Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.
Remember earlier in the month when Homer Mellen’s 1915 Christmas letter went viral? His wish list to Santa seemed quaint by today’s standards, and especially so when compared to the epic list of Drew Magary’s seven-year-old daughter (which included “a little thing that can turn into anything at anytime”). But even Mellen’s list is long compared to my children’s Christmas wish list this year.
Our children didn’t ask for anything for Christmas this year — not even from Santa.
It wasn’t because we chose to go institute a no-gift policy. Believe me, at three and six, Gillian and Isaac are nowhere close to outgrowing the gimmes. But I think with a year of being told that we couldn’t afford to buy them any extra toys or gifts, they assumed that Christmas would be like the rest of the year. Even when prompted by my mother-in-law to choose whatever they wanted for Christmas from a toy catalogue, our kids gravitated towards smaller toys and books, my son double-checking the price of everything before adding it to his list.
This makes me both very proud and profoundly sad.
Up until this year, the magic of Christmas was based on how much we had under the tree or how much food was on the table. This year, our tree has very few gifts underneath it and my husband and I have agreed to not buy each other gifts. The staff at our son’s school made a collection to help us buy a turkey, despite the fact that our family didn’t buy any gifts for the teachers. The flour used in our Christmas baking came from a food bank — same as the tinned vegetables that we’ll be eating with our holiday dinner.
Read more: How to avoid spoiling kids at Christmas>
But if our family learned anything about living frugally this year while my husband was unemployed, it was that it takes very few “things” to make our children smile. And despite having very little, they still made a point of thinking of other kids and families before their own needs. When the kids recently found change on the ground, they started looking for a Salvation Army Kettle to put it in, instead of pocketing it and asking what they could buy for themselves.
“Because that means someone else can have a good Christmas, right Mommy?” asked my son. “Because we have everything we need, right? We’ve got lots of food and Daddy has a job and we’re not sick.”
Maybe the reason my kids didn’t make wish lists this year is because without buying a thing, we’ve already given them everything they truly need.