Holiday season is here. Trees are up, wreaths are hung, and Christmas lights are flickering. It’s Lucy’s second Christmas (she was just one month old for her first) and one that she may even understand to some extent. Perhaps she won’t remember this Christmas 10 years from now, but there is an opportunity to set a good example from the start. Religious lessons aside, as that is a different conversation and post altogether, what do I teach my daughter about Christmas, Chanukah, and the season of giving (and wanting)? Perhaps she can learn a bit from my own confusion…
When we first found out that I was pregnant, I hastily registered for everything Babies ‘R Us told me that I needed to have in order to raise a healthy baby. My sister and a good friend accompanied me on this journey and advised me where they could. They shared items that were lifesavers to them in their children’s first years and also tried to discourage me from going over the top. You don’t really need a wipes warmer or a shopping cart cover or even a diaper genie, they said. You don’t need special scented bags for disposing diapers or bottle warmers either.
But I couldn’t be saved. I wanted it all. I wanted the matching crib set, complete with plush blankets and down comforters (even though I live in a country where the average temp is above 80 degrees). I wanted the night-light, the mobiles, the bassinets, and I wanted it all new. This was my first baby and I wasn’t going to give her any less than she deserved. I had three baby showers and got most of what I asked for. Anything I didn’t receive as a gift, I went out and purchased on my own. I wanted it all. I needed it all. When the time came to pack up for our return to Nicaragua, we had this:
Upon our return, I set up Lucy’s nursery. It is beautiful and simple and I love every moment that I spend in there. But, I love it for Lucy and not for the stuff. She certainly enjoys the gadgets and games and toys that were all gifted to her. She snuggles her teddy bears and taps out tunes on her tiny piano, but she has just as much fun with a box, a strainer, and a cardboard tube.
Just the other day, we spent half an hour playing with an empty plastic saltshaker. We explored the concepts of open and closed, empty and full, heavy and light. And when she grew bored of the saltshaker, she picked up, not the brightly colored, well-researched Fisher Price stackable toy, but the big plastic bucket in which it was stored. Seems like Lucy has been teaching me an important lesson and not the other way around.
Somewhat guiltily, I love everything that was gifted to us. I am grateful for our bouncy seat and our bassinet. I feel no judgment towards those with store-bought toys, as I am one of them. I feel more comfortable with a car seat than without. But, as I look around this country, this community, this culture, I realize how little we actually need. Kids rock to sleep in hammocks and play stickball with actual sticks. They draw pictures in the sand, not with Crayolas. They entertain themselves into the late evening sliding down the hill on a homemade cart. And in doing so they not only have fun, but they learn how to be and stay creative. They don’t have Dancing Elmos and Leapfrog laptops and quite honestly, they don’t need them. Sure, any kid would love Christmas morning filled with new toys, but these kids don’t have, and most likely can’t afford, most of the top 10 toys of the year. So perhaps their creativity is born from necessity, but either way, let’s keep it growing. Let’s allow our kids to explore, create, and learn, without needing much more than that box, that cardboard tube, and some string.
“Children are fascinated by the ordinary and can spend timeless moments watching sunlight play with dust. Their restlessness they learn from you. It is you who are thinking of there when you are here. It is you who thinks of then instead of now. Stop. Let your children become the teachers, and you become the student.” Borrowed from The Parents’s Tao Ching.
I am not a saint and I know that chances are, I will still buy Lucy a few Christmas gifts this year. Tradition and nostalgia still dictate a lot of my decisions and I look forward to seeing prettily wrapped gifts under the tree. But I also hope to gift Lucy something more meaningful this year (and for years to come) – the joy of giving to others, the beauty of exploration, and the knack for creativity. Maybe, instead of wrapping her gifts in a box, I will actually gift her the box and see what happens.