First let’s just take moment and say – WOW! That was intense and a little brutal. I am glad the internet “trolls” have moved on.
It’s safe to say that I was very naive to how controversial the Cancelling Christmas post would be. When I agreed to do Good Morning America I sincerely thought what we were doing was an awesome idea. I still do. We as a family are doing service projects all month long and serving others this Christmas instead of presents, how could that be bad? I wish Good Morning America had put more of the footage in about that, but the story’s focus seemed to be more on the naughty versus nice. Regardless, I think they did a good job and the kids had fun doing the interview. I think it was obvious they are happy and good kids based off of how they are reacting to this.
I was even more naive about how a story can catch fire and spread like crazy! I thought most people who work in the News industry would take the time to read what I wrote before commenting on it. There were a lot of reporters and radio commentators that commented without ever reading what I wrote. Even those that agreed with me really sensationalized the headline, and in doing so misled readers to assumptions that simply were not true. Some people think this was all some elaborate publicity stunt. If you know me, you know how ridiculous that claim is.
The post was written for our normal readership, Moms in the trenches doing their best to raise good moral kids. If I had known the whole world would be reading the post I probably would have worded it differently. I would’ve focused more on entitlement in general and been careful to specify that was what we were fighting. I have great boys. They are well behaved and truly amazing. But, like most middle class children they have everything they have needed and wanted almost at their fingertips the minute they want it. It is not just a fault of our parenting, it’s largely a result of the comfortable circumstances our kids live in. I want my boys to be aware of others and to be aware of how blessed they are. While our circumstances are a blessing and I am grateful for them, I can also raise awareness in our children so they understand and are aware of their blessings. That is what our decision this Christmas really boiled down to.
Would I still have written it if I had known about the negative backlash coming? Absolutely! I think the message needs to get out there. Parents now seem more worried about what their kids think than they are about molding their children into future members of our society. Our country is not going to be in a good position if the next generation is a bunch of narcissists. Think I’m exaggerating? Go talk to a teacher in the public school system! They were my biggest supporters and many said they wished every parent in their classroom would do what we are doing.
I think the reason my post irked so many people was because we did this as a consequence to our kids behavior. Somehow the word consequence has become synonymous with punishment. I never used the word punishment. What we are doing is done out of love, not anger and we are making sure that it is a positive experience. Every choice we make has a consequence. The definition of consequence is: an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome. Consequences by definition are neither good nor bad. I want my kids to understand that their behavior and choices matter, so we try (as much as possible) to have natural consequences rather than punishments. If our society teaches kids there are no consequences we do them a huge disservice for their future lives. My kids were expecting the world without giving much thought to others. The natural consequence is that we are giving them opportunities to give and not receive this Christmas season. We are making it fun and enjoyable. Usually we have our scripture advent inside our countdown box, but this year we did good deeds instead.
I got a lot of great ideas from A Girl and a Glue Gun. Here are some of the fun activities we have done so far.
Wrote letters to a terminally ill girl who loves Christmas Cards
Had a FREE cookie stand in our neighborhood and got others involved
Put quarters in the gumball machines at the mall and Walmart
Bought gifts for Toys for Tots
Made gifts for the Highway Patrol officers in our area
Made cookies for the school bus drivers
We also started our 12 Days of Christmas Nativity. I created printables to go with each day that are free for download. Every night each boy gets to run a secret mission and they love it. While others criticized us for being to harsh, there was the other side that said if we didn’t make it hurt the lesson wouldn’t stick. I totally disagree with that. If we make them miserable this year they might really hate Christmas and need counseling in the future. We turned this season into a great teaching opportunity in a positive way.
So many of the haters didn’t take the time to read the post or admitted that they themselves have never been parents. To those people, I say enjoy your daydream. I had all sorts of parenting ideals until I became a parent. You can be the “perfect” parent with the “perfect” plan, but what you cannot account for in your dream parenting world is your children’s own personalities and desires and the influence society has on shaping kids. I love the quote that says, “sooner or later, we all quote our Mothers!” It’s true. Some things you just can’t fully understand until you have done it.
Another big compliant against what we are doing is that we should have been teaching this to them when they were younger. I will admit there is some truth to that. When our kids were young, we like every other young parent wanted to make them happy. We loved giving them presents, and we still do. It’s magical! We have always been involved in service projects, but we didn’t involve our kids as much as we should have. Part of that was because they were too young to understand, but also because we didn’t want them to spill the beans and say anything to the people we were helping. Young children are not the best secret keepers! If we could do it all over again we would go back and do one meaningful gift each and we would have found better ways to have our kids participate in those activities.
Obviously entitlement is something that many people are struggling with. So many of the people who were angry and against what we were doing seemed to think that the true joy of Christmas lies in getting things. I feel so sorry for them, because they have never truly experienced what the real magic of Christmas is about. The backlash to my post proves my point, that Christmas has become an entitlement not only to children, but for many adults too. I wonder if any of the rude commenters would have insulted a single Mom or poor parents who don’t have expendable income for Christmas presents? Does that make them bad parents? HECK NO! One of the best e-mails I received was from a Mom in exactly those circumstances. She told me how she felt guilty that she couldn’t give her kids any gifts this year. She thanked me for reminding her what Christmas is really about. That email right there was worth every negative comment.
I know many people are saying, “if they have learned the lesson then one little present for them wont hurt.” I believe it will undermine everything we have done. We told them our gift budget and we had them help us decide how to spend that on others. If we still give them a gift we are teaching them poor money management skills and enforcing that they will always get something, which is exactly what got us here in the first place! The one exception I am making is their school Christmas store. Everything is $1 and with their own money they can buy a present for every member of our family if they choose. I have chores available for hire, so they can each earn the money. Christmas morning won’t be devoid of gifts as we never forbid our family and their friends from giving them presents! Our gift this year just won’t fit under the tree, but I know they will carry it in their hearts forever.
Parenting is hard. Do we make mistakes? Yes! Any honest parent would have to admit they also make mistakes (or their kids will do it for them)! That is what parenting is, trying new things, when what you are doing is no longer working. That is why I write this blog and read other blogs. I love getting new ideas and adapting them to my family. It’s time to support each other doing our best, not waste our time judging each other. Each child is different and while I am not perfect, I am the perfect Mom for these three special boys who were sent to me.
I am so grateful that we are taking the meaning of Christmas back to what it should be – the birth of our Savior. We have talked so much more about it this year. We are doing all our normal Christmas traditions and this year they just mean more. Every night this month as we have done our Christmas book countdown the boys have been more still and there has been more peace when we have cuddled and read together. It has been wonderful! I think one commenter summed it up perfectly. Her words in response to our Cancelling Christmas were, “Sounds to me like this will be their first true Christmas.”
I would have to agree.
You can read the follow up on how our Christmas morning went here.