Last week, my six-year-old decided to make her list for Santa. She jotted down a polite hello, and added two items: a snow globe with a horse and a slinky. But then, she was stumped.
“I can’t think what else I want,” she said.
A week later, her list is still still super short. She was frustrated that she couldn’t think of what she wanted, but I was proud of her: she wasn’t asking for just anything, but thinking about what would really bring her happiness. It made me feel better about my commitment to a very pared-down Christmas.
Aiming for Minimalism
I’ve always admired the parents who can stick to a four-present Christmas limit. You know the ones, who proudly tout their approach to the holidays with a rhyme: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. It sounds so clean and modern, and also just totally unachievable.
Compared to many parents, my husband and I take a pretty limited approach to Christmas presents for our girls, 2 and 6. We really, really try to limit the impulse to get the girls presents just to do it, but instead focusing on things they’ll enjoy long term. Christmas is when we restock all of our craft supplies, like clay, paints and coloring books, which add up to a hefty pile under the tree but are all ultimately consumable. And yet, each year, we end up with lots of presents under the tree.
This year, however, is bound to be different. For starters, there is no tree, because we’re about three months into an open-ended road trip around the country, living in our RV. And with extremely limited space and storage, we’re forced to parse down our presents even more and put our attitudes toward a minimalist Christmas toward the test.
Lessons from the Road
My kids already have fewer toys than most, but they were really forced to pare down when we took to the road. When we were packing, I gave my oldest daughter two boxes, each a square foot. One was for her to fill with her favorite books, crafts and coloring activities. The other was for toys. Anything that didn’t fit wouldn’t be coming.
The toys that my daughter chose told me a lot about what’s important to her. Legos were the first thing in the box, followed by a set of plastic farm animals and horses. She topped it off with two favorite stuffed animals, and called it a success.
In the three months that we’ve been on the road, my girls have been totally satisfied with their micro-playroom. They’ve never asked for the toys they left at home, or for anything new. The fact that they’ve been so happy with so little has really driven home for me that my intuition is right — they don’t need a lot of toys to keep them happy.
The Plan for This Year
With Christmas just a few weeks away, I’m in full-fledged planning mode. There’s a lot of logistics involved in getting any presents on the road, let alone hiding them in our 32-foot RV, so I’ve had to finalize a list for the girls ahead of time.
For my six-year-old, we’re experimenting with an experience gift for the first time: Santa will be bringing her a ticket for a horse horseback ride. My two-year-old, who recently mastered her tricycle, will be getting a bike to make it easier for her to keep up with the rest of us. Other than that, they’re each getting a new outfit, an art set and probably a DVD — things that they’ll enjoy but that will also help keep me sane during long weeks on the road.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous: each of my girls will have fewer than 5 presents to open, so it won’t be the typical frenzied Christmas morning. Despite that, I really feel that we’re making the right decision for our family, and establishing a new tradition of Christmas magic that reflects our family values.
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