Or birthday presents.
When my 3-year-old daughter wakes up on Christmas morning, there will be no presents to unwrap under the Christmas tree. There will no unboxing videos, no tears because we couldn’t find a Hatchimal, and no chance that I wasted a minute of sleep or single breath on fulfilling a list of demands targeted to a portly stranger from the North Pole.
There will neither be stockings stuffed with trinkets, nor an elf who can’t seem to stay in one damn place.
Instead, on Christmas morning, we’ll enjoy breakfast together, in front of our tree, covered in ornaments we painted together. It took a few hours on a recent rainy Sunday―and the time creating something together was as thrilling as the outcome. We mixed red and blue to make purple, contemplated if there was such a thing as too much glitter (she says yes, I say no), and agreed that while the wooden medallions would hang on our tree for a few weeks, the end-game was to give them away to people we love throughout the holiday season.
Courtesy Raakhee MirchandaniAnd if she asks me if Santa popped by the night before—the Santa indoctrination at school has been hardcore this year—I’ll simply say: “He sure did! And he said he’s so glad you’re such a good girl and gave so many presents to kids who needed them. He also really loved the cookies you made, but wants wine instead of milk next year.”
This isn’t a war on Christmas, this is about making peace with all that we already have.
Truthfully, since becoming a mama, I’ve developed a pretty intense “no gift” policy that extends to Satya’s birthday and the haul-heavy holiday season. This drives both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles insane, but they will have to cope. The child has everything a 3-year-could want and then some. Dollhouse? Check. Vet clinic? Check, plus a lab coat, plenty of pretend puppy patients and Band-Aids galore. A play kitchen with stainless steel appliances and Le Creuset-style cookware? Check and check—and it’s slightly nicer than my real one. So I’m pretty rigid when it comes to equating birthdays and Christmas with a giant gift grab. We donate what gifts we get (despite saying “no gifts” on birthday invites, friends sometimes still feel like they have to bring something), often squirreling away a few things here and there to fulfill holiday wish lists for area foster kids through the Boys and Girls Club or the Tomorrows Children’s Fund.
But it seems I’m developing a bit of a reputation for being a Grinch.
The other day, when Santa visited her school, a teacher told me Satya told the jolly fellow that “my mama gave away all my gifts.” (She was referring to a bag of toys she received from another Santa at a recent event we attended.) She never cries when we pack them up, happily assisting me in wrapping and assembling the various bags for “kid’s cancer” or the “babies who don’t have mamas or dadas,” as she says. It feels special to share the chance to make a kid or families day a little better, particularly during a season where what you don’t have seems to be most in focus. And just last week, I received a roll of bubble paper from Amazon, addressed to Satya. She’s obsessed with “ice skating”, dancing and generally making as much noise when she pops the stuff, and my cousin sent her a roll as a Christmas gift because it was something I couldn’t give away!
Courtesy Raakhee Mirchandani
Look, she gets plenty of things as she need them, and even when she doesn’t—boots that look like sheep, a wardrobe that is the envy of most of my adult friends, Wonder Woman toys galore and as many books as she can cram into her exploding bookshelf. She’s been to Sesame Place at least half a dozen times, vacationed on the beaches of Punta Cana, Mauritius, and Mexico and has a full belly every night when she goes to sleep. And, even at three-years-old, it’s important that she knows how blessed she is.
Sometimes, truly, it’s better to be a Santa than wait for one.
I’m not a monster. (Well, I am mostly not a monster.) And I’m certainly not withholding presents from a preschooler because I am some freaky weirdo who hates joy. On the contrary, I want Satya’s joy—her sheer deep-in-your-gut-glee—to be in no way commensurate with the size of her present pile, her happiness independent of checking off items on a list of must-haves. For me, this is simply about the stuff and making sure that it’s not just the stuff and the acquisition of more stuff that makes her happy.
I realize that all this could change as she gets older, when comparing Christmas morning notes with friends becomes a tween right of passage. I’ll reevaluate parts of this policy then. But now, while she’s still sweetly somewhere between toddler and preschooler—I’m skipping the presents and focusing on the present while trying to teach her to appreciate the gifts all around. And that sometimes, truly, it’s better to be a Santa than wait for one.