The Truth About Christmas and You

*Listen to the audio version above, Episode 21: The Truth About Christmas and You.

Holidays are stressful for parents, and I think fathers tend to feel the pressure pretty intensely. I know I do, anyway. I feel that burning desire to blow this Christmas out of the water with the amount of presents I want to buy for my family. Even as I write this, I want to.

The more presents, the more money spent means it’s a better Christmas. A happier child. You being a better father, better provider. Essentially, lots of expensive presents for your kids means you are succeeding at being a great man.

It’s a farce. It’s a marketing scam that preys on our natural desire to provide and make our families happy. But think about it. Where does the money come from? You either work overtime to get more money, or you go into debt, to buy these gifts. If you go into debt, you have to work more to pay it off, or you let it sit and it slowly rots your spirit.

In every scenario, you buying expensive or many presents for your kids actually takes your physical and emotional availability away from your family. Not just your children.

Your kids just want you. Your love, your affection, your attention, your praise. They want to feel like they matter, and that you are there. Christmas presents piled and overflowing under the tree is absolutely not the answer- being present and intentional about your time and involvement with your family is.

Some possible solutions that may work for you:

Create family traditions.
We make handmade ornaments with our kids, as well as decorate the tree together. We always make gingerbread cookies or decorate gingerbread houses, as well. Every year, they get to pick out one special ornament from the store, so as time goes on, they can see what meant something to them at a point in time.

Be more meaningful with gifts you do buy.
Be thoughtful and intentional about the gifts you do buy for your family. Don’t just get a bunch of random crap for them. The best gifts are always loaded with love and thoughtfulness.

Communicate the true meaning of Christmas.
Talk to your kids leading up to Christmas about the whole point of the holidays- to celebrate your family and spend time with those you love. Gifts are fun, but not the point. The more you allow them to think about the gifts and focus on that, the worse it’s going to be.

Save in advance (compliments of Evolving Wild!)

One simple way of ensuring you have enough money to buy your gifts without forgoing paying bills and without going into debt is to save money in advance. Set aside a comfortable amount each month. Simple, but effective.

Be there.
If you have time off for Christmas, stay off your phone/tablet/whatever as much as possible. Be totally present in your household. Watch them play. Listen to the quiet conversations they have. You learn so much about your children when you listen and watch. Don’t forget to play with them, too. Put on music. Bake with them. Do Christmas crafts. Visit extended family.

Here’s the thing, though: chances are, you may still feel like garbage about the whole situation. Not having the money you need to give your family the Christmas you want to is devastating. I’m right there with you. But you have to have hope that by focusing your efforts on the things that truly matter, your kids and your family will be better off for it and will recognize that at some point in the future.

Don’t let yourself fall into that trap of chasing the dollar signs. You are their hero, even if you don’t drive a Benz or have a nice suit or live in a beautiful home. YOU are their hero, and it’s not because of what you own or can buy. Recognize that you are good enough to be the father they think you are.

Holidays are stressful, but that’s not the way it’s meant to be. With these concepts in mind as you go into the holidays, you can get more out of them and stop worrying so much, and maybe have a new outlook on yourself.

Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

-Matt Gannon


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