What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fighting Christmas Consumer Culture Over My Kids

As the Christmas hype approaches mass media frenzy with our kids, we're trying to figure out how to help them be decent human beings in the midst of so much advertising and stuff (and promises of more stuff) coming their way.

The problem is that there's no magical path towards character and contentedness. Deprivation does not guarantee that they won't long for more stuff. Spoiling them certainly doesn't, either.

And the goal isn't to shame them into not wanting things that they see on t.v. or that their friends have or that they see in the Sunday paper. This is the wrong approach that many parents take who rightfully are concerned about their kids character during gift-giving season.

The goal is to help them grow up to be grateful for what they have, delighted to give to others, and, yes, grateful to receive as well. We must learn how to receive well, not to deny the value of receiving altogether. This, too, is part of character-development. If we never learn how to receive well, we will never be able to receive the gift of grace offered to us by God himself. I know some of these people. Being unable to accept a gift given in love is not a healthy thing.

All of this has to be done in age and stage appropriate ways. Our seven year old will get more of what Christmas is all about than our three year old will. And we shouldn't expect our seven year old to have thirty-year-old understanding of the more important things in life.

But we can help them to understand that it's important that we give and care more for others than be fixated on our own wants and desires. And that's mom and dad's job. If we don't create that space intentionally then character won't happen. People drift by the boatloads into self-absorbed consumerism. No one drifts into deep character.

So we're (finally) getting into gear with adopting a kid through World Vision--at least starting the process of figuring out what part of the world we want to invest in. And this past Sunday our church small group wrapped presents together that we bought for a family in need here in Durham.

And we're trying to put some limits around how much stuff they get. They get three gifts from us, like Jesus received from the three Wise Men. We try to avoid stuff that's just Christmas-morning buzz (i.e. cheap electronics that will break in two weeks) and go for things that they'll still be excited about using through the spring.

Much of this is my wonderful wife's doing. I appreciate how thoughtfully she's engaging the season and trying to help our kids grow up into Christmas time faithfully.

Only time will tell if we do a good job with our kids in regards to "stuff." My hope is that we can at least equip them with an alternative story about life that anchors it in something much bigger than either "more is always better" or even "you should feel guilty about wanting more stuff since you've got so much already."

And probably for next year, we need to see if we can get off all these toy catalog mailing lists that feed the imagination in all the ways that we ultimately don't want.

No comments: