Questions answered about "When we changed the way we do Christmas"

I was SO excited about your response to last week's post about how we cut out excess at Christmas! Six years in and we're still loving how we're doing it.

I received loads of texts, messages, and emails with questions about Santa, Grandparent's gifts, and so much more. I thought I'd share some of them... in case you were wondering, too!

Q: Does Santa still bring gifts for your kids in addition to the Four Gifts?

A: The only gifts Santa brings is what fits inside their stocking.

They do however, receive one (family) present on Christmas eve, which is typically matching PJ's and something to do that night after our church service: board game, movie, that sort of thing!

Q. What do you do about gifts from aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc?

A: This shocks people, but we're very firm with our families on both sides. It has been THE hardest part about making a transition to doing gifts this way. 

We tell our families to please either give a Family Gift (we've gotten things like: a ping pong table, board games, movie tickets in the past) OR one gift per child. ONE.

In the beginning, some family members thought we were being ridiculous so they still gave a massive amount of gifts per kid. We had warned them to please not do this...if they didn't respect our wishes, we would give some of the gifts away. And that's exactly what we did. The kids still opened one...and we donated the rest. They weren't even unwrapped (it would have been tempting to keep them if we had!). Feelings were certainly hurt, but they got the idea we were serious.

It's not always easy...but a lot of parenting isn't. Especially when you're going against cultural norm.

Q. How do you get your older kids on board?

A: It's shocking to see such gross entitlement in our children sometimes, isn't it? Internationally adopted kids are no different...it's crazy how fast they forget about their past life of great need (even just for shoes or food!) and ask, ask, ask for things!

This isn't just a cute little tradition for Christmastime. As parents we need to realize this is an every day of the year kind of counter-cultural decision.

There is no way our older kids will get on board and realize the benefits, reasons, and impact on their own lives if they don't see it played out through the rest of the year. Children should not be given everything they want. We know this in theory, but need to make sure we live it.

When you're out and at Target (for example) and they ask for a random toy you pass, do you purchase it?

I'm not talking about the one they're saving up for...or the one they've been talking about for the past four months and you decide to surprise them with, just because. It's ok to purchase treats for them. But how often do we buy things on a whim, because they're whining or say they "need" it.

One of our kids said he needed pants the other day. When looking in his closet, I found eight pairs of perfectly fine pants that fit him well. He did not need pants. He wanted some. So I obviously said, "no" and told him why. He understood and even chuckled at himself as I pulled each of them out and showed him the large stack!

Helping our children comprehend gift giving as an act of love and not obligation, is huge. This Christmastime Four Gift thing is just a tiny portion of it.

Q: Ok but honestly, do the kids actually like this? Do they wish you did Christmas like everyone else?

What kid doesn't want more gifts? You and I are no different...it's fun receiving things!!

But when the excess gets to the point where you can't remember who gave what gifts, or they have so many presents that they play with something for five minutes before they move on (rarely to touch it again), my question is why?

Why are you doing that to yourself, to them, and to your bank account?

We've been doing this enough years that the kids get excited wondering what one "Want" item they'll get. They try guessing every day and jump up and down with excitement. They know the "Wear" item won't be something boring like underwear or socks (although one of our kids LOVES goofy socks, so they'd be thrilled if we did). We'll purchase a favorite player's jersey, glittery shoes that make the girls squeal, that sort of thing.

It truly helps us know our kids better and what they want more than anything at the moment. What are their greatest loves and interests? What's their favorite book series or what's new by their favorite author? What "Something we'll do" gift would take their breath away with excitement?

They know each of these things is coming and are thrilled with anticipation. So yes. Yes, they truly do love the way we do things.

Yours will too, even if there's complaining the first year or two (and there certainly may be in the beginning).

We don't want to be a "normal" family anyway...let's teach our children that the concept of living out of the ordinary and counter-culturally is absolutely ok.

Q: We're not going to do this, though I think it's cool. Will you be judging me?

