Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Cutting Through the Noise

holidays-together

The holiday catalog from a popular retailer arrived in the mail recently, and our two sons had a great time looking through the pages and finding countless items they wanted to play with. With every page turn came exclamations of “That’s my favorite!” and “That is just like, so awesome!” They tore, cut, and glued their “most favorite” photos to paper as we talked about what they’d like to do with these new toys. When the excitement died down, my mom brain took over.

“These prices are crazy! Where is all of this stuff supposed to go? Don’t we already have something like this?”

This time of year can be overwhelming! One of my roles as a parent is to make the most of the fun by managing expectations and what is realistically possible. While it would be exciting in the moment to buy everything their hearts desire and watch the joy on their faces as they open everything, it is not at all realistic. And really, where is all of this stuff supposed to go?

Our children are inundated with so much information on a daily basis, through TV commercials, catalogs, and/or peers. Honestly, we as adults are flooded too! It can be challenging to cut through all of the noise. As parents, my husband and I look for strategies for our family to focus on each other instead of focusing on things.

A few years ago, I came across the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, and Something you read strategy for gift giving. We’ve done this for the past two holiday seasons, and it has really helped to focus us on being thoughtful and specific with gift giving. We’re also able to talk about wants versus needs, and the boys aren’t nearly as overwhelmed by stuff and can fully enjoy discovering their gifts. This allows us to all enjoy each other a bit more, and is much easier to organize! How will you and your family cut through the noise?


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What Does This Season Mean for Your Family?

holiday-magic

Every family has their own idea of what traditions the holiday season should hold. After having children, my wife and I have discussed traditions and the societal influence of the holiday season. Imagine if the only thing that you knew about Christmas was what you saw on television or in the movies. You might imagine a snowman, elves, and jolly man in a red suit with white beard racing on a polar express train to get to Kevin who is home alone before a green grumpy Grinch steals all of this year’s most popular toys, only to be saved by a red-nosed reindeer.

My wife and I come from different backgrounds. She grew up with a vision of a commercial Christmas with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents and special foods. I have a Christian connection to Christmas with a baby being born, along with fitting in some of those same traditions of a tree and presents. How do we as a family unit celebrate and teach our children about the holidays? How do we learn about the holidays, specifically Christmas, for our family?

Working together and having open communication has been extremely important. We have chosen a traditional approach that focuses on our religious beliefs while embracing some of the popular cultural practices. We put up a tree together as a family and have pictures taken with Santa Claus. We spend time visiting a live nativity depicting the birth of Jesus. We will attend our church for a night of music and performance that is very family-friendly. We will be making Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes with grandma. We will exchange presents with family and friends, but we focus on the people and not the gifts. (Although the box was the largest, best toy last year and I’m sure it will be again this year.) We have begun to do random acts of kindness for some people we know and others that we don’t. We will read the story of the first Christmas in the Bible and talk about the blessings we have to be thankful for. We have also begun to plan a trip to have a new experience and memory to celebrate.

We don’t have everything figured out as parents, but we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences that our children will remember. That is what a tradition for the holiday has become for our family. My son already says Merry Christmas and we greet others with a smile.

We realize that everyone has their traditions, including not celebrating the holidays at all. We want our children to grow up and respect that this season is different for different families, and when they have their own families they can even make their own traditions! I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday season, or Delightful December.


New Year’s Eve Celebration

family-time-holidayCelebrating New Year’s in our house is almost as anticipated as Christmas morning. I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when I told her I wanted to go to a friend’s house for New Year’s Eve. She was so disappointed that we all wouldn’t be together to ring in the New Year. So, I remembered this when I had children and decided to make it amazing while we had our time together.

Every year the festivities are something different than the year before and every year we try to top the last. First thing on our list, FOOD! Each person gets to pick whatever they want to be on the menu! ANYTHING! This gets kinda crazy! One year we had macaroni and cheese, shrimp cocktail, bowtie pasta, steak, mussels, a cheese tray and a veggie tray. The kids love going to the grocery and picking whatever they want. Then, we have to have champagne (for the adults) and sparkling grape juice (for the kids) served in wine flutes.

To top it off, we…have…games! I must say that since “Minute-to-Win-it” came out we have had so much fun! Every year we fill up balloons with random things to do at different times during the night and the kids love popping them and going crazy! We always have the TV station on the Rockin’ New Year’s Eve NYC ball drop, and we have dance parties and play board games too. The kids love it! And we “old folk” parents get a kick out of it too. At midnight our tradition is to bang pots and pans outside and yell “Happy New Year!” as loud as we can!

I know the time is coming when my kids won’t want to hang with mom and dad during New Year’s Eve, but for now these memories we have made are amazing! Maybe they will continue on our celebratory traditions with their families, but for now it’s just my favorite part of the year!


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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!