The Spirit of the Holidays. Reflections, Week 19

Well, what to say about this week?  Pretty much that I’d rather not write about it at all, but put it into the garbage and bury it six feet under.  It was pretty ‘un-fun.’

Two weeks ago, I commented on how we hadn’t had any resistance in our little school, things were going super smoothly (That was a link! Click it if you want to read about my observations of Elizabeth maturing).  I did not knock on wood, and so that all went down the toilet.  We were finishing up the Thanksgiving unit this week, and during these past two weeks, Elizabeth stormed off four times, saying that she wasn’t going to do the activity, for some reason or other.  Everyday except Friday, I just let her go cool off, then called her back, and we made it through.  Sometimes it was even fun.

I started to wonder if I wasn’t doing things as organized as usual, or if the projects really were too complicated, but no, I don’t really think that’s it upon reflection.  Instead, it’s that time of the year.

Oh yes, now I remember, the holidays.  Not only are parents stressed out with all the stuff they have to do, but my family also have 6 birthdays starting 5 days before Christmas and terminating half-way through January, one of which is Elizabeth’s so requires a birthday party.  This time of the year is so full of excitement and waiting and longing and anticipation and parties and activities and family and presents, presents, present!  It is tooooo overwhelming for a 2-, 3-, or 4-year old, or such as been my experience thus far.  And that the holidays run from Halloween into Thanksgiving, then birthdays and Christmas and New Year’s and then her birthday is just too much.  For Elizabeth, the tantrums don’t seem to end until after all the birthdays and presents are done and over.

This has really gotten me thinking about our decision on how we want to celebrate the holidays here in our little family.  You see, my husband grew up very poor in rural Honduras.  Santa Clause doesn’t deliver presents to poor children in third world countries – did you know that?  I’m not terribly impressed with the materialism of the holidays, and the meaning of Christmas isn’t as important to me as I am not a Christian, so Chepe and I had decided to make our own tradition when Elizabeth was an infant.  We decided that Santa wasn’t something we were interested in pursuing in our own holiday tradition.

But, even so, I’ve been waivering in my resolve recently; Santa Claus seems so embedded everywhere, he is inescapable!!!  I know that the secular holiday just seems to not have any other base (but it does), and so television, music, stores and even the Humane Society really play up the story of Santa Claus.  Good for you if you are able to keep the secret and do all the hard work that it takes to uphold the Santa Claus tradition, but honestly, I’m tired of the ruse all ready.  Everywhere we go, adults ask my daughter, “Is Santa coming to your house this year?”  They don’t ask her if she has behaved well this year so that he will come, they don’t even take into consideration that a possible response might be that Santa doesn’t come to our house at all.  I just hate the question, because there is only one answer that they expect, and we don’t have it to give.  It’s even more irksome than cashiers offering my kids candy without asking me first;  I don’t want you to give my kid candy, and I don’t want you to ask us if Santa Claus is coming to our house this year!

Sorry, it just seems overwhelming.

My cousin told me that her sister-in-law does not do Santa in their house, yet they don’t negate the idea of him either.  Apparently, though he does not deliver gifts to their house, their kids still stay up late at night, fantasizing about him flying his sleigh to drop presents off to other children.  I thought for a moment that this might be a good possibility, but I don’t think it will work for us because all that I had wanted to avoid and replace is still embedded in the lie.

At the beginning of this holiday season, Elizabeth seemed aware that Santa doesn’t come to our house, and asked me directly why he doesn’t.  Trying out the idea of not negating but not encouraging Santa, I just evaded the question and let it hang.  This has gotten us into a place in which she thinks that he will be coming.  But all the anticipation and what-not just makes for a grumpy girl.  I am at the end of my straw with her, so much so that I have begun yoga and meditation at night again and am reconsidering going back to work part-time because I need some time away from the kids.  (But does adding more to our daily life and the stress of touting them here and there really fix things? 😛 )

I am left considering two important things: 1 – Do we, and how do we, have The Talk?  Do we sit her down now and burst her bubble that Santa isn’t coming, or let her carry on as she is with the illusion that Santa is out there and will be flying on Christmas night, and set her up for a great disappointment on Christmas morning when there are no gifts under our tree (we exchange gifts the evening of the 24th as Chepe did in Honduras)?  2 – Much more importantly, what is it that we really wanted to impress by not having Santa Claus a figure in our tradition?  It is important to us that she be grateful for what she has and receives, and learns to give with a happy heart.  We’d like her to learn that, because of poverty, not every child in the world has the privilege of receiving gifts.  We’d like her to learn different traditions celebrated around the world and why they are celebrated.  We’d also like her to learn that the magic of Santa is present in everyday life – every day miracles happen from babies being formed in the womb to the transformation of a tadpole into a frog, from the flight of a bird to the movements of weather around our globe, and from the changing of the seasons to the changes that our bodies go through as they grow.

We’d like her to learn what the real spirit of Christmas-time is, rather than a lie of a fat man who breaks into her house to leave her gifts that she does not have to show gratitude for thereafter.

But how do we get there?  Theory is easy, application is difficult.  In a way, I feel like I am fighting a huge conspiracy – I guess in a way, I am! 

Obviously, something needs to be addressed, but how to go about it is difficult.  My sister told me today that her husband grew up in a family who did not practice the Santa pretense, so I think I’m going to try to speak with him about how his family handled it, particularly what they taught as the spirit of the season and how to respond to other children that do believe in Santa Claus.

My hope is that by being open and frank with Elizabeth, we can move forward with finding a deeper meaning in the holiday season, and it has also made me consider the deeper meanings of life that I want her to learn in and out of our school.  I have been considering our curriculum as well – does the one we use address these deeper questions?  At times, certain units have seemed shallow and I have improvised to delve deeper.  I am planning on purchasing the Global Village School (another link) parent guide for kindergarten for myself after Christmas (with my gift money), because I am really interested in some of the things they touch on, like global citizenship, tolerance, and peace.  I do like the Moving Beyond the Page (and another link!) curriculum, but just can’t decide if it encompasses all that I feel needs to be addressed.  One of the reasons that I am preferring to homeschool in the first place is to be able to explore world traditions, religions, ethics, and how that applies to who my daughter is and how she lives her life, something that I think is considered very little in public school these days.  Lastly, I am asking myself, ‘Have we been doing this?  Have I been trying to explore the deeper meaning of things, or just following the curriculum and making it be all about her?’  Questions, questions to ponder…

P.S. I don’t know why, I went crazy with the colors on this post, but the real links are marked as such.  Holiday jolly, I suppose.

Your turn to chime in: How do you handle the stressed attitudes in your children of the holiday season, or do they not exhibit them?  How do you feel about the Santa Claus tradition? (Respectful responses only please.)  If you do not uphold the Santa pretense, how do you teach the spirit of the season, and teach the magic of believing that is usually associated with Santa?

 

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