It's Christmas Eve, the stockings are hung, the little tree shining pretty at the front of the bus, kids watching "Year Without a Santa Claus", gluten free cookies are finished baking, and we have... the air conditioner on. Such an interesting mix! It's really a lovely evening, but muggy in here from the baking, so it's only on for a moment. The kids are finding a warm Christmas to be a little disconcerting here in South Texas, but otherwise, they are having just as wonderful of a Christmas as ever.
Over the last few years I've felt a need to reduce Christmas expectations, partially for financial reasons, but partially because the materialistic frenzy didn't seem necessary to me, and seems to cause more stress during the season. Now presents include one main "Santa" gift, (not that they don't know the truth about Santa, but I get a plate of cookies and milk if I play the game), and if that one isn't too indulgent, one lesser present, plus a chocolate or small stocking token or two. That's really about it. Grandparents are on tight budgets as well, so materialistic expectations are kept minimal. We also do not provide them with money to buy gifts for one another, and have never really expected gifts from siblings. That is one thing that would probably be a nice lesson, as they would have to thoughtfully pick out something for a sibling, but in the past they rarely had income, and I couldn't spare money to just give them. This year they blew it all at Disney World, and prefer that to getting a gift from a sibling at Christmas. The twins manage money a bit more now as young adults, and they have purchased some small gifts, but one additional reduction of holiday pressure is to not bother having the younger kids exchange gifts until they are old enough to manage their money by themselves, pick out gifts themselves, and if possible, have their own license to go get it themselves. Keep it simple.
As for decorations, they have gone from a big tree and lots of decorations, to simply stockings and a little 3' tree. I don't know why I initially felt some guilt for not going all out for Christmas gluttony, but I shouldn't have. They were all so giddy to get the little 3' tree and attacked it with as much enthusiasm as a 7' tree.
Kids adapt the the culture they are presented. When it comes to this fact, I admit we are at an advantage. Our kids do not have heavy pressures of an exterior culture dividing them from their family culture. This isn't to suggest they are sheltered. Honestly, anyone who thinks my kids are sheltered has not read this blog. The difference is in where their identity lies. They identify with their life in a family where they can relax contently. From the outside, it may seem in many ways to be one upheaval after the next, with pressures of performing whether you feel like it or not, and very little privacy. However, here in our little, very modest bus, they have unconditional love and are part in the shaping of our own family culture, instead of trying to adapt to the mold of another that has been placed upon them, having to fit into it for their sense of self-worth. There is where the pressure really lies, not in having to sing through a cough or without enough sleep. Audiences are actually quite forgiving, especially of kids. Peers and the media, on the other hand, are often not. I thank God more than ever for this around the holidays. No one is trying to keep up with the Jones, or the coolest girl in the class. No one has any need of expensive athletic shoes, or designer jeans. They are able to take joy in the small things.
Sean has asked me in the past if we're poor. I have to ask him by what standard is he measuring? Poor compared to many impoverished countries in the world? Goodness no! Poor compared to your average middle class American? Maybe we do tip in that direction at times, though the Lord has always provided. However, I have a feeling one of the best gifts God will have ever given us will be this time of sacrifice.