Between the breaking news from the tornadic devastation in the Midwest, I worked on Christmas crafts with my kindergartner. The juxtaposition of hardship and the holidays reminded me of Christmastime with my daughter when she was young.
My son is 15 years younger than his closest sibling. When his sister was his age, I was a single mom and we lived in a small one-bedroom apartment. She was beginning to question the legitimacy of Santa. After thinking it over, she looked at me and confidently declared, “I know Santa is real because you can’t afford this stuff!”
She did not know the concept of budgeting and saving for holiday magic. I wonder how many little children in Kentucky are banking on Santa for a Christmas miracle in the wake of the tornadoes.
It doesn’t take a natural disaster to disillusion a child; they see the inequities of Christmas in very ordinary hardships. Not everyone’s holiday manifests like the ones in the movies, and to the child whose holiday is a modest one, it may feel like another needle in their side when they see a classmate get everything they wished for.
When my son was born, my husband and I decided that we would not rely on Santa for the big gifts. We would let our son know that special gifts came from mom and dad. Santa got to leave something small. He has a lot to carry in his sack, after all.
Kids may not understand the budgeting involved to make Christmas magic happen, but they do understand when they go back to school and see that a classmate had all of their material dreams come true while they did not. And if all that magic came from Santa? What could that possibly imply?
It’s easier to understand that a classmate’s parents could afford the latest gaming system or gadget. But if Santa brings it, then a child is left to feel somehow unworthy or wonder if they are lesser-than in Santa’s eyes. I don’t want my child to feel that, nor do I want to be the source of another child’s pain. We also gave gifts to those in need in our children’s names and let them open an envelope that explained each donation on Christmas morning.
The holidays are a great opportunity to exemplify your family values. Generosity of spirit can be infused into celebrations for even the smallest of children. It’s often small children who are most compassionate when they learn others could use help.
The year 2021 has been fraught with tragedy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now tornadoes have flattened entire towns. Let’s all find a way to dig deep, put differences aside and help our fellow human beings in their time of need. Let Santa off the hook, take credit for the big stuff, buy one less toy and be that Christmas miracle someone else desperately needs.
BONNIE FELDKAMP is the opinion page editor for The Courier Journal. Watch weekly YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/bonniejeanfeldkamp.