God he’s placed his trust in. I feel the guilt in my heart growing.

It’s a struggle I face daily. Trying to be the Holy Spirit within my children. I’ve written about this struggle.  Thinking I know what is best for them. Wanting to guide them towards safety. Wanting to grow them into who I want them to be.

I want to take away the fears of my children. I want to take away pain. I want them to experience joy. I want them to trust God with all their heart.

But at times I want that so badly, that I try to get in the middle and do it my own way. I think I know best. I think that for my kids to fully trust God, that God must answer every prayer according to how I best see fit. I think for them to trust God, they must get the answers they want from Him.

God always brings me back to Him. To a place of seeing our most desperate need is not to get our own way, but to live out our lives His way.

Softly, He brings to mind many of the prayers He has answered in my own life. Many that He answered in ways I never would have anticipated. Many in ways I never asked. Some no’s, some yes’s, some maybe’s, some yes – but it looks different that you are picturing.

Zachary hobbled to the farmhouse table and eased himself onto the bench by the fire. The place where hearts are shared regularly. The place where stories are told and created. The place where the fire warms us, the food feeds us, and His Word nourishes us.

“Mom, I think I know one of the reasons God allows this to happen to my leg.”

I looked up to meet his eyes that spoke a tenderness commanding my attention.

“I think God allows this pain so I can help others. Now that I know what this is like, I can help others when they hurt.”

The gasp I swallowed out of fear earlier came to the surface. This time it didn’t come from the place of fear.

“Zachary, if I could take away your pain I would. If I could take it on myself, I would do it. But I can’t. God did that for us didn’t He? To save us, Jesus took on pain, shame, and death so that one day we could be with Him in glory.”

He reminds me again. His ways are not my ways. Sometimes He uses our pains and our struggles to create the person in us He wants us to be. Sometimes He uses our circumstances to grow the character needed to sustain what He sees ahead of us. Sometimes pain free isn’t the best place for us. Sometimes it’s there we are most aware of Him.

As a mom, I want to make life well for my kids. I want to take away what hurts them. Kiss the boo-boo away. Tuck them in tightly crowding out their fears. Sometimes, I want it so much I’m tempted to take away the place God wants us to be in that moment.

He sent His son to die on a cross for my sins. He knows the pain of a parent watching their child struggle. He knows that pain more than I can begin to fathom.

Yes, I can trust Him with my own child. After all, my child is His child, on loan to me for a time. My role isn’t to make life smooth and comfortable, removing the rocks along the path. My role is to encourage my child to keep his eyes focused on the One who leads him along the path laid out before him.

 

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In This House We Will Giggle

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I’m so excited to share an interview with Courtney DeFeo discussing her new book In This House We Will Giggle. I met Courtney through a mutual friend and had the privilege to listen to her speak at She Speaks last summer. Last Christmas a friend bought me ABC Scripture Cards, which I fell in love with. I had no idea that Courtney was the creator until I met her at She Speaks. Today she shares her new book with us!

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  1. How did In This House, We Will Giggle come about?  In This House, We Will Giggle began after I left a marketing career and became a stay-at-home mom. Two passions collided. My passion to empower others mom – and my passion to change little lives. I started Lil Light O’ Mine – a blog and company with ABC Scripture Cards. As you are aware, the blogging community for moms is so unique. We can share our failures and dreams and work together to change lives as we follow God’s promptings. I was given the opportunity to share a book idea at the She Speaks conference by Proverbs 31 and they loved it. So the rest is history. I was able to continue with my mission to empower moms and change little lives through innovation in the home. Just in the form of a book! Reaching many more families than I ever dreamed.
  2. What do you hope this book will bring to families? I hope they have more laughter and less lectures erupting through their homes. I hope moms see how very practical the book can be for their lives I want it to be a conversation for these 12 virtues. The 12 family fun activities are just ideas – and they are BEST implemented when our families embrace them. So tweak them, skip some – just give it a shot! I want our kids to experience WHO we know more than hear WHAT we know.
  3. What is your heart’s passion/desire behind this book? Truthfully, it is to know Jesus. I believe if our kids experience His goodness vs just hear about all the rules and consequences – they will want to stay with it. The way my parents lived out their faith left a mark on my life. Our kids are not too young to serve, to give and to change the face of a community. It will get in them and it is contagious. Good little Christian kids is not the goal. Ones who have Jesus in them – and they enjoy it pouring out – that’s the goal. There are millions that know a lot about Jesus in their heads, but not so much in their hearts. Adults and kids.
  4. Does the book offer practical ways families can begin putting into practice immediately? Oh yes! I am a busy mom. I don’t have time to read a book that offers inspiration without practical help. So, each chapter has a detailed family activity to go with the key virtue. In addition, it has an easy virtue definition (words kids can understand), a corresponding memory verse and much more. Plus, the entire book has 60 ways to make your family giggle.
  5. What age range of children is this book intended for? I have pregnant moms to parents of teens and grandmothers reading this book and loving it. The activities are geared for 2 to elementary kids but the majority of them can be implemented well into the teens.

