For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
I love Christmas! Every year I look forward to Christmas music, Christmas decorations, Christmas goodies, and yes, like everyone else, Christmas presents. Both giving and receiving.
For many, the giving of gifts, becomes more of a stressful event than a joyful experience. Due to a lack of financial resources, we find ourselves dreading more than looking forward to this magical season. Single parents in particular, especially if the other parent is unavailable, seem to suffer the most.
For much of my son’s young life, Christmas was difficult on me. From the time he was four years old, it was just the two of us. Many Christmas’s were financially tight, so guilt would set in as I got caught up in the commercialism just like everyone else. Add to it, the peer pressure as he became a teenager, to have the coolest stuff, and you can imagine how much added pressure I felt to provide said cool stuff.
My son is now twenty six years old and serving in the Air Force. Before I go on, I’d like to share something he wrote for me to share with you. I asked him for his thoughts on having grown up in a single parent home with limited resources much of the time.
Here are his thoughts penned for you:
Christmas was sometimes tough for my Mom I think. But I don’t really remember it that way. Mostly what I remember from Christmas doesn’t even have to do with presents. I remember putting up lights on the house. Hanging ornaments on the tree. Passing out candles for the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. Making apple pie.
Of course it got to me sometimes, when some of my friends had new video games or the newest pair of soccer cleats. The main reason that I didn’t let it get to me was my Mom’s honesty about our situation and her promise that I would always have what I needed, even if it wasn’t the best of the best. Since she was honest with me I understood our situation and was able to appreciate so much more the little things when they did come.
What is most memorable for me is the quality time we spent together. Playing ping- pong and cribbage, running around with my dog Striker in the house, racing home after church to watch Alias and so much more. When we did things together, having things didn’t matter.
Words cannot adequately express my thankfulness and admiration of my Mom. She sacrificed so much and strived incredibly hard to provide for me growing up. That means more than any new pair of jeans or video game could.
As you can imagine, I cried when I read these words from my son. Tears spill again as I thank God for those tough financial days that have had an impact on my son for the better.
I share this with you in hopes of bringing peace and hope to those who may also be feeling inadequate to meet the expectations of children and themselves.
One of the things my son eluded to was that I was honest with him about our financial situation. He knew I would not go into debt just to buy gifts and why. He also knew he would always have what he needed and a few of the things he wanted along the way. I am most thankful that he also knew and still does know, the true meaning of Christmas.
What ever you do, do not fall for the guilt trap of feeling like you must provide everything to make up for the lack of a two parent home. Can I hear and AMEN!? Many will fully understand what I mean.
I think we must have a malfunction in our brains that creates such nonsense. That is the exact opposite of what our children need from us!
Instead, what they need is our love, discipline, encouragement and trust. More than gifts, they need to know we are not going anywhere. They need to know they are safe and have a parent who is their biggest fan. No amount of money can buy such priceless gifts to our children.
Okay, so what’s a parent to do when money is tight and Christmas is calling. I may be a little late to the party here, but try to plan ahead. After Christmas this year, look at the huge sales for gifts for next year.
This year would be a good time to start a new tradition. Taking your children somewhere to serve others really does help them to understand the real meaning of the Christmas season. We had a soup kitchen we served at, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. Priceless life lessons for both of us.
Buy multiple, small, inexpensive gifts. They like the opening part, so several small items will make even teenagers delight in your thoughtfulness. Just ask my son, he still enjoys opening his very own box of Chips Ahoy cookies and Little Debbie treats. Love that boy!!
Have you started an ornament collection yet? Ornaments are inexpensive and give them something to look forward to each year in adding to what will be their very own Christmas tree someday. Look for ornaments that will remind them of this time in their lives. The re-living of each ornament is a memory that keeps on giving year after year as you place them one by one on the tree.
If you are able to purchase something you know will have them hugging the stuffing out of you, make it a challenge to find. I loved leaving clues all over the house, each leading to the other, until the moment of finding the gift finally came. I’m not sure which of us had more fun!
I could go on, but I think you get the point. It’s not necessarily the amount of money spent, it’s the thoughtfulness and effort that matter. Our children need to learn this from us far more than they need us to spend endless dollars on gifts that will soon be forgotten.
Oh, one more thing. Depending on the age of your children, think about writing a letter and framing it for them. The letter should be about how much you love him or her and the things you are the most proud of. Seriously, this is one of the least expensive gifts (dollar store for frame) you will give, but the one that will be kept for a lifetime. Heartfelt words are priceless. Try this one for anyone on your Christmas gift giving list. It’s sure to be a hit!
Regardless of how you navigate the Christmas buying season, I pray, above all, that you and your loved ones will experience great joy, and build wonderful memories as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Heavenly Father, I pray for each person reading these words as they ponder this time of year. Please help each of us to remember the beauty of Christmas as we give to others and show the love of Christ. May each of us know You more fully as each day passes. In the matchless name of our Lord Savior and birthday Boy. Amen.
Merry Christmas and God bless you!
In His embrace,