Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Santa Has Elves, We Have Retailers!

Last Friday, after an emotionally charged day, I headed out of the office and straight for my favorite retail stores for some Christmas shopping therapy. Whether receiving an emotional boost or making a dent in their children’s lists to Santa was the goal, lots of people had the same idea. As we did a crazy consumer dance in every aisle to let one person past, in or out, I remarked to one woman, “It sure doesn’t look like we’re in a recession.” Several people heard my comment and agreed with it. From there I headed to another store where I checked out at close.

On Monday morning, while picking up my daily skinny vanilla latte at the local coffee shop, one of the girls who usually serves me (and who I’d bumped into on Friday night with my overflowing cart), asked if I was done with my shopping. “Almost,” I replied. “But I did some serious damage, not only to the list, but to my wallet!”  The other barista behind the counter chimed in the conversation with, “The news reported record breaking sales over the last six days.” Hmm, so I wasn’t the only one who’d broken the bank playing Santa instead of tightening my purse strings during this tough economic period. I have a feeling many parents feel the way I do: Anything for my children.

Knowing why I spent so much money didn’t stop me from fretting over it a little. Why do I feel compelled to get my children every single item on their lists even if I can’t really afford it? I was still pondering this question when I sat down for a workshop entitled “Poverty and Relationships: Working Toward Success” later that afternoon. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I would get an answer for my question.

It goes back to my childhood. I grew up in poverty. Yet my mother spent  ridiculous amounts on my brother and me at Christmas. She didn’t make much money but ran her credit cards up to their limit then paid for her extravagance all year. Why? Because as we learned in the workshop, one of the driving forces for those in poverty is relationships. Providing those materials things was a way for my mother to express love. And even though I would be considered middle class, recession or no, a pile of presents beneath the tree is also my way of expressing love to my children. That and the fact that they still believe in Santa and wouldn’t understand why he had to cut back this year due to the economy. Hence the record breaking sales.

Unlike my mother, I don’t max out credit cards because I don’t have any. This keeps me out of real financial dire straits: If I don’t have the money, I can’t buy it, no matter how much my children may want it. Still, since Christmas and birthdays are really the only time I give them gifts (non necessities) and I don’t have a workshop to produce them in, I’m grateful for everyday low prices, discounts and sales.

As parents there are countless ways to express our love, and I choose to express mine in this particular way.  Of course just as each parent must decide which holidays to observe/celebrate, each must determine when enough is enough regarding spending. A parent’s willingness or ability is subjective and should be respected by others who do things differently. I’m  grateful that while I figure out the right balance for my family,  certain stores make the process more affordable.

If you’re anything like me, Santa can have his elves. We’ll take retailers!

– Tammi

Photograph courtesy of Bill Roehl.


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‘Tis the Season… for Stress!

4C’s Debbie Bruemmer has a few tips for parents to enjoy the holidays, instead of just stressing out about them!

We were celebrating the holiday a bit early this year since my mom is a snowbird and heads to Florida in the winter. I wasn’t really in the mood to have Christmas so soon: I had barely started shopping!

It had already been a stressful morning of cooking, gathering up last minute presents and making sure the kids were appropriately dressed. I was a bit agitated making sure everything was perfect. My college-aged son who I barely ever see anymore even commented, “So this is what I miss on the days I am not at home?” The five of us piled up in the car, filled the trunk with gifts and food and headed out over the river to grandma’s house.

We pulled out of the drive meeting the first snow of the season, and when we turned on the holiday radio station, SpongeBob started singing, “Don’t be a jerk, it’s Christmas.” We were all soon laughing and howling as we listened to the words and sang along.

Holiday time can easily become a time of stress, especially when young children are involved. My best advice for those of you traveling is to keep it simple.

Delegate. Older children are great at helping in the kitchen, and those cookies don’t have to be homemade. Let them cut the cookie dough off the store bought roll and decorate to their liking. Sometimes “rustic” is better than perfect. They can also wrap gifts or hang some holiday decorations on the tree. This is a great way to keep them involved and give them ownership in the holiday festivities. If they can print or write, they can sign the Christmas cards!

Stick to routine as much as possible. I recall when we lived in Columbus but all of our family was in Cincinnati. My husband made the decision that all of our children were going to sleep in their own beds over the holidays. So, we made three separate trips down to Cincinnati but our children slept in their own beds, had a good night’s sleep and were not so irritated and fussy in the car or at relatives’ homes. Even mom and dad felt more rested. If your child still naps during the day, go ahead and let them have it. Showing up a little late at grandma’s house is better than having a crying and cranky toddler. It will be more enjoyable for all!

