Holidays with a one-year-old are a little tricky. On the one hand, she doesn’t get what is going on. I took full advantage of this last year. Hadley’s first Christmas presents included a stocking, some Christmas pajamas, and toys purchased by her grandparents. I mean, she slept through the whole thing. But of course this year, she is an entirely different creature and I feel like I should do more. Last December she was an immobile infant with dark brown hair and her vocabulary included giggles and cooing. Now she’s an active toddler, somewhere between a brunette and blonde, talking up a storm, and at times a wild woman. We’ve left the baby stage and are stepping into the territory where we can start doing psychological damage. Your parents didn’t get you any toys for TWO years in a row?? Wow, they must really not love you. Okay, even if it doesn’t come to that, I want to get her new things that will bring joy to that sweet little face. But I also don’t want to overwhelm, overstimulate, and overdo it. KEEP IT SIMPLE. That’s my mantra.
As part of this grand effort to be minimal, we are adopting the tradition of giving Hadley three gifts for Christmas. I first read about this on Momastery.com, one of my favorite blogs. As she hilarious puts it, “Listen, Jesus only got three gifts. Are you really prepared to argue that you deserve more presents on GOD’s birthday than God got on God’s OWN birthday?” – See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2013/11/25/keep-simple-sisters/#sthash.HSB8E1gR.dpuf
Luckily, since she’s one, we don’t have to reason it through with her or explain anything. In fact, the only real problem so far is my own tendency to get carried away. Damn you Amazon for making it far too easy to click, buy, and show up at my door 48 hours later. Oh and the suggestions of other products I might enjoy, plasticky pink treasures that in my dreams will keep my toddler entertained for hours? These too are wastes of money. In fact, what will actually keep her entertained is trying to squeeze into the cardboard box that the toy arrives in. I can’t tell you how many boxes have kept her happy for how many hours. This is what I have to remind myself when I get tempted to overspend.
Another contributing factor in our keep-it-simple plan is that we celebrated with my family a couple of weeks early. BREAKING UP THE PRESENTS is huge. My Mom was in town to get some stuff done on their new house (ten minutes away from us!!), and so yesterday we hosted my parents and two local sisters and their families for a little Christmas celebration. It was the perfect Christmas kick-off. Snow was falling as first we feasted, while the older kids tried to eat with presents for them in the next room – no easy task. And then after the lunching was done, they had to wait even longer for sleeping Hadley to wake from her nap. I was happy to let her sleep through the gift opening, but the grandparents insisted that all grandkids be present for presents. When I came down with Hadley in my arms, I’m sure her cousins have never been quite so happy to see her. She beamed at their joyful faces, thrilled to be the center of their attention. Ignorance is truly bliss.
Seeing how delighted Hadley was in her two presents just reconfirmed that we’re doing the right thing by trying our best to keep it simple. No, she doesn’t yet understand why the toys are arriving for her. Nor did she expect more than she was given. One more toy wouldn’t have made a difference to this face.
So as an adult, as a parent, as an almost thirty-year-old, you would think that I would have internalized what I’m trying to teach my child. I think my intentions are good, of keeping it simple, remembering what is important and why we spend this time of year celebrating with loved ones. I might have moved on from the sick-with-anticipation for presents chapter of my life, but I am happy to have pretty things showing up for me on Christmas morning. Do I end up shopping for myself when I had every intention of hunting for good deals for Josh on Gilt? Guilty. Did I pout when I found out Josh hadn’t yet purchased anything in addition to the presents I had already picked out for myself, and then had him enter the credit card information – just to make sure that he bought it for me. It’s possible. And then of course he got me something else because of my clear disappointment. Oh, the shame.
The thing is, I don’t have Hadley’s excuse of not knowing what is going on. But I do have the excuse of being human, and therefore, very forgetful. We need to be reminded, year after year, what this season is really about. My reminders often come to me through Christmas hymns. I’ve been singing my favorite ones to Hadley each night before bedtime. The weight of her in my arms, clad in penguin footsie pajamas, pressing her face to my chest as I lull her to sleep after a day of toddler highs and lows, this is when my heart opens and the light creeps in.
“Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray”
“With the poor, the mean and lowly
Lived on earth our Savior holy”
“And our eyes at least shall see Him
Through His own redeeming love
For that child, so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above”
“Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die”
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices
Oh night Divine, Oh night when Christ was born”
How often have I sung the words to these cherished songs, year after year? And how often do I think about their meaning? Definitely not thinking about them when I’m obsessing about the perfect gifts we need in order to be happy. We already are happy, we already are blessed beyond anything I could ever buy, wrap up neatly, and place under the tree.
Oh, and here is some proof of just how blessed we are, sharing a Christmas celebration with family (missing several crucial members in Utah, Florida and London, of course)
Now if I can keep remembering the reason for the season this week with a fevering baby, when I’m frantically getting Christmas cards sent out, or when I’m traveling to West Virginia for six hours in the car with Hadley who LOATHES the car seat, it’ll be a Christmas miracle. MERRY CHRISTMAS!