A: Ohmygosh are you kidding? No! Of course not!! You may not be doing this exact thing, and that's ok! Don't worry...I'm not going to look at what's under your tree and get all lame and up on my high-horse!

This is meant to be an encouragement to those who are tired of all the excess. That's it. Zero judgements here. Promise.


WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS DO YOU HAVE?? LET ME KNOW!

Want to read the post When we changed the way we do Christmas again? Click here!

Take Joy,

Teresa

P.S. The photos do not show items we're getting the little ones...because I don't want them to accidentally figure any of their gifts out! Just FYI ; )

When we changed the way we do Christmas + printable tags

Six years ago we changed the way we did Christmas. We first began because we had recently brought home some of our adopted kids and felt burdened to just tone-down the excess in life. And in Christmas.

We wanted to be more intentional in our gift-giving with the kids, not simply buying something because they might like it…and then purchase something else because it was on sale and they'd mentioned it once…and then finding another little gift in the back of the closet, saying “Oh yah! I forgot I bought that last year.” You get the idea.

That's how we gave gifts to our kids before switching gears. Can you relate??

For several years in a row we've done the Four Gift Rule. You may have heard of it: Something you Want . Something to Read . Something to Wear .

And last year we switched from Something you Need (because, truly...they have all they need) to instead, Something we'll Do.

This particular gift is a favorite for our kids because we get to do fun one-on-one dates that are right up their alley.

Things like, dinner at a fancy restaurant, tickets to a monster truck rally, heading downtown for the Art Walk, having our nails painted at a nice spa, going to the theatre, or an afternoon at an arcade.

Every family has to be deliberate with dates with their children, and with a family of eight like we do, it takes major intentionality. It's important to us though, so we make one-on-one time happen throughout the year. These Christmastime dates are just a little bigger...a bit more special than simply having hot chocolate and croissants at Starbucks.

The Want gift is probably the hardest to purchase, believe it or not. I think it's because my husband Ben and I have to brainstorm together in finding hands-down, the one gift they want more than any others. It forces us to really know our children and their likes and interests at this exact moment in their lives.

Another of our Christmas traditions circles around giving to others.

One way the kids get excited about this is through World Vision. Right around Thanksgiving, a catalog arrives in our mailbox, each page filled with the possibility of enriching a family's life in a third-world country.

We have the opportunity to purchase animals, fruit trees, honeybees, or even fishing lessons that will not only better an individual, but will likely change an entire community (you can also do this via by clicking here).

We've done this for many years now (we also do it every birthday) and generally, our children decide on a goat because our son Ezekiel had one when he lived in Ethiopia. He often tells us how important that little animal's milk was for them...both for he and his sister, as well as using it as an additional source of income for his widowed mother. Now that we have teenaged Abreham however, he tries to sway his siblings toward one of his favorite animals, because his family owned a farm. So pigs, cows, and chickens are also thrown into the discussion.

Our children obviously love the idea of giving an animal or soccer balls for a school...but there are other opportunities that grip my heart even further.

Care for girls and women, safety for vulnerable children, an insect shield blanket, or building a Ger for a family who lives in 50 degree BELOW zero temperatures in Mongolia. It's so easy to forget all the need around us - both here in our own backyard, as well as abroad.

Our kids work together and decided together how they would like to make a difference in the lives of another family or community. It is them that make the final decision on whatever gift they want to bless others with. I love how empowered they feel by it.

We hope our kids understand that Christmas is about Jesus and not piles of presents, as well as seeing what an incredible impact they can have in the world…even long before they're grown.

Don’t let anyone belittle you because you are young. Instead, show the faithful, young and old, an example of how to live: set the standard for how to talk, act, love, and be faithful and pure.
— 1 Timothy 4:12

How do you keep from letting excess creep into your home during Christmas?

Take Joy,

Teresa

P.S. if you want to use these tags for your own gift-giving, head to The Library to download them!

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