By Doreen Coady
Surprisingly, not many parents made comments regarding Christmas specifically. I reviewed my tips and found a message from one of my all-time favorite people, my friend Joyce:
Joyce, “Christmas should not mean endless gifts that in the end become overwhelming to children. A couple of good quality and “asked for” gifts is better than endless things that won’t be used.” Tip 4
Christmas can be a controversial topic, peppered with intense emotions on both ends of the spectrum. With mixed feelings on the matter, I’d like to share my parenting practice regarding the season, which is much different than my personal feelings – as was the case with most of my practices.
Christmas was not the best time of year for me as a child; however, I did not want that to be Michael’s experience. I believe my feelings should not be the backdrop, or the foundation, in Michael’s childhood. I wanted Christmas to be great for him, magical, free from fear, sadness, and alcohol. I delivered.
Behind the scenes, I was bitter, cynical, critical and sad. I was visited far too often by Christmas past, but refused to let that spill over into Christmas present or Christmas future. I now know this to be compartmentalizing.
My feelings and history were put in a box and the hope for Christmas present and Christmas future took center stage. Christmas was about Michael, not my unresolved issues.
No different than any other day, Michael came first.
During the Season I was in “Meryl-Streep-Mother-Mode.” I did it all. I did it well. I did it annually. I did what was right for Michael.
Christmas was happy, joyous, celebrated and child-focused. We made beautiful memories. It was wonderful and precious. I did not shit on the Season.
As for the presents – Michael being an only child we worked at not spoiling him. He did not want for anything, but we assigned meaning and practicality wherever we could. We did not provide too many meaningless gifts.
One year we purchased an in-school “Healthy Lunch Card” as a gift. This “Healthy Lunch Card” had 10 lunches to be punched after each purchase. This was a gift he was very excited to get – still, one of my favorite ideas. (Big Mike thought it was mean, he was prone to be far more indulgent, likely an inherited trait from Mama D. ☺)
Other gifts would include things like winter clothing, ski passes, youth camps, books and theatre productions. Where we could, we tried to gift experiences.
Of course, Michael did get toys and useless, impractical things. Surprisingly, maybe not surprisingly, those items were often not as fun or as meaningful.
As for giving – since the very early years, Michael independently bought presents for others on his own behalf. With twenty dollars and a visit to the Dollar Store, he could cover it all. I recall each year being so impressed with thoughtfulness and his ability to stretch the money (don’t know where he got that).
As a teen Michael volunteered in our community Christmas drive, and as an adult he continues to give in meaningful ways. He continues to be generous and loving when sharing with those he loves.
As an adult male, when gifts are no longer an expectation, Michael celebrates his friends with both birthday gifts and random thoughtful gifts when the mood strikes. He is extremely kind, and is able to find the best gifts, the most thoughtful gifts, in unbelievable economical ways.
I am forever grateful to have found the therapy and self awareness that enabled me to “compartmentalize” my feelings on Christmas. I am very proud Michael will not have haunted ghosts of Christmas past interfering with his happiness and celebration of the Season.
One thing I know for sure, even if you feel broken, you can deliver magical memorable Christmas’ so long as you put the children first.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!