Watch the sugar. Offer kids a feast of alternatives to the sugary sweets. Carrot and celery sticks can easily transform into “reindeer food.” Open up a pomegranate and eat the seeds, and let the kids count them first! Cut peanut butter sandwiches into triangles, add pretzel “antlers” and some raisins with a cherry tomato “nose” and you have Rudolph. Make food fun and festive. Even grownup waistlines can benefit from these ideas.

Relax. Create some new traditions. Read a holiday book together. Sit by the fire. Sip on hot cocoa. Light some candles. Wrap up in a warm blanket. Watch the snow fall. Take advantage of those teachable moments. Your family tradition can be anything that your family enjoys doing together.

The holidays don’t have to be all about stressing you out. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. The children don’t have to get all the best toys and latest electronics. The holidays are for making memories, being with family and sharing kindnesses. So this holiday season, take some time to slow down and chill-lax!

Photograph courtesy of Geoanne Millares.


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What Do You Do About Santa Claus?

The holiday season is a time for memories and memory-making.  As parents we have the opportunity to  create traditions and build values for our children. Sometimes we bring forth the traditions and values taught to us as children, other times we may decide not to based on our personal values and beliefs. So what do we do about Santa Claus? 4C’s Angie Good and Christine Fields, parents and professionals in the field of early care and education, know that the decision to tell your children about Santa Claus can be a tough one, and that it’s different for every parent, every family and every child.

Angie: As a little girl, Christmas time was always one of my favorite times of the year. I have vivid memories of spending Christmas Eve with my family and tracking Rudolph as we drove home in the late hours of the night. I always seemed to find his red glowing nose gracefully flying through the sky. Once I found him, I urged my parents to drive faster so that I could hurry and get home to bed. Because, as we all know, Santa never comes if you’re awake.

Santa is magical and all the events leading up to that night felt (and still do feel) magical, everything from baking Christmas cookies, seeing the Nutcracker Ballet with my Grandma and all of the things that happened in between. I don’t remember a time not believing in Santa and to this day, I can’t recall how I found out that Mom played that role. What I do remember , and the thing that sticks with me when people ask me if I believe in Santa, is the sheer sense of joy, happiness and magic associated with that jolly old elf.

Christine: We do not do Santa Claus at our house. My husband Jim and I made the decision not to do fictional characters such as Santa Claus, the Tooth-Fairy or the Easter Bunny before our daughter Maggie was born. We jokingly said we were going to have to lie to our daughter enough as she was growing up, we didn’t need to add to it by saying the Tooth-Fairy was going to put something under her pillow.

Although we were joking, ideas like these did influence our decision. I didn’t want to put something fictional such as a big man coming into our house at night time into my child’s head. I think it’s a little creepy that there is a common belief in America that some big man dressed in a red suit breaks into everyone’s house and places presents under a tree. Don’t we set alarms to keep this sort of thing from happening?

Angie: As I began to have children of my own, there was never a doubt that Santa would be welcomed into our house each and every holiday season. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that I would have three very disappointed little people if he missed our stop. My hope is that the traditions that my family and I have shared with Santa Claus create that sense of magic not only for our family, but other families that we encounter. And although my kids certainly get excited to see that one present that Santa will bring that they haven’t even mentioned to me yet, we also talk about the ways in which we can share that magic with others.

My 13-year-old is aware that I play the role of Santa in our house, but I can see the sheer joy he feels when he talks to his younger sisters about that magical night. In my head, I know that Santa isn’t a real human being.  In my heart, when asked by anyone, I do believe in Santa. And as my children grow, I hope that I have provided them with the hope and magic of Santa long after they know the truth.

Christine: Santa, in my opinion, was created to showcase the love and care that goes on throughout the year: he wasn’t created so children could express their wants. “Getting” is hugely emphasized in the media, and sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what you want for Christmas is a family tradition in many families.

In my family, we emphasize what WE can DO for OTHERS. Yes, we celebrate Christmas in December. We celebrate Jesus’ birth. We put up a Christmas tree. We hang up stockings. We put our shoes out for Nikolaus to fill with goodies not because our daughter believes that St. Nick is really responsible for the nail polish in her sneakers, but because it’s part of our heritage, our German family tradition.

But these rituals are about something more than gift-getting. Our daughter Maggie makes presents for family members, and she helps us pick out gifts for friends and family. We talk about what each person likes and dislikes so the gifts are meaningful, and reinforce the connections we feel with family and friends. We make the holiday about family, friends and giving, and we can do that without some man in a red suit breaking into our house.

Angie & Christine: Our families are not so very different. The reasons why we choose whether or not to foster a belief in Santa  in our children reflect many of the same values. We both want the holidays to be a celebration of family and good will and we want to teach our children to be charitable and kind. In the end, what every parent chooses to do should reflect the values and traditions of their family: there’s no right or wrong when it comes to Santa Claus!