I wrote this a couple of Christmases ago, and it has guided us every year since…
So there we were Christmas Eve. The kids were in bed, maybe not dreaming of sugar plums for they know not what they are, but sugar in some other modern day form none the less: candy canes and gingerbread houses and ice box cookies and whatever other sugar cometh their way. We had to really convince the 12 year old non-believer that she too had to go to bed, even though she KNEW.
We had opened all the shipped in packages on Christmas Eve, as is our tradition. Packages from aunts and uncles and grandma and cousins and the like. So the haul from the fat man was all that was remaining.
Papa and I were sipping on a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, a winter warmer as it were, and hauling in all the loot that we had hidden here and there that would be placed under the tree making Christmas morning what it would be. That’s a lot of power don’t you know and it came make a mama or a papa feel a little overwhelmed. Or underwhelmed perhaps.
We had a few games, some art supplies, some balls of various types: wiffle, basket, and foot. Then some necessary items such as bike helmets, barrettes for the girls, socks, glue for the collage obsessed three year old and a few other sundry items. Then the stockings, a new element this year filled with a few sweet treats and other proverbial stocking stuffers.
Now the weeks before I had been making my lists and checking them twice. Making sure that the four children scales were evenly tipped and making sure too that the things we were giving had the necessary elements creating connection (games), physical play (balls and helmets) and creativity (art supplies). We had done the Slow Family workbook around creating the Slow holiday. We knew what we wanted it to FEEL like and what we DIDN’T want too which was for the day to be just about stuff, stuff and more stuff.
But on the night of, as we placed the packages in careful little piles I had that feeling, that punch in the gut, that “oh shit it’s not enough”. And Papa had it too as he surveyed the loot.
We talked about it and discussed our own feelings of youthful Christmases where after all was said and done there was still a feeling of “is that all there is my friends?” No matter how much stuff was hauled in or how big the biggest prize.
We talked about abundance, which was a feeling not a thing. We talked about how we didn’t want all that extra crap in the house anyway. And what were we trying to create? And if there were a hundred gifts would we still feel this way? Because really that’s what the marketers of Christmas sell to people: that feeling of not enough no matter how much you get. Even selling the after Christmas sales for those that were left with that feeling of dissatisfaction.
And my partner in the raising of these four children paused, and as his eyes landed on something on the floor across the living room and he asked me, “what’s one of the favorite toys right now in our house? The one that gets played with every single day.” I didn’t know. So he strode across the room and stooped down and picked up a 4″ plastic phone that we had picked up in a thrift store for a quarter TWO Christmases ago. “THIS!” he said with hysterical enthusiasm. And I laughed. And he was right. This tiny .25 cent plastic toy had had a full two years of play without pause.
So we discussed how it wasn’t about the stuff. It was about the feeling. And we knew that but we needed to remind each other again for in the face of the commercialism that surrounds us, we needed and will always need constant reminders.
And I did a little tapping, a.k.a. EFT, and tapped out “not enough” and tapped in “abundance”. Because we knew also that if we went into the morning with the feeling of not enough, the kids magic radar would pick up on that in a nanosecond.
Then we talked about how one of our gifts would be the connection with us. We would play the games. And we would draw and paint. And we would go outside and throw some balls. Not distracted by the computer or the chores to be done – just presence.
And we felt good. And we surveyed the loot one more time and felt truly happy at the scene laid out in our unfinished living room that looked so cozy with our lemon tree Christmas tree and our stockings that were really Papa’s woolies.
Morning came. The kids gathered up waiting for each other which was their tradition – to always go out all at once. And they saw all the gifts. And they determined whose was whose and what was what. And they were ecstatic.
All morning long we played games. We listened to music. We drew. And generally just spent the morning being together.
A little bit into it my 10 year old hugged me and said, “I think I got everything on my list!” And he hugged me and even though I had his list in my pocket and I knew he didn’t even come close, it was the FEELING that he got. Not the stuff.
In the afternoon the new helmets (actually from the thrift store but Santa’s not telling) were donned and we hit the trail and rode around for a while before landing in the park not far from the house to cook hot dogs on an open fire.
And I know this might sound like a myth. But I kid you not. This was the best Christmas ever. With the least amount of stuff ever too. And the most amount of presence for one and all.
And I vowed right then and there too that each child I greeted in the next few days I would not meet them with the standard question of “What did you get?” rather “what did you do?”
If you want some ideas for how to give and get the feeling you want, visit Slow Family Living!