 

ENTER TO WIN A COPY! Just simply comment below on what makes you giggle in your home. Winner announced on my Facebook page Monday, November 3rd.

You Tube Link to Trailer Video

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About the Book: In This House, We Will Giggle: Making Virtues, Love, and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life offers parents a practical approach to instilling virtues in their children through laughter, rather than lecture. Designed to cover an entire year, each of the 12 chapters highlights one key virtue in developing a child’s character, along with insights to help infuse the virtue into everyday life. In This House, We Will Giggle teaches children to experience the goodness of God, the joy of following Jesus and the difference children can make in the lives of others.

 

View More: http://aleamoore.pass.us/defeofamily
About the Author: Courtney DeFeo is a popular blogger and creator of ABC Scripture Cards featured on “The View.” She is a graduate of Auburn University and has worked in marketing for Chick-fil-A. Courtney and her husband, Ron, are the parents of two children. To connect with Courtney, visit CourtneyDeFeo.com

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Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

10 Ways To Teach Your Kids To Give More And Want Less At Christmas

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We would love for our kids to think less of themselves and more of others during the Christmas season (and all year long, really). Our job is to guide and model to them how this is possible. Culture is going to hailstorm them with messages of “It’s all about you.” Commercialism will create the monster named “I Want This” inside our children. Retailers will tantalize us with their displays and beckon our children to not just want but to desperately need what they are selling.

As parents we wonder how we can possibly fight against the way of culture. How do we create children who understand the meaning of Christmas and have hearts that desire to give more and receive less? It seems an overwhelming task.

When faced with what seems impossible, I like to look at the small piece of possible.

What can I do that sends the opposite message to my children than the message retailers are sending? Here’s a few ideas you might find helpful in growing kids who have hearts of giving in a season that tells them to get, get, and get some more.

  1. Don’t ask them to create a Christmas wish list – Don’t get mad at me. But your kids will give you enough hints that you can write down a few ideas without them spending hours creating a list of everything they could ever possibly want. This also keeps their expectations lower. When my kids have created lists, then don’t receive what is on their list, I’ve seen the disappointed looks. On the other hand, if they only drop hints, they don’t fully expect to get those items. It’s a bit of psychology I suppose. If we want our kids to think less of themselves and more of others, then we can make one simple change at Christmas by not asking them to think of what they want.
  2. Throw away the catalogues – One of my children loves to look at toy catalogues. He finds items he never knew existed then suddenly can’t live without them. I try to save him the anxiety and throw the catalogues out before they ever make it inside. If we don’t know it exists, we don’t want something we don’t need.
  3. Christmas Blessing List – Create a list that you post in a visible spot where members of the family keep a list of all the ways they have seen the gifts of Christmas. We define gifts of Christmas as the gifts of hope, love, peace, and joy. Where did we give one of these gifts, where did we see one of these gifts, or where did we receive one of these gifts. It’s a daily hunt for the blessings of Christmas. Training our kids to see beyond themselves and look for blessings. You could even make this a fun game that when the family reaches 100, you go out for ice cream. A little incentive for the littles (or bigs) to give a blessing more often than normal.
  4. Limit visits to stores – Does this sound impossible? It’s really not if we are a little creative with our shopping. I have begun to do most of my shopping online. When I need to visit a store, I try to arrange to go when my husband can be home with the kids, when they are in school, or swap babysitting with a friend. I realized when we hosted 2 orphans over the last couple of years how trips to stores seem to increase a child’s desire for more stuff. This should be common sense, but I didn’t realize it until I saw how these children would begin so content and the more stores we visited, the more stuff they began to ask for. They suddenly weren’t satisfied with what they had.
  5. Pick family missions or service projects – Our family prepares a meal to provide to a hospice patient on Christmas Day. We double the portion we are planning to prepare, package it up, and deliver on Christmas. It’s easy on Christmas Day to become absorbed in the gifts and festivities and lose sight of the ones suffering and grieving. Christmas isn’t joyous for everyone, but each of us can be a vehicle of sprinkling even the tiniest drops of joy into someone’s life. I’ll be posting ideas of family service projects in the coming weeks.
  6. Purchase gifts for others with their own money – If your child has their own money tucked away, it’s a good idea to have them use some of it to purchase a few small items for those they love. The Dollar Store is a great place they can get very small items inexpensively.
  7. Keep them busy serving – The more our kids serve, the less they think of themselves. The more I serve, the less focused I am on myself. Simple acts of kindness through the season will help loosen the hold of greed.
  8. Create family traditions – Traditions are what kids remember more than the gifts. It can be the simplest of moments, but the more time families spend creating memories and traditions, the less focus is given to the gifts. Kids will look forward to the events rather than the material gifts. The value of time and experience will grow larger in their hearts than gifts. Family traditions can be very small, and cost nothing or very little, but kids excitedly anticipate them each year.
  9. Set budgets and limits on gifts and communicate these to your children – I’m always surprised at the expectations of my children when compared to my own. I often forget that they create expectations based on fewer years than I have and often will place my own expectations on them. When I have communicated what our kids can expect at Christmas, they have never complained. If anything it has allowed them to let go of obsessing about what they will and won’t get. If they are told they will receive 5 gifts, they don’t expect more than that. If they are told they will receive one toy, a few clothing items, and a surprise item, they are more than ok with this. Sometimes when we are trying to decrease the size of Christmas, it is easier than we realize. We just have to communicate it to the kids.
  10. Gratitude Journal – A thankful heart produces contentment while leaving less room for discontentment, which is the root of many “wants”. The more we focus on what we have to be thankful for, the less we focus on what we don’t have. It’s a change in how we view life. We spotlight the thanks and the desires become dimmer.

