5 Tips to Cut Down Your Whine Consumption this Christmas
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
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I love Christmas. A lot.
It's the holiday season. And — for something completely different— I'm tired, work is hectic, the kids seem inexplicably hyped up (the threat of Santa does literally nothing!), I have no idea what to get anyone for Christmas — plus no time to get to the shops to buy any gifts, and the weather is god awful.
It's also the season of cheer. I'm actually something of a Christmas fanatic (I know, it bewilders me too). The first Christmas carol I hear over the loudspeaker in the supermarket gives me a spring in my step. I put up my decorations in November. And I love that all the Christmas paraphernalia is out in shops in October.
It all makes me so happy — the decorations, the carols, the AHHH-MAZINGLY awful Christmas movies, the kids' excitement, the food!
As a teenager I worked in a toy store. It was the epitome of Christmas hysteria and mayhem. My days were filled with cranky parents who, for some reason, had promised their children THE most popular toy and were then trying to purchase said toy two days before Christmas.
I watched mothers wandering, exhausted, dazed and confused, just before midnight, looking as though they weren't really certain where they were, like mole women who'd escaped the dark underground prison and were away from their children for the first time in a year.
Approximately 43 times per hour, I would witness kids refusing to let go of the toy they want, while their parents warn that a creepy dude with a beard is always watching them, and then resort to trying to prise tiny grips free from the merchandise.
And you know the sound of the most annoying toy your kid owns? Imagine spending all day in a room filled with hundreds of those toys, being pressed. All. Day. Long.
In short, people were rude, kids screamed and I just sang along to the carols and lived my best life.
Now, with children of my own, I can understand those poor parents and their gift buying plights. Children bring so much joy to Christmas time, while simultaneously having the ability — with their incessant whinging and exhaustion induced emotions — to suck all the fun out of Christmas.
When my eldest was very small, I decided that we needed to make a concerted effort to make sure Christmas didn’t become the kind of presents grab that would put Black Friday shoppers to shame.
I'm not by any means an expert. My kids aren't perfect. But we do make a big effort to temper the greed and whinging, and get everyone into the festive and generous spirit. So I thought I’d share the ways I try to keep my kids grounded and stem the incessant flow of ‘I want’ that happens at Christmas time.
1. A list of one
One may be the loneliest number, but that’s all they get to ask for. Wish-lists for Santa consist of one present only.
It doesn't matter how much they equivocate in the lead up, or how much they say they want a bike AND that Ninjago Lego set, or how much complaining occurs, you write one thing — and one thing only — on your letter to Santa.
2. Everyone makes a list - but not of presents
We all write up a list of the things about Christmas that we love and that we’re looking forward to. Putting up the tree, eating trifle, going to the beach, watching Christmas movies, taking out dog to visit Santa, reading Paddington and the Christmas Surprise for the 486th time. It’s all on there. And guess what, it’s almost never about presents!
3. Toy swap
Everyone picks something (for the kids, it’s a toy) that we’ve decided we’ve outgrown, and we give to charity.
We talk about how we don’t have room for all the old toys AND all the presents that Santa might — will definitely, if everyone's well behaved — bring us. So we better make room for all that cool new stuff!
4. We buy for someone less fortunate
We have lengthy discussions about how not everyone is as lucky as us. (As always, I’m too real with my kids and need to rein it in — a five year old and two year old probably aren’t ready to hear about white privilege.)
I also ask the kids what it is we have that makes us so lucky. (Hint: it's not all about toys.)
And then we go to the shops and buy something for someone less fortunate. The kids choose the presents. And they actually get really excited about it.
5. We think about what other people might like
Buying for others does sometimes evoke that same frenzied consumerism that we all (**cough cough** — I mean, the kids, it's really just them, never me) can easily fall into. But we try to keep it focused on thinking about other people, making someone else happy, how they will feel when they unwrap that gift.
What do you think Nonna wants for Christmas?
Hmmm…. No, I don’t think she does.
But actually thinking through what someone else would want, can bring out such a sweet side in kids.
*** Note: I am not recommending that you actually take your children shopping with you. Just involve them in the decision making. I do not accept any liability for the tantrums, tears or swearing that occurs when children are included in the Christmas shopping experience.
Bonus tip: get wrapping
Getting the kids wrapping presents and writing cards is another way to get them excited about giving. What a joy, on Christmas morning, to see a little one actually want to pause unwrapping their own gifts, so that they can give something not just receive.
Plus doesn't everyone — mostly grandparents — love a hand written, hand drawn card.
I also use my kids' drawings and paintings as wrapping paper. Better for the environment (and reduces the piles of junk, umm, I mean the collections of masterpieces, that are stored in my home), it looks great, and it's much more interesting than boring old store bought wrapping paper.
Good luck with the festive season whinging! Let me know how you go with these tips or if you have any suggestions of your own.
What I'm reading right now
I'm getting festive with Karen Swan's latest, The Christmas Party. Karen Swan releases a new Christmas book each year (not a series) and they are always page turners, with evocative descriptions of pine trees and snowy scenes. They are a beautifully welcome contrast to our sweltering Australian Christmases. And her books usually have a delicious twist (which I'm really looking forward to!)