What I want my teenager to know about Christmas

Being a parent has changed how I think about life in more ways than I can count. It requires a new mindset…a sacrificial one. And it often shows me the ugliest parts of myself. Can I get a witness?

How we celebrate Christmas as a family has definitely been a part of this revelation…this new way of thinking…especially as my kids have gotten older and have the ability to grasp the deeper meanings and traditions beyond Santa Claus and havoc wreaking little elves.

What I want my teenager to know about Christmas...about busyness, family drama, traditions and more. And the Christmas we have left before they start leaving home and bringing back "special friends" I can count on one hand. Sigh.

This year I took the time to intentionally write down the things I wish I had truly understood about Christmas specifically, and celebrations and traditions in a more general sense that I want my children to know now that they’re getting older. Not that I gave my kids a huge long lecture or made them read my list for posterity’s sake. For me, it was just a way to have some intentional talking points throughout the month when the opportunities arise.

Car rides are great opportunities for awkward conversations by the way, because no eye contact is involved, so save the tricky ones for those moments when you’re running them around.

What I want my teenager to know about Christmas:

…including but not limited to family drama, traditions, cookie exchanges, and why they didn’t get an Elf on the Shelf.

All the things I want my teen & tween to know about Christmas traditions, family drama, and more...Click To Tweet

There are many ways to celebrate Christmas. Ours is just one. It’s neither right nor wrong. It’s us. And it will look different every year. That saying that’s become so popular…”You do you” applies so well to all things having to do with Christmas. We’ll always have our traditions that stick (like how we call every present a mug), but some years we’ll have to let an old tradition go or embrace a new tradition. I love that you guys have always rolled with it, especially knowing that change is on our horizon.

Christmas is mostly fun for our family, but look around…it’s not that way for everyone. Be kind. Look for opportunities to be helpful. There are many to be had if you’re watching for them.

Christmas is busy. And that can either be a fun thing or it can drive you batty. It can be a part of the way you celebrate Jesus’ birth…throwing yourself into the swirl of celebrations, extra opportunities to serve at church in music or missions, or busyness can become the very thing that distracts you from the heart of Christmas…Christ. I’ve struggled with this big time throughout my adult life. Sometimes we can create the space to celebrate quietly, but sometimes the most beautiful moments will be found in the busiest parts of Christmas. There’s not an easy answer for this one, guys, but I hope you’ll learn to embrace both the busy and the stillness and most of all…Jesus, there in the middle of it all.

Retail workers are people, too. Retail is one of the most thankless jobs in the world during the holiday season. I speak from experience, young ones. Take time to look cashiers in the eye and thank them. Smile. Be an exception to the rule. If you’re feeling grumpy, do yourself and them a favor and go to the self-checkout lane or do your shopping on Amazon Prime and avoid the madness altogether.

And about those bell ringers…Empty your pocket change into their bucket and maybe add a dollar if you’ve got one. It’s for a wonderful cause and I know some amazing people involved in the Salvation Army. Someday I’ll share their story with you. In the mean time, ask your Siri to tell you what kind of work the Salvation Army does. They are life changers in the middle of brokenness and devastation, well established and organized on the front lines.

[contextly_sidebar id=”BHolOTMFt9NWLuvccuTrUIwiG3ETzCN0″]Sometimes being around extended family isn’t easy. You are so fortunate to have a family unbroken by divorce or full of drama and angst, or at least you haven’t witnessed that in our immediate family. But drama’s there. We’re all just a bunch of humans, and humans make mistakes and hurt people and act like jerks. Log in to Facebook and you’ll se exactly what I’m talking about. We need to give each other an extra dose of grace during the holidays. Often the underlying causes for stupid behavior are magnified when we most want the warm fuzzies to be a guaranteed thing in our family gatherings. If only it could be so.

Speaking of family…not all of your Christmas traditions need to happen in the confines of our family unit. Start a new one with your friends. Meet at the mall and do your Christmas shopping together. Or have a white elephant gift exchange at the local coffee shop and drink hot cocoa. Friends are a precious commodity, especially once you move away from home. Start fostering those relationships now.

Don’t buy things for yourself in November or December unless it’s an actual need…like an ugly Christmas sweater for that party or…you know…socks. It could cause someone to have to return a carefully selected gift. Save your money so you can buy gifts for the special people in your life instead of begging it off of me. Trust me on this one…it’s a wonderful thing to be able to give a gift that you paid for with your own hard-earned cash. You’ve already experienced it a few times, so remember that feeling.

Your wish list does not equal mom & dad’s shopping list. It’s our joy and privilege to be able to buy you gifts for Christmas, but that’s not what the main focus of Christmas should be. Be grateful for what you get and be thankful for the opportunity to give to others. I think you guys get this pretty well, actually, but we could all use that reminder once in a while.

There is so much satisfaction and joy to be found in taking your time to pick out or make a thoughtful gift and then give it. I’m no Martha Stewart, but every now and then I love to get my crafting game on. The Christmases where I took the time to make a few gifts were the ones that brought me the greatest joy. They were simple and often times given from the greatest place of sacrifice because our budget was tight. Those are the gifts we all remember the most. Giving is the best.

I know. I KNOW. Getting gifts is fun, too. Remember to write thank you notes, or send a text or an email. Or, hey…maybe even Facetime while you open it the gifts. I’m pretty terrible at this, but it means so much if you’ll take the time to say thank you, especially to the people who don’t get to be there to see you open your gift in person.

You had your fun with Santa. Be sure to play along with the younger ones and let their parents decide when and how to tell them about how they enjoyed being Santa for their children. I loved it so much…being a part of that magic. But man, what a relief it was to let it go. Also? I can’t tell you how happy I am that the nefarious elf on the shelf didn’t rise in popularity until you were on the cusp of too old to believe in that kind of stuff. I. can’t. even. That would have been a perfect storm of unrealistic expectations, failure and perfectionism in my Christmas chaos…the thing that would have caused all the spinning plates to topple. Sorry (actually #sorrynotsorry) if you feel your childhood is incomplete without an elf on your shelf…although the feedback I got was that it was not a big deal. I’m pretty sure you’ll get over the emotional scarring such a glaring omission of a parental obligation may have caused in your life. The takeaway? It’s okay to say no to things that don’t bring you joy.

And lastly (nostalgic sigh)…we only have a few Christmases left together before college and “special friends” start changing our Christmas celebrations, you guys. I can hardly believe it. And so if you see me get all sappy, just make me laugh, okay? And humor me when I tell stories about Christmases past or ask for your help decorating the tree. Or buy me a Starbucks Venti Americano and a piece of chocolate…because you know the way to this momma’s heart.

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Maria Davis

Maria is wife to a handsome tech guru and homeschooling mom of a teen and tween. She's a coffee lover by day, tea lover by night, book nerd, crazy cat lady, musician and a self-proclaimed geek bent on a life of embracing grace and sharing stories.
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About Maria Davis

Maria is wife to a handsome tech guru and homeschooling mom of a teen and tween. She's a coffee lover by day, tea lover by night, book nerd, crazy cat lady, musician and a self-proclaimed geek bent on a life of embracing grace and sharing stories.

  • Thank you, Maria, for sharing this! I can’t believe that I’m down to my last few years together, too….and making them count will be incredible – thank you for the ideas and reminders!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words. Gah! I’m teary now…can’t imagine what a sap I’ll be that senior year of high school.

  • heathertruett

    So many great things here.

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