Share your ideas with us. How does your family balance the commercialism of Christmas and cultivate hearts not consumed with material gifts?

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31 Ways To Pray For Your Kids

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In May I attended a writers conference and had the honor of meeting an author I admire and respect so much. He ended up being one of my favorite instructors at the conference with his humor and wit. Bob Hostetler has a new app available to help us parents pray intentionally for our kids.

I love that each day has a specific prayer topic, a beautiful picture, and a verse to pray along with. The app allows you to set a reminder, which was very helpful for me. I start out my day praying for my children, but often intend to pray for them throughout the day only to find the day became busier than I intended, and time slipped away. No matter how busy I found myself, the alarm would sound, I’d open the app, and I’d take a moment to pray specifically for each of my children.

This app gave me topics to pray for my kids that I had not been praying about. It helped me to move outside of my “normal” prayer topics to go a little deeper in my prayer life for my kids. Some days I simply breathed out the verse of the day in prayer for my kids. Other days, the app provided a springboard for me to dive deeper into a prayer topic.

I highly recommend this app if you find yourself wanting to become more intentional in your prayer life for your children.

You can download 31 Ways To Pray For Your Kids here.

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Bob Hostetler is an award-winning writer, editor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His books, which include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and The Red Letter Life, have sold over 3 million copies. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award. He is the founding pastor of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. He and his wife Robin have two grown children, Aubrey and Aaron, who have given them five beautiful grandchildren.

 

 

 

[box] If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. You will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

15 Non-Toy Gift Ideas To Give Kids At Christmas

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Ready or not Christmas is around the corner. For many, this brings excitement. For others, it brings stress.

I’m speaking to several groups this holiday season on moving from stress to simplicity to splendor during the Christmas season. I thought it would be fun to take a little poll to see what stresses everyone out and solutions they have discovered. I will be sharing tips to simplifying the season over the coming weeks.

TOO MANY PRESENTS!

Today, I share a common stressor. Too many presents! One of the most common complaints I hear is this, “We have to clean out and purge toys before Christmas because the grandparents buy so much stuff.” 

Or

“We have asked relatives to simplify gift giving, but it is X’s love language, and she just can’t help herself. She brings bags and bags of toys each Christmas.”

Or

“We can never think of anything to get our kids because they have so much stuff.”

This may seem like something silly to be stressed about, but it’s actually not so silly.

When you are trying to model the true spirit of Christmas being about Christ and not material gifts, it’s really hard when kids are bombarded with the gifts. And what kid doesn’t like loads and loads of presents?

A closely related stressor for many people is the materialism and consumerism of Christmas. The pressure of gift buying, the draining bank account, and the ungrateful attitudes that begin to develop.

