When I became a mother, I developed a renewed appreciationg for Christmas and the holiday season. I remember the excitement of Christmas when I was a child. We decorated the Christmas tree, had big family dinners and enjoyed opening a few presents. A few times, Santa Claus made a special appearance during dinner and gave the presents to us personally! Now that my children are aware of the holiday season and understand who Santa Claus is, I get to live the excitement through them and find joy in doing things with them like baking cookies, wraping presents and decorating the tree.
The holiday season also makes me more aware of my responsibility to teach them lessons about appreciating what they have, understanding the value of giving, and finding joy in sharing time with friends and family. I was just listening to NPR and caught the tailend of a program where a psychologist talked about how children who get a lot of presents for Christmas and in general tend to be less satisfied and less happy. The reason behind it is that they see having everything as the status quo. They expect to have everything, and don't appreciate the effort behind it.
Now that my children are toddlers, my husband and I easily implement the giving guidelines. We give them modests gifts, focus on didactic toys and activities, and apply the rule of "one in-one out" (if they get a new toy, an old one goes to charity). I do wonder, however, what challenges we will face as they grow older and start to compare what they have to what other children have, on their own or because their friends point it out.
The messages we give everyday about appreciating what we have, the importance of being a good person, the focus on substantial character rather than material qualities in others and in themselves will have to be strong and consistent. A child who feels entitled is just a brat, but an adult who grew up feeling that way is usually unhappy and unkind. Their feelings of worth are connected to what they have and, interestingly, the can never have enough. I want my children to be kind, empathetic and happy. Now I just have to figure out how to best help them grow up to be that way.