This is for the kids. Mostly. You need guidance. I've seen you stressing over gifts and Elf on the Shelf positions. Follow these five things and you'll be a lot better off. We all will.
1) Don't have more gifts under the tree than ornaments on the tree.
Love can cause us to do some crazy things. And as a parent, you love your children, and will literally do anything for them to be happy. This includes microwaving a corn dog when they refuse to eat the meal you spent an hour preparing. This means letting them wear rain boots, mismatched socks, and a spaghetti-stained t-shirt when they don't like the outfit you picked out. This also means buying presents for them at Christmas they might like. Not just a few presents, but a ton of presents. So many that your floor is more snowman wrapping paper than it is mahogany wood.
Why do we do it? Our kids don't need that much stuff. Aside from turning them into entitled brats, we risk a severe lack of appreciation from them on what they do get. Plus, their grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins will be getting them gifts, not to mention teachers and classmates. Your Christmas will be defined by what takes up your time and energy. Don't let that be overloaded buggies at Toys R Us and overspent back accounts on things that lose their thrill by New Year's Eve.
2) Don't buy your 6 year old a tablet.
Tablets aren't new really. In fact, tablets have been around for centuries for people to write and scribble on. But wait...we now have shiny tablets that cost a lot of money and have all kinds of fun apps and games and mind-numbing entertainment on them! But is that something a 6 or 7 year old really need? Probably not. When I was 6, my tablet was small, had 5 buttons, and a long cord attached to it. Plug that cord into a gray box called a Nintendo and I was happy four hours. But I couldn't take the Nintendo with me everywhere. It was stationary. Now kids can take tablets outside to play on. Mom says "Tommy, go outside to play for a bit!" Tommy says "Cool. Can I take my iPad?" NO TOMMY. You can't. Why? Because outside there is sunshine and trees and digging in dirt and football and a beautiful world to explore.
The tablet for kids craze is causing scenarios similar to adults, except for the fact that kids typically cannot control their attachments and emotions as easily. So what you have is Tommy stuck in an imaginary world on his iPad where his imagination is limited and creativity stifled. If your kids get a tablet, make sure it's usage is restricted. PBS recommends waiting until ages 11-13 before getting your young ones a tablet. But they can go outside right now and play.
3) Don't make your vehicle into a reindeer.
You're better than this. Remember when you had a sense of pride? When you were confident in the right way? When you didn't make rash decisions? Somewhere along the way, you've lost it. Someone told you it would be fun, cool, or really festive to put a red ball on the grill of your car and/or reindeer antlers on your windows. Let me be brutally honest: those people lied to you. They did not have your best interests at heart, and it's possible they are pranking you and laughing behind your back with all the other normal "cars without absurd holiday decor" automobile drivers.
Doing this to your car is not okay. And people may laugh half-heartedly at your Instagram pictures of your dog dressed in a Christmas sweater and a Santa hat, but don't be the butt of this joke. Your car is meant to get you from one place to another. It is a vehicle to keep maintained and clean. It is not a mobile living room for you to parade around with tinsel and lights and reindeer paraphernalia. Trust me, your children will grow up with a complex of hating reindeer if you turn your Honda Odyssey into Rudolph. It's the equivalent of wearing a tacky Christmas sweater to an event that's NOT a tacky Christmas sweater party. Let your home be festive, not your office cubicle. And most of all, not your automobile.
4) Don't take the Elf on the Shelf literally.
It's midnight. You've been asleep for an hour or so. But your spouse isn't in bed? Nope. He/she is in the living room, or the kitchen or, God help us all, the bathroom with the creepy elf that you've lied to your kids about for years now trying to find a new scenario to put Candy or Snowflake or Bubbles (yes, people name these things) in. Will he be caught by the kids with his hand in the cookie jar? Will he be having a snowball fight with Barbie in the bathroom with cotton balls? Oh Snowflake, you're so mischievous.
What is it with moms (and yes, even some of you dads) spending hours on Pinterest to scope out what crazy antics your elf can get into tonight? It's a bizarre phenomenon. Apparently being good for Santa is no longer good enough. Now there's an elf standing in as your seasonal accountability partner. I mean, is this fun for the little kids? Sure. Is it a legit use of behavior modification in hopes that Tommy won't push baby brother down the stairs again? Nah. For real though, have fun with it. Just don't act as if this elf will be the deciding surveillance factor on whether or not your kids are good. Have some grace, mom and dad.
5) Don't insert Jesus, insert Santa.
We told our kids a few years back the whole Santa Claus story. We told them he isn't real, that mom and dad give you presents (we should get credit, right?), and that they shouldn't tell other boys and girls that he isn't real because it's fun for them to pretend and there's nothing wrong with that. This year, our youngest is determined to believe Santa is real regardless of what we say, so we roll with it. She sat on his lap, wrote him a letter, and loves seeing movies about Jolly Old St. Nick.
I love the imagination of kids. I don't have issues with Santa, or the elf, or any other make-believe parts of Christmas. But those things should only be a small, sporadic part of Christmas. Christmas literally means "Christ's Mass", a time of worshiping Jesus. This is a season to talk about Jesus from the Old Testament prophecies about Him through His birth and death and ultimate victory over sin. And the origins of Santa and the Christmas tree and other fun traditions are rooted in God's love and how others showed it to those who needed it. Check out the devotional plan "Why Do We Call It Christmas?" on the Bible app. It's a great way to teach your kids some amazing things about Christmas.
And go spend lots and lots of time together as a family this season. Go see lights, go caroling, go shop for a needy family. Just don't go in a car adorned with antlers and Rudolph's nose.