I’d be hard pressed to accept being called a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. From the 1st of December I throw myself heart and soul into it and aside from a few tough years there, we’re back on track. Last year we had three advent calendars on the go for each child (Lego/Playmobil, Book Advent and chocolate!) and this year we’ve make a big song and dance about advent, with everything from interactive movie nights to Christmas Tree Festivals to tea with Disney Princesses. We go all out and end with a lovely (hopefully) Christmas Day.
This year we did something different and new: I had each child write or dictate their Christmas letter to Santa, filled with everything their little hearts desired. This is something I will never do again.
Admittedly, previous years the children were smaller, but they also had TV which exposed them to more advertising than they have now with Amazon Firestick (no advertising) or Netflix (little to no advertising). Of course, in previous years they’ve still mentioned things they wanted, but it’s never been a formalised list, and this year, with this list looming at me from under the Christmas tree, I feel thoroughly deflated, because I know that there’s no way I could possibly provide everything on it, so it feels like I’m a failure as a parent, and I am already awaiting their disappointment come Christmas day (actually, I’m not – I told them straight out that they wouldn’t be getting everything on the list!) but they still have hope!
Ameli’s (7) list included a bunch of toys she’s obviously seen on YouTube, including the £59.99 Hatchimal (are you kidding me?) and a new camera since the battery on hers has stopped charging. There’s a request for some Dan TDM books (the girl is obsessed), so I’ve happily obliged and was pleased to find them reduced on Amazon. Bonus.
She was restrained and only put six things on her list. She’s getting the books, and her grandfather is getting her a little camera. But for the rest, I’ve decided to go back to the things she loves – horses, painting, looking at the stars, writing stories in notebooks – and bought her presents that will hopefully keep her busy long after the toys on her list would have wound up in the bottom of the cupboard with all the other toys.
Her little sister is worse though! Her list of Shopkins-related goodies would bankrupt a Medici. She has so many Shopkins already, and she’s getting an eBay job lot too, but not one of her other interests are represented in her corporate sponsored wishlist! Where are the craft requests? The puzzles, the clothes for her dearly beloved baby dolls? The things she loves to do in the day-to-day?
No, I’m all for Christmas spirit, and I do my best to push the boat out and make memories, but for me, this idea of a ‘wishlist’ for Santa puts pressure on parents that we do not need. I read a survey recently that said we spend on average £300 per child? (It’s higher for teenagers with gadgets and phones).
If you can afford it, fantastic, go for it, have fun, but I know that in our home, most of that stuff will end up at the bottom of the toy box, forgotten and in the way, while their books, painting, crafts, camera and things like horse-riding sessions will last much longer into the year, and be valued a lot more in the long run- even if they don’t come in big boxes with over the top packaging.
So, no. We will be scrapping letters to Santa from our annual festive activities. I don’t need the pressure, the feeling of failure, and the concern over what happens on Christmas morning. And I don’t want my kids thinking Santa is a bottomless resource, nor do I want them to think that everything under the tree comes for free- what value is there to something no one had to work hard for?
I’ll keep sending them videos and phone calls from Santa, keep working on Bookmas and our Advent Activities, keep taking them for carols and Christmas Tree Festivals, keep making Russian Tea and filling the house with the smells and sounds of Christmas, and maybe one day when they look back, they’ll be grateful for the memories we share, without remembering too much of the stuff they didn’t get.
Sorry Santa, we can’t wait to receive your Christmas letter, and you’ll hear from us when it comes to thank you notes, but please don’t wait up for a wish list!