SOLUTION TO TOO MANY PRESENTS

If you have been a reader here for awhile, you know I love to talk about creating memories and traditions. When our kids were little, we asked the grandparents to try to limit the amount of toys they gave our kids. Toys were bursting through every crevice of our home, and the more our kids had, the less they actually played. At the same time, we wanted them to have something that went beyond Christmas morning- something of value, something that could create a memory.

We began incorporating more experience types of gifts.

About 2 weeks after Christmas, our kids were unable to list the toys they received. And they certainly couldn’t identify who gave them what because there was so much stuff, nothing had much value. However, the gifts they clearly remember and still talk about are the ones that created memories.

I love memory-creating, experience-happening gifts. One year our kids received a day of snow-skiing lessons from the grandparents as a Christmas gift. One year Andrew received 8 weeks of swimming lessons. One year our kids received season passes to the local amusement park. They enjoyed that gift for months and even created sweet memories with the grandparents.

Not only do we as parents love these gifts more, our kids do as well. Even if they don’t realize it now, they will later in life.

When they outgrow the latest video game, the newest all-the-rage toy people wake at 3:00am to fight for, they will not outgrow the memories they created with a gift that is a moment with you or an experience they can hold onto.

Here’s a list of alternative types of Christmas gifts:

  • Lessons– sports, music, art, etc. Do you have a child who wants to play the guitar? Do you have a baseball player who wants a few batting lessons? Do you have a budding artist? Giving a gift such as lessons also begins to instill gratitude and appreciation in a child. They begin to see the gift and sacrifice in something such as piano lessons rather than simply expecting they are entitled to it.
  • Sports registration– season of team soccer and a pair of new cleats, session of swim lessons and a swim bag. Sports registrations are expensive, again this is another way to teach children to appreciate the gift of playing team sports rather than simply believing they are entitled to play.
  • Movie passes with a box of candy and a popcorn bucket. We love taking our kids to the movie theater, but it’s a rare treat for our family of 5. Giving the gift of movie passes allows us to enjoy movie trips through the year we wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy.
  • Hotel night away– use points earned from travel or credit cards to save more money. This is meant to be very inexpensive and not extravagant at all. Really focusing on the simplicity of time together. Grab pizza, play games in the room, swim in the pool, just being together away from home.
  • Tickets to favorite sporting event -MLB, NHL, NFL.
  • Gift cards to favorite restaurants
  • A favorite camp. Camps are expensive, and many kids love summer camps. This is a great way to give a gift they will get to enjoy months after Christmas has passed.
  • Books, books, more books. Now, I don’t feel about books the way I do about toys. I think one can’t possibly have too many books. And books are a wonderful way for children to spend time together with their parents as well.
  • A special date night. This takes a little creativity but would be so special to a child and something they would always remember. If you are a grandpa who likes to fish and one of your grandkids likes to fish, plan a special fishing date for the just the 2 of you. Wrap up a little tackle box of a few fishing supplies with a note inside for a private fishing date.
  • Future project together. Are you a grandma who loves to sew? Plan a day of sewing a special project piece with your granddaughter. Wrap up all the supplies and a picture of what you will create together along with a little note about the date you will do this. Are you a dad who loves woodworking? Gift a project date for you and your son to build a project together. Just the 2 of you.
  • Coupon book of 12 one-on-one dates for the year. One coupon a month. The activities should not be expensive or extravagant but should focus on doing something in particular with that child. A trip to a favorite ice cream shop. An evening walk or bike ride. An early morning breakfast out when everyone else sleeps.
  • A collection– coins, baseball cards, stamps. Collections are fun for kids, but even more fun when someone they love gets excited with them and takes part.
  • Groupons for bowling or skating. Each year we purchase a groupon to the local bowling alley.
  • Family gifts– One year we received a popcorn machine from my dad, and one year he gave us a soda machine. These have been so much fun for our family to use on movie nights or when friends come over.
  • Trip supplies – Are you planning a trip next year? Find a way to include aspects of that trip into their Christmas gift. Are you planning a ski trip? Give ski lift tickets and new gloves as part of their gift.

Kids love time. Kids love moments. Kids love experiences. Kids also love stuff. But stuff doesn’t give much beyond the moment. Time, memories, and experiences go far beyond Christmas.

As a bonus, when you give gifts that you don’t necessarily buy at a store, you effectively combat the consumerism of Christmas. Spend less and give more.

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