Why I am giving my Kids the gift of GRATITUDE this Christmas!
I will never forget Christmas 2009. That Christmas was just 26 days after giving birth to a 31 week 3 day preemie. We were so excited to have our sweet little Katherine (Katie Beth) home and healthy, but we were also scared to death. That Christmas we were faced with not only caring for a very tiny preemie but also over $100,000 in medical bills at that point.
You always picture Christmas morning (well I did anyway) with your children as this big magical moment filled with laughter, smiles,the smell of a huge breakfast in the kitchen, loads of gifts, tons of wrapping paper all over the place, and general joy! For us, we had very few of those things that Christmas. I remember waking up to an empty Christmas tree. Thankfully we had planned ahead and purchased and delivered our extended families gifts already, knowing that I was having an extremely complicated pregnancy and that we might possibly have a baby at Christmas. I remember waking up with the baby reading the Christmas Story of Jesus’ birth and heading into our eerily quiet and empty den with our empty Christmas tree that starred us right in the face.
My emotions were already all over the place from just having a baby, but I recall feeling like a failure of a parent and wife for not having a gift for my husband or my new baby (like a 26 day old baby can really open a gift anyway ). We could have purchased each other gifts on a credit card but we have a strict no credit card rule and we weren’t going to budge just because we had over $100,000 in medical bills (credit card debt wasn’t going to make that any better) and we felt pitiful one Christmas. Christmas came and went and we made it through the day with no gift from each other and life went on, but on December 26, 2009 I made the decision that Christmas would NEVER be that way again!
I became THAT mom that overbought. I would start buying at the after Christmas sales and “put up” for next Christmas. I would be done with my Christmas shopping by July every year and I would have WAAAAAAY more than my kids ever needed.
I realized there was a problem when we were in our local Wal-Mart and my kids asked to go down the toy aisle. Against my better judgement, I agreed and down the aisle we went. Karter, my 3 year old, immediately was drawn toward the dinosaurs, he begged and begged for a toy and so again, against my better judgement I said “Well, maybe just one!”. He picked out this big green dinosaur with red eyes that moved his head and made sounds. As he went to put it in the basket Katie Beth said “Karter you can’t get that we already have one in the playroom- it’s still in the box too!” I immediately felt sick.In the midst of Karters crying over the fact that he can’t get a toy that he already HAS, I realized I had purchased the exact toy last year for CHRISTMAS!!!! Katie Beth later said “i’m sure we can find something we don’t have already!” I’m still wondering “ How in the world was it still in the box it’s JUNE?!?!?!?!?!?!?! “ After a second or two or ten of blank stare from simple shock at the state of ingratitude and entitlement I had created we quickly left the toy isle paid for our groceries and went home.
I realized that my insecurities from Christmas 2009 had created a MONSTER(me). I never wanted my kids to do without or not have what they needed and in the midst of that I had given them nearly everything they wanted. Doing that had created a sense of entitlement and I certainly didn’t want my children to ever have a gratitude problem. Christmases have taken a drastic turn since 2009. Christmas is like what I had always dreamed. It involves LOADS AND LOADS of presents, tons of wrapping paper, huge breakfast, and lots of laughter. That only lasts for a moment by lunch time that excitement is gone because the excitement of the things goes away and the kids are usually just as excited to build forts out of toy boxes quite honestly.
This Christmas The Starnes’ are doing things different and we are excited about it! After discussing this with some friends and family we have decided to still give gifts to our children, because what child doesn’t like gifts, but we are changing the kinds of gift that they receive and the quantity that they will receive.
This Christmas our children will receive 3 gifts. Yes, you read that right 3 gifts. We decided that if Jesus the King of the world received 3, the gift of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, then why do we deserve more gifts than Him on HIS birthday?
We also decided that this year we will give them 1 gift from each of the following categories: a WANT (anything that they have been desiring for a while), NEED( something they can use), and READ(something educational that can deepen their intellect) . We want every gift that they receive from US this year to mean something, because they will get gift from friends, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents that will be lots of fun, but the things that come from us we wanted to actually mean something not just be something to take up space under the tree.
Lastly, this Christmas we are choosing to give back. We have decided to let our children go shopping for a boy or girl their age this year who is less fortunate. We do this every year as a family, but this year we are picking up 2 extra that the kids will be responsible for blessing. Our goal is to not only bless other families, but to give something to our kids, something that money can’t buy and that is the gift of GRATITUDE.