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Great Expectations

By Melissa Young

candy cane“I’ve got the greatest gift for you!” my husband tells our daughter. I shoot a glare at him, and if looks could kill, I’d be spending the holidays in the slammer.

Usually we both subscribe to the Marjorie Hinckley school of thought, where low expectations are the key to happiness. At Christmas time, however, we part philosophical ways. He takes off with the children to explore the many wonders of anticipation, and I cling stoically to the preference that if the kids receive so much as a candy cane they should rise up and call me blessed.

Does he realize how high and fast a child’s imagination can fly? I think to myself. In a world where stories of Christmas miracles run rampant, I’m sure that a real pony or a trip to the moon become actual possibilities in our children’s minds, making the little ditties we actually bought pale by comparison.

But as I watch them with their glowing eyes and charged excitement, I find myself wondering if Sister Hinckey played up the excitement just a little.

I think she did.

About Melissa Young

(Emerita) is a native of Utah and lives in Cache Valley, Utah, with her husband and three of her four children in their emptying nest. She has an MA in TESOL from Brigham Young University and currently volunteers with the English Learning Center.

15 thoughts on “Great Expectations”

  1. I face this dilemma, too! I don't want my kids to be spoiled. I want them to appreciate what they have. I don't want their expectations of Christmas (or birthdays or life in general) to run wild. But I'm realizing that in my zeal to simplify and cut back, I have lost the joy of giving! I'm not sure how to reclaim it and still temper the desire to constantly accumulate.

  2. I spend most of every year cutting back, simplifying, making do, etc. etc. Then, every Christmas, I suddenly rediscover that it's really fun to think of and then give my children (and other loved ones) exactly The Perfect Thing. Then, every January, it occurs to me that we could do a little more pampering and indulging throughout the year (we're talking fun socks and silly T-shirts here–not trips to the moon). Maybe then I wouldn't feel so much self-imposed pressure at Christmas to create magic. Maybe.

  3. Oh she did! I live in the ward of Marjorie Hinckley's daughters and grandchildren and I hear constant stories of the ways she made Christmas magical! She was very good at making events the treat rather than the actual present. She had grandchildren parties and scheduled playdates with her grandchildren. She loved to wear red, make cookies and decorate the house.

  4. I'm not sure about Marjorie Hinckley, but I know that as a mother, I'm trying to make the events magical – rather than the gifts.

    Sure, I'm excited to give my children gifts, it is fun, but we also have Christmas music playing throughout the month, we make christmas crafts, and do fun christmas service projects.

    What amazes me is their ability to mimic my attitude. When I'm excited about something, I see them equally excited. As usual, all of this parenting stuff comes down to: example.

    Anyways – thanks for the post. 🙂

  5. I love the thought of making the event the treat rather than the gifts. We've always made an effort to keep Christmas as simple as possible – but with 5 sets of grandparents, that gets difficult. So no matter what, I try to focus on all the OTHER ways to make Christmas Eve and Day magical…and I hope that those are the parts they will remember.

    I DO think the act of giving gifts is important, but we've tried to keep them more personal and religious themed – books are great and make for nice, neat wrapping. Anything fun from Santa has to fit in the stocking – which it seems my girls are getting used to as the only things I've heard them ask for are small. I'm not sure how I will keep it up as my children get older and start to compare with friends, but I'm sure gonna try!

  6. Another way we've found to make the holiday magical is to make "giving" the special event. There is a spirit that comes with service that comes in no other way. Whether it's a secret Santa gift, or sharing with a family in need, or giving to a homeless shelter, giving as a family can be magical!

  7. yes, in her book she and her grandkids all talk about her christmas parties and "the fish pond" where she would let the kids fish for their presents. there's even a part where president hickley is quoted as saying something like, "this is the last year we're having this party because it's too much work for your grandma." but sure enough, there was another party to come the following year.

    i love christmas– but tend to grow aggravated by christmas shopping– and i love sister hinckley.

  8. Less is more. My husband and I are trying again this year to help our children find the joy in small things: a stocking full of small goodies and one special toy. In addition to a table full of once-a-year sweets and gifts from generous grandparents, it is plenty. And our hearts are full.

  9. Sounds like you and your husband work as a good checks and balances system for each other. And I'm sure your kids know that somewhere in the middle is where the magic is found. And if they DO thank you for a candy cane, isn't it all worth it?!
    Merry Christmas!~

  10. What a tough balance to find! I'm either scrooge or Mrs. Shops-a-lot. It's so hard to find a happy middle ground. But honestly, I love watching my kids shop for each other. The care they take when picking out a gift makes me smile all over.

    And I love giving gifts. Not lavish, over-the-top gifts, but at least once in a kids life, I hope they get to open something on Christmas morning that they were just dying to get. Maybe not every Christmas, but at least once, doncha think? My girls are getting something this year that they've been asking for for 8 years. I'm over the moon excited to give it to them. It might be the only time they ever get exactly what they've been wishing for.

    My attitude has changed a bit about this, I think. I definitely feel myself moving more towards enjoying every single moment of my life instead of always waiting, waiting, waiting to do wonderful things until it's more convenient, less expensive, etc. Find reasons to live, love, and smile.

    My favorite part of Christmas is the anticipation. It's just so much fun to spend three weeks in happy suspense. And I love that my kids get so giddy.

    Sorry that was so long.

  11. I've been working on this as well, because by temperament I tend to be more cautious and less exuberant. But I don't want to spoil my kids' fun and one thing I've been working on as a mom is to shut my mouth and just let them enjoy themselves, even if they trash my kitchen making cookies (now that they're getting older they have to help clean it up too).

    My daughter is getting a Barbie house for Christmas. I've complained against Barbie and held out for six years, but then her auntie got her one for her birthday and she fell in love with it. I was tempted to get her what "I" thought was a good gift, but I'm really looking forward to seeing her open her present and get excited about it.

    And Michelle, I wonder if you know my aunt. She has been neighbors with one of Pres. Hinckley's daughters for years…

  12. I am the one who's expectations rise up to the sky. My husband will tell me he has a surprise and I start to imagine all sorts of fabulous things. I keep telling him not to tell me if he has a surprise for me if he isn't going to give it to me then and there because the disappointment is heartbreaking for both of us….

  13. Expectations can be good and bad – as some have mentioned on here, sometimes our expectations result in us being disappointed. However, never expecting anything means that you never dream about it and think of what you could do with it, and hope for it, and all that can be a big part of the fun. My husband never expects anything because, sadly, as a child he was often somewhat overlooked in the gift giving process by his mother. I hate that he never expects anything good on his birthday or Christmas, and at the same time, he never really thinks about trying to meet my expectations because he thinks that I shouldn't be expecting anything, just like him.


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