Santa Baby, just slip a sable under the tree

It just occurred to me that my children have never made a list for Santa. It also occurred to me that Christmas Eve is three weeks away, and they have never stated “I hope Santa brings me ____”. Hmm. My first thought was “Do they know that it is acceptable to make a wish list at Christmas time?” Certainly I am frequently guilty of not giving them enough information. Is this something that I should bring up? My second thought was “Is it possible that they have so much stuff that they can’t think of other things to want?” Because really, between two sets of highly indulgent grandparents, plus aunts and uncles, they certainly do amass a lot of gifts, at Christmas, on their birthdays, and on other occasions throughout the year.

I don’t really think that explains it though. We have been reading many books about Christmas, and a lot of them center around receiving gifts Christmas morning. They do have a lot of stuff but take them into Costco and they instantly covet a tow truck nearly identical to one they already own. This brings me to my third thought, which has to do with advertising, or lack thereof.

During the day, the only television they are exposed to is the morning and evening news (if you can call Breakfast Television “news”) and Treehouse. The greatest thing about Treehouse (other than the great new show Toot and Puddle) is the lack of advertising. Sure, they have “this program brought to you by…” but, with the exception of a spaceship/ rocket launcher advertisement, none of those “brought to you by’s” have ever captured their attention.

Recently on the news (or maybe it was Breakfast Television) Calgary was stated as having one of the highest rates of consumer debt in the country. This didn’t overly surprise me as this city has had a boom for a long time, and seems to have been relatively insulated from economic downturns felt in other parts of the country. Calgary seems especially bad in terms of “keeping up with the Joneses”. You have an Audi, I want a Jag. You have a giant house, I want a bigger one. Throw in some sly advertising, and suddenly you have a city choked with consumer debt and facing economic crisis.

So what does this have to do with Christmas and parenting? It’s a tricky one. This is the time of year that we are supposed to, as Charlie Brown says, focus on the true meaning of Christmas and teach our children about giving, not receiving. And of course we all try to do that. However, advertising is everywhere, and even if it hasn’t hit my children yet it certainly hits me. Who is immune to some good advertising? I look around my house and although it is nice, cozy, and paid-for, I experience dissatisfaction when I think about my friend’s bright new infill. I go to Lululemon and instantly think that my yoga practice would be better if I just had that new Ujjayi top. Then I pull myself together and think a) what a terrible way to think about yoga, and b) I actually already have that top, just in a different colour.

How do you teach your kids about the true meaning of Christmas? There are all sorts of answers in parenting books and magazines, such as filling a shoebox for the underprivileged or having a family volunteer night, and I agree with those sentiments. More importantly though, I believe you need to start with yourself. I think that if you can stay above the wave of consumerism, if you can pass on something that you want, if you can watch that commercial or read that catalog and not submit to instant gratification, you will pass that important message along to your children.

High and mighty words, I know. And I will certainly struggle with it. I will let you know how it goes.

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