Welcome to the December Mindful Mama Carnival: Staying Mindful During the Holiday Season
This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants have shared how they stay mindful during the holiday season. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Photo Credit: Adelle & Justin
The holidays are coming, and with it, of course, comes the stress and strain of holiday shopping. We work hard to maintain a simple Christmas, by only purchasing limited gifts with specific purposes, and keeping our holiday traditions more about Christ than the gifts themselves. Gifts however, are a somewhat touchy subject in our home, and I thought I’d share our view on gifts for this month’s Mindful Mothering Carnival.
Naomi was the first grandchild on both mine and my husband’s sides of the family. She was also my grandmother’s first great-grandchild. So we knew that when present time came, we were looking to be completely overwhelmed with our family’s generosity. Everyone would want to be giving us pretty dresses, frilly things, girly plastic toys, and other things that are just irresistable to the grandparents of a little girl.
Michael and I strive to live a simple, frugal, minimalist life to the best of our abilities. We don’t buy a lot of material possessions, and the ones we do have, we work hard to make last as long as possible, and then replace them with as best quality as we can afford. We enjoy spending time at home with friends and family, we buy organic, whole foods as much as possible, and we make it a priority to surround Naomi with good, high quality, positive toys. We want her to grow in imagination and spirit, and learn and develop.
So right from the start, we gently — but firmly — voiced our opinions to our parents. No plastic toys. No frilly pink dresses. No junky gifts. No noise makers. Nothing requiring batteries. No flashing lights. We asked for wooden toys, soft cloth toys, handmade toys, or practical gifts like cloth diapers and grocery cards.
Our approach seemed to suit our needs well. Here’s how we went about it:
1. Decide why you want your child to have certain gifts. Michael and I are trying to instill in Naomi, and subsequent children, a different set of values from the ones we were seeing advertised to children on television and in day-to-day living. We want her to understand that quantity is not better than quality. We want her imagination to flourish, to grow and mature. We wanted her to see the joy in a simple piece of play silk, or a bottle of soapy bubbles. We wanted her to learn as she played, such as how to zipper up her sweater and match her socks. We wanted her to have long conversations and cuddle with a sweet stuffed bear, and fall asleep with a soft cloth doll.
2. Say no. Be gentle, but firm. At first, it was a bit of a struggle. My mother would drop by with a new outfit or some plastic noise maker that “just happened to fall in my cart” when she was shopping. But after I would send her back with the item, again calmly but firmly explaining what we had decided and that we were indeed sticking to our guns, our parents started to understand that we were serious and began listening to our beliefs.
3. Just because it comes into your house doesn’t mean it has to stay there. Another well-meaning relative gifted us a brightly lit battery-powered toy. This relative was one we do not see on a regular basis and we felt it would be impolite to refuse. As such we graciously accepted the gift and then passed it on to another child whose parents didn’t share our values.
4. Your home is not their home. With something like this, remember that the rules apply at your home, but not necessarily elsewhere. My mother has taken to collecting cute toys that she keeps at her home. This way she can choose what she wants to have for Naomi to play with, but I don’t really have much say in the matter. But the rule was set: If they buy a plastic, battery-powered, light up, noisy toy for Naomi, let them keep it that their house! It doesn’t come home with us! This is also a great way to pass on toys that you receive but aren’t something you want to keep.
5. Let your child decide. As it turned out, the things Naomi enjoyed playing with most were not necessarily the few plastic things that did make it into our home. It is great fun to stack a tall column of wooden blocks, but it is even more fun to run through them and laugh with glee. Sitting on the floor reading board books to yourself is an excellent way to pass the time. A quiet cuddle with a doll infused with lavender and vanilla makes for a great way to get ready for bed. Crayons and paper can keep her busy for a long period of time. Our brief stint with an Exersaucer didn’t last very long, as she got bored and wanted to be with me after a very short period. It went on Freecycle and was quickly taken away. Our jolly jumper was hung in the bathroom doorway and she sat in that early in the mornings when I showered (and could see her the whole time) or when I went to the bathroom. This again only lasted until one day she ended up flipping herself upside down and it was banished to the closet. The only real plastic toys we’ve ever gotten her were some bath toys to play with in the tub. And that will only last until I can come up with some more natural alternatives!
6. Good quality toys don’t have to be expensive. I kept my eye out and was able to come up with some great additions to her toy shelf: a hammer and peg set, a box of building blocks, a wooden car, a wooden train, a wooden puzzle set. Michael’s favorite stuffed dog was a cuddly friend for long conversations, as well as a soft cloth doll that has been christened “Ba-Ba”. Wooden spoons, mixing bowls, board books… they are all excellent options that can often be found second-hand or at yard sales. Just be thoughtful and careful with what you find.
