Last year’s Christmas was so much fun. At three years old, Annalyn finally understood the fun parts of Christmas, making cute crafts and opening every present with uncontrollable glee.
This year, though? This year was different.
Don’t get me wrong! It wasn’t bad. No, we had a great Christmas. It just turns out that Christmas with a 4-year-old is WAY different than Christmas with a 3-year-old.
First of all, she joined the ranks of children everywhere and became a victim of stupid holiday marketing. We never watch TV with Annalyn that includes commercials, but after two months of being bombarded by “what are you asking Santa for?” my normally generous and well-mannered child suffered from a case of the gimmes.
She knows better than to assume she’s getting a new toy or treat every time we visit a store and truly never asks, but this holiday season, she could not resist the mountains of toys filling Every. Stinking. Aisle.[And you know what appeared in every one of those Toy Mountains? A giant dog that barked when you walked by and—I know, because we have the cat version—shed massive amounts of white, plastic hair all over your house. And yes, that would be the exact same toy my child decided she must have.]
I fought against the Marketing Machine by getting Annalyn involved in packing a shoebox for an underprivileged child and by reminding her that some kids don’t get any presents at all. In case you wondered, the shoebox was a great experience, but the “Don’t you know there are starving kids in Africa?” approach didn’t really work for us.
Second of all, my inquisitive child was confused for a full three weeks, trying to figure out WHEN IS CHRISTMAS? Because apparently it’s all a little hard to understand when the grown-ups talk about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, especially when you add in the fact that we went to church on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. And then the fact that we had Christmas get-togethers with family on four separate days, including New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day?Totally confusing.
Finally, it turns out that it is virtually impossible (or, at the very least, extremely difficult) to explain to your 4-year-old child (who asks about 475 questions a day and remembers pretty much EVERYTHING) that the original Santa lived a long time ago and, oh yeah, Jesus was born a long time ago, too. And Christmas is about Jesus’ birth, but Santa brings presents if you’re good. But Jesus loves you even if you’re not good and He died for everyone’s sins because we all sin, but you better not shout, you better not cry.
At one point, Annalyn was “reading” a story out of her tiny pink Bible. It featured St. Nicholas, shepherds, a baby wrapped in cloths and Flynn Rider (from Tangled).
Thanks to Truth in the Tinsel, we read Bible verses and talked about various parts of the Christmas story every day—and Annalyn LOVED that. (Although, full disclosure, we only did one—ONE!—craft from that advent book.) But she also thought that she should be getting a present in her advent boxes each day, too.
And then there was our failed attempt to visit Santa Claus. I didn’t want to ruin the magic of Christmas for my kiddo, but we’d already talked about how the “real” Santa lived long ago. I blame Veggie Tales for this one, since the video she’d been watching since last year, when it didn’t really register, tells the whole story of St. Nicholas. When we went to do the annual sit on Santa’s lap, yes, talk to a stranger, no it’s OK, don’t cry, quick take a picture thing … she was not interested. You know why?
“I don’t want to sit on a fake Santa’s lap! I’m so sad the real Santa lived so long ago! WHY DID SANTA DIE? Wait—did Santa die on the cross for us? Is he alive again? Oh, OK. Why does this church have a fake Santa?”
Thankfully she said this in our car, not in a crowd full of innocent, Santa-believing kids.
Seriously. How did I botch this up so badly? I tried answering every question she had about “is Santa real?” and “can reindeer fly?” with, “What do YOU think?” That did not work. In case you were wondering.
I’m pretty sure she’s not scarred for life. I did try to answer all her questions as honestly as possible without spoiling any holiday magic. And we tried to keep our Christmas shopping simple this year, but it’s just so fun to buy presents for her. So my normally generous but temporarily greedy child did have a little pile of gifts to open on Christmas morning, despite the fact that after a rip-roaring, ear-splitting tantrum on Christmas Eve, we decided to leave her stocking empty because “Santa heard her fit.” (Please. Do not yell at me for this. It killed me to do it, and then it didn’t even really phase her. Probably because the real Santa lived a long time ago.)
When she saw her presents under the tree on Christmas morning, she asked quietly, “Are any of these for me?” When I told they were all for her, she was upset: “But what about YOU GUYS? Where are YOUR presents??” And a couple days after Christmas, she said out of nowhere, “Oh noooo! We forgot to sing happy birthday to God!!!” (We hadn’t. But apparently she can, in fact, forget some things.)
So in the grand scheme of things, the fact that she wanted everyone to have presents, remembered that Christmas is about Jesus’s birthday, looked forward to reading our Bible verses each day during Advent and said “thank you” for almost every single present she received is evidence that she is—WE ARE—doing OK.
But for future reference, just so you know, a Strawberry Shortcake dress-up costume covered in sequins makes a bigger mess than that stupid barking furry dog ever could have.
How did you teach your kids about the meaning of Christmas?