It seems so simple,... so obvious. Why didn’t I think of this twenty-five years ago when we were preparing for Christmas with our own boys. It is no secret that the celebration of Christmas has been marred by an epidemic of materialism. I think most people, if put on trial, would plead guilty. Kathy and I wanted our kids to be happy. We wanted them to be surprised and excited on Christmas morning. We wanted to capture the magic moment, of the boys seeing the countless wrapped gifts under the tree, on video. I think we accomplished all those goals, but at what cost?
It’s not about the money. We were fortunate that we were able to be fairly generous with our boys at Christmas each year. But what did we teach them about values? What did we teach them about the true meaning of Christmas? What did we teach them about the need to have the latest and greatest “fad” toys on the market each year? With all the good things we did parenting our kids, I don’t know that we succeeded in effectively communicating the message about Christmas we wanted our boys to get.
I happened to see the image above posted on Facebook last week. The 4 Christmas Gifts Challenge. What a great idea! Most kids have things they desire as the holidays approach. These are the items they mention to Santa when they visit him at the mall. Absolutely, if one of the items is both character building and reasonably priced, buy it. Notice I said “one.” That’s Gift #1 of the Challenge: “Something they want.”
One thing I remember about our family celebration of Christmas in my childhood is that Santa filled my Christmas stocking each year with stuff I needed -- toothpaste, a new toothbrush, a comb or hair brush, perhaps a ball point pen, a new box of crayons, or other practical items. These represent Gift #2: “Something they need.”
Kids are always in need of new clothes. Rather than giving the child that new pair of pajamas, a winter jacket, or the new athletic shoes they need for basketball season when you purchase it in November, wrap it up and save it for Christmas. That’s Gift #3: “Something to wear.”
Finally, it’s been said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. In other words, it is absolutely essential to the overall health of the child. It’s also been said that a child who reads will be an adult who thinks. There is no doubt that books are a great investment in the future of our children. There are excellent age-appropriate books for every age and reading level. Gift #4, then, is obvious: “Something to read.”
That’s it. Four gifts. Reasonable, hopefully affordable, and practical for most families. If I had it to do all over again, rather than focusing on the number of wrapped gifts under the tree each year, I would give thoughtful consideration to the four categories of The 4 Christmas Gifts Challenge. What a great tradition that could be in any family.