7. Have examples of alternatives ready. When my mother asked, “Well, what can I get her?” I was ready with a list of toys that we felt were acceptable. A sweet stuffed bear, a set of wooden dishes, a list of board books, a pretty blanket, a favorite maker of cloth diapers, a sweet sling, an amber necklace, wooden teething rings. I encouraged my mother to visit Etsy, Heartsy, Babyette, Melissa & Doug, and a favorite local store that carried beautiful baby products.
So how did it all work out? Well, not long after she was born, my father-in-law made a trip to Pennsylvania. When he got home, he told us he had a doll house for Naomi. I was in dread. After driving all the way to Pennsylvania and back, and having purchased this doll house, I felt for sure it was going to be some plastic monstrosity.
To my absolute delight, it was a simple pine doll house, coated in a clear varnish, with simple wooden furniture inside. There were no lights. No bells. No batteries included. It was a perfect place for little girls to dream and play with little wooden toys and make-believe. Michael and I were so charmed. And thankful.
Disclaimer: Yes, I am compensated for some (but not all) of the purchases made via the referral links in this post. You can read my entire disclosure policy here.
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Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Enjoying Busy Times Moment by Moment Amy at Peace 4 Parents offers a handful of simple pointers to make the most of any busy season in your life.
- Staying A Mindful Mama During The Holiday Season Terri at Eco-Crazy Mom shares her thoughts on being a mindful mama, while keeping your sanity throughout the holiday season..
- Holiday Parenting: The Gift of Natural Play Moorea at MamaLady shares her holiday plan for mindfully spending time with children in her extended family.
- The ABC’s of Mindful Parenting Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama provides a comprehensive list of Mindful Parenting Resultions for 2012. In addition, she briefly reviews her mindful parenting journey for this past year.
- The 123’s of Mindful Parenting Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares part 3 of her Mindful Parenting series (Link will be live tomorrow, Dec 14).
- Mindful Mama Guest Post from Hybrid Rasta Mama Zoie at TouchstoneZ is honored to share Part 2 of Jennifer’s series on staying Mindful for the Holidays.
- Saying No to Plastic Toys Nada at minimomist and her husband Michael, have certain rules when it comes to toys for their daughter Naomi. Here’s how they deal with well-meaning gifts that don’t quite work for their family.
- Can you LOVE WHAT IS at Christmas? with so many expectations and no many people’s needs to accomodate, Patti at Jazzy Mama has decided to simply accept what can’t be changed and love whatever happens.
- Minimal Temptation, Minimal Gifting Adrienne at Mommying My Way shares how not exposing herself to tempting purchases, as well as having fun family traditions, helps keep her Christmas list under control.
- Choice And Consequence In Conscious Mindfulness Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares her realisation that consciously monitoring our thoughts have a powerful effect on our lives, regardless of circumstances or influences.
- Nature-Inspired Christmas Tree Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling describes how she and her children discovered the beauty and simplicity of a nature-inspired holiday tree.
- Giving The Gift of Life Free Range Mama at My Healthy Green Family shares about teaching children how to look beyond the well-wrapped box and learn how to give. .
- Can a collection of moments be more than the whole? Tat at Mum in search asks how do you turn a holiday from hell into a series of beautiful moments?
- Flying Through the Holidays Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction discusses how a simple organizational plan has kept her holidays balanced.
- Celebrating Advent week to week Lauren at Hobo Mama finds that counting down weeks instead of days helps children with the long wait.
- 5 Ways to Stay Mindful This Holiday Season Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares ideas and photos that help her stay mindful throughout the holidays.
- Simplifying the Holidays Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares how simplifying the holidays has made them more special for her.
- Mindfully Managing the Mania Erica at ChildOrganics fights against “the gimmes” and shares strategies for staying balanced during a time of year when it’s easy to overindulge.
- Six Ways to Enjoy the Holidays Without Losing Your Mindfulness Rachael at The Variegated Life shares tips on thinking less, planning less, doing less, and remembering.
- The Gift of Presence Darcel at The Mahogany Way explains how important it is to be present for and with her family during the Holidays.
- Mindfully meditating on celebrations Terri at Child of the Nature Isle desires meaningful celebrations for the whole year.
- What Does It Really Mean? Staying Mindful Through the Holiday Season Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about how she stays in touch with what the holiday season means for her and her family, in spite of all the temptations to do otherwise!