Stories

Six Christmas Traditions That Change With Multiple Children

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The holiday season is infused with a special kind of magic when there’s a child in the house. Charlie (our oldest) was only 4 months old when we celebrated his very first Christmas. With a baby that young, a sense of pure joy was obtained by simply surrounding the tree with dollar store helium balloons on Christmas morning …which was great because we couldn’t afford much else.

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Charlie’s 1st Christmas balloons. Babies love balloons.

In the years since, Charlie (who is now 7) has become a big brother to JD (5), Evie (3) and Maggie (7 months)… and the holidays have become a whole new experience. The magic is still there (even the balloons have become a reoccurring tradition) but having more than one kid in the house definitely changes things at Christmas time:

6. Photos With Santa Are Comedic

When Charlie was a lone child, I spent weeks looking for the perfect “Santa photo” outfit. Then, after waiting in line for over an hour, the photography process itself took forever. Even if it had become an all day event, I was determined to get the perfect holiday portrait of my little angel. So when that rebellious baby insisted on kicking his shiny little dress shoes off at picture time, I actually cried.

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He wouldn’t smile either. It was obviously a conspiracy.

Things changed drastically when JD joined the picture. We hadn’t been thinking of Santa at all when we stopped at a mall for a bathroom/diaper change/Starbucks break during a long drive home from visiting family. But the minute we walked in the door and the boys laid eyes on that jolly bearded man in his bright red suit… and Mommy and Daddy noticed there was no line AT ALL… it was “go” time! I ran into the nearest clothing store, grabbed the first two sweaters off the clearance rack and plopped those boys onto Santa’s lap.

JD cried. A lot. In fact, he only stopped crying long enough to tilt his body to the side, lift one leg and audibly fill his diaper with the biggest, loudest poop of his entire life. Santa looked shocked. Charlie couldn’t contain his laughter. And that was the exact moment the camera clicked.

The resulting photo was hilarious and far-outshined the formal poses of years past. It just goes to show that with more than one child, chaos can easily consume holiday portraits… which isn’t always a bad thing. The boys’ infamous Santa photo was used for our family Christmas card that year, framed with the headline “In a strange turn of events, JD made a present for Santa this year…”

 

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Hopefully that beard muted Santa’s sense of smell.

 

5. Gifts Are For Kids

Before Charlie was born, my husband and I had expendable income to spare. Our Christmas shopping list contained everyone we knew, from friends and family to neighbors and casual acquaintances. Even the mailman got a gift! When Charlie came along we kept the list but instead of shopping, we made gifts for everyone. After JD was born, the list was cut down to immediate family only and we baked for them. When Evie joined the picture, we reduced our baking to just the kids in the family. Now that Maggie is here, well, we shredded the list!

It’s just a fact of life: With more children comes a tighter budget and less free time to bake and craft. The good news though, is that almost everyone understands and expects it. A shift in responsibilities means a financial evolution happens in families, especially during the holidays when children are prioritized. I embraced the change by putting an extra emphasis into personalizing our Christmas cards. That way, as guilty as I feel when I can’t give everyone I know a present, I can still show each of them that we care and think about them during the holidays… and hope they know that our gifting budget is being utilized to bring a little extra Christmas magic to those four adorable children they all love.

4. The tree is always half empty

This isn’t one of those pessimist/optimist glass of water scenarios. It’s a math formula: The higher the number of kids in the house, the lower the number of ornaments that will remain on the tree.

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Evie (un)decorating the tree.

With our first kid we wasted countless hours and huge quantities of cash formulating creative barriers and buying fancy gates to block access to the tree. Then we watched our little guy stare enviously at that giant glittering forbidden treasure and it suddenly struck us: The tree is for the whole family to enjoy…especially the kid! So the gate came down and the glass ornaments went up (to the top of the tree that is: out of reach).

We returned the Christmas tree safety gate and used the money to buy “kid friendly” and “shatterproof” ornaments for the lower half of the tree. Now every Christmas Eve is spent on an Easter-Egg-Hunt style search for those ornaments so the kids can redress the naked lower half of the tree before bed. It needs to look nice for Santa after all.

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We found this little fellow in the DVD player.

3. Charity Takes Creativity.

Having more children can be rough on the budget, but it’s still critical to teach children about charity. Our family has made kindness a habitual part of our routines:

● Every time we go to the grocery store (even when the budget is so tight that we’re counting pennies) we buy an extra non-perishable food item for the donation bin.
● We never pass a bell-ringer without putting a donation in the red pail, even if we only have pocket change on us.
● Anything we outgrow, whether it be clothes or toys, we make sure to find a family or person in need who would enjoy it.
● We bake Christmas cookies for the donors and volunteers at the blood bank.
● We also choose one new toy together to donate to a toy drive each year.

Although we can’t afford a large contribution, we’ve taught our children that kindness is important and to set an example. Someone once told me “If everyone in the world each donated a single penny, we could end world hunger”. Although I question the accuracy of that statement, the sentiment is clear: Small acts of kindness add up to big changes.

2. Budgeting. Period.

There’s no sugar-coating the fact that kids are expensive. This is especially true around the holidays. With three of them, we have to take extra measures to avoid spending our rent money. That means setting a strict limit for Christmas shopping and sticking to it at all costs. …even if that means one of us spending the night in a Walmart parking lot because our son only had one item on his wishlist and we could only afford it as a Black Friday doorbuster. And yes, that actually happened one year. Hopefully never again.

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It was exactly what he wanted… and will never get again. Ever.

1. Christmas Shopping Takes Strategy

When you have a strict spending limit, it’s impossible to make gift choices without both parents present. Unfortunately we don’t have any family in our immediate area and have no choice but to bring the kids with us while Christmas shopping FOR our kids.

Sounds crazy, right? Let’s just say it takes some creativity…and code words. By the time we leave the store our children are completely convinced that their cousins, friends and daddy’s coworkers are getting some really awesome toys from us.

[Which reminds me, if any of our cousins, friends or coworkers are reading this and are questioned by the kids about your new Sea Monkeys …PLAY ALONG!].

 

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Yes, technically we lie to the kids. But there are much worse things we could be doing to them.

We always tell the kids “If you *really* like what we got for Daddy’s boss then you should definitely ask Santa for one!” …and we make sure they write those lists as soon as we get home. The sooner those lists are mailed to Santa, the less opportunity the kids will have to change their minds 20 times. This assures that everyone gets what they want (and what Mommy and Daddy can afford) for Christmas… and that is what we call a parenting WIN! For the record: One of us goes alone to do the stocking stuffer shopping to keep the magical surprise element alive.

…And there you have it: The top six ways Christmas has changed since having multiple children. What do you think? If you have any Christmas parenting hacks of your own, please share it in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

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