Christmas. Do you anticipate it with dread? Kids want this, they NEEEEED that, and it all costs money. How can "Santa" possibly get it right? How do parents step out of the pressure cooker of holiday expectations and demands?
The quick answer: Just do it. Just stop. No one makes you do all this stuff, you know. You decide to. So you can decide not to -- without “spoiling” the children’s Christmas.
Here are some fundamentals:
1. Turn the television off at Halloween, and don't turn it on again until January. You think I'm kidding. But just think of how much present-pressure you'd save yourself if all those goodies weren't being paraded in glorious technicolor, with a glitzy song-and-dance routine, 10 times an hour.
(Wondering what you'll do without television? There are always ad-free DVDs. The smallest children will watch the same one over and over again; the older children can be partners in a weekly trip to the rental store or online video queue. Or, you could just go without. Thousands of families do.)
2. Let the kids provide you with a list with a set number of items. Once they’ve written the list (or the letter to Santa), these things will not be spoken of further -- nor will they be edited. Greet a petition with, “Yes, Honey. I have your list. Now, do you think Gramma would rather have this nice scarf, or should we make her some cookies?”
3. Rethink Santa. My children were taught about St. Nicholas, a gentle man who gave gifts to the needy. Santa Claus was pretend, for fun. It didn't spoil their Christmas one iota. Santa Claus in North American culture is nothing more than a focal point for greed. Who needs it?
If you truly can't imagine Christmas without the jolly old capitalist pimp, do not make the mistake of declaring that Santa brings all but a few presents. Do that, and you doom yourself to creating magic -- in the form of an immense pile of perfect presents (agh! The PRESSURE!) -- for the next decade.
Have Santa bring one present to each child. Not the biggest and most expensiv. Just one modest gift. (If the notion of fewer gifts makes you feel you’re spoiling the “Christmas Magic”, don’t blame society... the problem is you. More is not better.)
Even more radical, how about Santa stops coming when the child is ... 10? 12? By 12, all but the most dedicated deniers of reality know the truth, anyway. You, the parents, get to decide this. No one else.
4. Get involved in a social outreach program. Collect (or knit!) warm socks for the homeless. Participate in a toy drive. Deliver hampers of food on Christmas Eve.