When we had nothing, we did our best every year for Christmas to make it as exciting as we could without getting evicted in January. We would open store credit cards and charge them up and expect to pay the minimum until tax time when we could hopefully pay off Christmas. It was a vicious cycle and the bills would often rack up and not always get paid off come April. But those faces on Christmas morning when the tree was just flooded with gifts! Even if half of them were from the dollar store, they were small and they didn’t know.
Fast forward to my first year with LuLaRoe. We had money! I bought so many gifts it was ridiculous! So many wonderful things, their whole wishlist, which was probably made spontaneously while just browsing a toy catalogue. I even bought them a bounce house that we inflated and took up the entire basement so they could bounce inside on Christmas morning. I felt great about it…until a few days later. All the wonderful toys had now just added to the fantastical amount of clutter in 1000 square foot home that contained 6 people. Pieces were already missing. Things were already broken. And I realized, we had just bought more things. THINGS. EVERYWHERE. That will be our very last things Christmas.
I know many a blogger has written about giving your children experiences and not things, well add me to the list. Maybe my message is not new, but it’s still true and it has changed my children and their expectations. Last year, as our lives were rapidly changing, so was our mindset. We wanted out of the clutter. We wanted out of the things. We had a new perspective and a deep desire to DO things, instead of OWN things. We planned a December Trip.
It started simply enough. Renna had saved money all year to buy an American Girl Doll. There was supposed to be a pop up American Girl store locally, but I heard from many it was nothing like the real experience. So I made plans to take Renna to a real store. Then I started thinking about Chicago…I love Chicago…so many cool things to see and do. So we booked it! We took off for Chicago and explained repeatedly to the kids that this was Christmas. Santa was still coming but Santa only brings one thing. “We might buy one other present each to open, but the trip is your gift.” And we stuck to it. We hopped a train to Chicago, which was an adventure all it’s own. We stayed on the Magnificent Mile. We could see the water from our hotel room. We went to Water Tower Place with the American Girl store. We went to Shedd’s. We randomly caught a movie while we were there. We went to the Children’s museum and we explored the city. We created memories. When we got home, none of those broke. None of them took up physical space. None of them were tossed aside like junk. One year later, they’re still talking about Chicago. And they’ve been on a real train, they’ve Uber-ed. They’re traveled now 😉
On Christmas morning I was PETRIFIED! I was like oh my goodness, this is going to be awful. They’re going to be so upset there are only 2 presents to open. They’re going to cry. I am the worst mom EVER! But it wasn’t. They weren’t. They didn’t. I wasn’t. They took their time. They opened their one gift from Santa and one gift from us, slowly and thoughtfully. They took turns. They took almost two hours rotating and opening 8 gifts total and truly exploring and loving what they were given. They were so grateful and happy. It is truly one of my proudest parenting moments to this day. I have raised children who understand gratitude. I have children who knew how lucky they were. I have children who will forever carry their Christmas journey with them.
We’re off again this year! We went a little more relaxed than originally anticipated, but we are going to splash at Great Wolf Lodge, and then road trip slowly and unplanned to Atlanta Georgia! Off to explore another city. See another Zoo and Aquarium, and see whatever happens across our path on the way to and fro. The tree will not be flooded. The tree will be pretty bare underneath. But the things they do get on Christmas morning will be the one or two things that actually bring them joy. And we will get an adventure.