Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas and Life Lessons

Before I get to the main topic of this post, I wanted to say that we had a really nice weekend. Jacob was actually really well-behaved. That's not to say we didn't have our moments, of course, but in the grand scheme of things he at least acted his age...rather than just some crazy version of it. He was downright pleasant at times, saying "thank you" a lot when I'd give him something and even behaving at church. It was really, really nice. Even on Saturday when my parents and my aunt came into town, Jacob was great. We pretty much just showed my aunt our house, and then all of us (minus Craig, who was working) went to dinner and the Amerks game. Jacob ate his dinner very well, and then was a very good boy at the Amerks game, our first in about a month. Grandma took him to play knee hockey with the other (bigger) kids in the corner of the concourse during intermissions, and apparently he held his own...though I guess he needs some brushing up on the rules since he was scoring on himself when he played goal, then high fived everyone. Yeah, not exactly. But overall it was a very pleasant experience to have a normal relationship with my child for a few days...minimal yelling, not a lot of threatening, and lots of smiles and hugs and snuggles. Fantastic. Oh, and a very happy birthday today to Craig! I was hoping to celebrate with singing and cupcakes tonight, but he has to work. I guess last night's dinner out with a big celebratory sundae at the end will have to do for now.

Anyway on to today's main topic. I feel like this Christmas season has been a bit of a conundrum for me. We have this awesome little boy who is really starting to understand Christmas this year. I want to make sure it is magical and fun for him, and I'm sure that regardless of anything else that goes on, it will be. He has many years to refine his appreciation for the simpler points of the holiday, but I know that at this point it's pretty much all about the gifts. And between us, both sets of grandparents, and his aunts, uncles, and godmother, he will be well taken care of. Beyond well, I'm sure. But I worry. Why? Well, on one hand, for a kid Christmas is the one time of year where dreams come true. You get presents, you get to eat treats, AND you get time off from school to enjoy it all. But on the other hand, when you're dealing with an impressionable toddler, how much is too much? As a parent, where do you draw the line between making your kid feel the magic yet making sure they come back down to earth appropriately after it's all over?

For months Jacob has been making a mental Christmas list. On it is pretty much any piece of sporting equipment you can imagine...even if he's already got a few scattered among his toys. Skates, hockey gloves, helmet, pucks, sticks, balls, you name it. He also wants a hockey net and (thanks to a couple prompts from us--either purposeful or accidental) a new hockey rink for his "hockey guys". He's getting both of those last two items, and he's also getting a real hockey stick and probably a mini goalie stick (since he doesn't have one of those among his many sticks, and he likes being a goalie). We're also hoping to get hand-me-down skates sometime soon. At this point I know he's not doing it out of greed. He just knows he wants it and that's it. I know he'll be thrilled with all of what he gets, but I do still worry that when all is said and done, he'll be sitting there asking us where his hockey gloves and helmet are. I'm sure we'll blame a little of it on Santa ("Sorry, buddy, he must not have been able to fit it on the sleigh..."), but I don't want to do so much of it that we turn him against Santa. After all, Jacob strikes me as a kid who will remember come next year, and he'll probably bring his hockey stick when he goes to see Santa next December, ready to rough him up and make sure it doesn't happen again! All kidding aside, I'm left wondering if this is really the best time of year to make the point that we don't always get what we want. He'll certainly learn that as he gets older, but is now the time to start the tough lesson? I just don't know. We've definitely covered a lot of his bases, so I suppose I'm also a little worried that he'll start thinking that if he asks for something from Santa, he's going to get it. I'm not a big fan of that lesson, either.

The thing is, I know he's only two so I don't want to go all out. But I also don't want to feel like we're chintzing out and not taking advantage of the holiday enough to give him some great stuff. We've gotten him some good things already, but I'm constantly trying to think of other things we could get him. I feel like I haven't been all that creative, but then again, with a kid who just plays sports, sometimes it's tough to think of anything else. I mean, on one hand I don't want a bunch of toys sitting around that he won't use. If he spends 90% of his time playing sports, is it worth getting him anything else? But at the same time I want to use this opportunity to encourage him to do other things. I want him to get some cool new toys that will capture his imagination and potentially give him new things to do so sports doesn't need to be everything. All sports all the time is particularly tough this time of year, because he can't go outside to play and is limited to what he can do in our living room. Now would be the perfect time to divert his attention to some other things, if at all possible. He's getting a bunch of Duplo blocks (the big Legos), which I know he plays with at daycare. There had been some talk about getting him a little table and chairs set, and I think that might be fun for him, too, because he could sit and color or play with his Legos. But I'm sure there are other things he'd enjoy, too, if only I could figure out what. But he really doesn't need that much, because he's really not home that much. Between daycare, naps, meals and errands, his time is limited. Still, I want him to love what he gets, use it, and be grateful for it.

What might scare me most is the aftermath. Will he be spoiled by the influx of presents and decide he wants everything in every store? Will he think Christmas is going to come again and again, and start listing off a batch of new wants? I'm strong enough to not buy him everything in sight, but I also don't feel like dealing with meltdowns every time we go to a store. But maybe none of this will happen. Maybe he'll be happy with what he gets and won't need anything else until we start getting close to his birthday. As a side note, I must say that I appreciate having his birthday and Christmas exactly six months apart, because it always allows for a "Maybe you'll get it for your birthday," or "Maybe you can ask Santa" response when he asks for something, since one big day or another is less than six months away.

When I think back on Christmases as a kid, I was spoiled. Not in an obscene way, but I was treated very well. I had two grandmothers that liked to shop, and my mom was always great about getting good stuff and having plenty for us to open. We usually got a big gift from my parents every other year or so, and plenty of medium and small gifts. When my cousin Lori and I discuss those crazy Binkley Christmases where the grandkids got spoiled, we came to the conclusion that at the time we knew we were making out well, but aside from normal childhood greed--I think it's unavoidable, to some degree--I think we understood that we were very lucky kids. And I think that's what I want for Jacob--for him to feel spoiled, but to also know that he is. I think that there's a fine line with spoiling. It's one thing to be spoiled, not realize you're spoiled, and just assume that it's what you deserve, and another to be spoiled, know you're spoiled, and know you're a fortunate child to be spoiled. I don't want Jacob to have everything he wants, because that's just too easy. I want him to long for certain things, maybe even for years, so he appreciates them when he finally gets them. I want him to know that he's fortunate and that it's important to give back at the holidays to show that thankfulness. And most of all, I want him to feel that magic of Christmas, each and every year. As long as he has that, I suppose the life lessons can wait for another day...

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