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greedy

By Michelle Lehnardt

The other day I asked my cute neighbor, “So what do you want for Christmas?”

“Hmm, not really anything,” he replied, “I already have a lot.”

Eleven-year-old Isaac isn’t a kid with a cell phone, an iPad or a TV in his room, but he is well-clothed, well-fed and adored by his parents. His dad always makes time to shoot hoops in the driveway or drill math facts; his mother celebrates daily life in a thousand little ways.

Much is said this time of year about selfish kids penning mile long Christmas lists and demanding the latest toys and electronics. I’ll make the assertion that kids do feel greedy at Christmas– they want more of our time.

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My 12 year old recently created a Christmas wish list filled with items like:

make homemade peppermint oreos (check!)
read a Christmas story every night
go to mountains to cut Christmas tree (check!)
make gingerbread houses
cut paper snowflakes
go to the festival of trees (check!)
see the lights downtown
set up train under the Christmas tree (check!)
act out the Nativity
light the candle chimes (check!)

it goes on….

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I don’t think my son’s list is unusual. Children love the magic and pageantry of the Christmas season; gifts are just a small part of the celebrations.

Now don’t get me wrong; I love presents. I delight in creating or finding just the right surprise and I am often so excited that I can scarcely keep a secret. More than once I’ve insisted that someone open a gift a week early because I can’t wait another moment.

I’m certainly not suggesting any child with a Christmas list is selfish. Dreaming of a gift outside of usual purchases is part of the magic of childhood. When else can a child ask for a doll or a new Lego set?

“Entitlement” is another negative word oft applied to today’s children. It seems unfair to label an entire generation as selfish and lazy. I’ll suggest our children are entitled– to our time. The Proclamation to the Family reads, “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”

I suppose I’m a defender of kids as much as I’m a defender of teenagers. Kids are good, good, good– it’s only we adults who mess us they world; who turn Christmas into a commercial circus.

My apologies if my words are preachy, I write this as a reminder to myself this season– if I’m too busy for my children, I’m simply too busy.

Now off to mix up three batches of gingerbread…we’ve got a list to tackle.

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

12 thoughts on “greedy”

  1. I think it's interesting how many adults have long lists of things they want/need for Christmas.

    One Christmas (probably during high school) I asked for a clock radio, camera, and new scriptures. I have 3 brothers; one got the clock radio, one got a camera and the other got the new scriptures.

    Oh well. That's not really what Christmas is about.

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  2. This is perfect for the season. There is a boy in my neighborhood who has everything a child could want except quality time with his parents. Its very obvious to everyone except his parents. He is jealous of any child whom he sees frequently with their parents and he lashes out at them. Its becoming a real problem. I feel for this child and his future.

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  3. Mmm…peppermint oreos…where's the Recipes tab on this blog, anyway? 🙂

    Your point is well taken–crazy that this is the stressful month, when it ought to be the quality time month.

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  4. I am a firm believer in the 5 love languages. One of them is quality time. Not my language but it is the language of my 3rd child. We can be about to leave on a mommy daughter date and she will already be asking about a different mommy daughter actiivity for later in the week! All of my other children seem plenty satisfied with the quality time I spend with them. My oldest seems to truly appreciate when I help her so she is really "acts of service." My two oldest both are verbally appreciative which is awesome so maybe they picked it up from me (I am "words of affection as well as "acts of service"").
    Anyway, I thought I'd throw that in there because if you and your kids are different love languages you might be showing and showing and showing your love and they might not be feeling it. By recognizing that my daughter needs it to feel loved I can build our relationship.
    Also, it is a good checklist for any parent to ask themselves and express their love in the five different ways….just for variety and balance:
    1. Am I expressing love verbally to my child?
    2. Am I giving physical affection like hugs, pats, hair ruffles, kisses, etc.?
    3. Am I doing acts of service to help them?
    4. Can I give a little thoughtful gift to show them I am thinking of them?
    5. Am I spending time one on one together with them to make them feel important?

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  5. As President Hinckley said, the youth need less critics and more mentors. I like your optimistic take on things. Children at a young age often can be delighted in very simple things. I remember when my cousins son was small and I think turning 3. They asked him what he wanted and his reply was that he wanted to go to the grocery store and sit where his sister sat and to see what I think was either live Crab or Lobster(what makes more sense?). He is a joy!

    I do think looking back that getting gifts was nice but the other traditions also hold a very special place in my heart such as decorating cookies, going to Midnight Mass when we stayed at my grandparents, looking at the lights in the neighborhoods etc.

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  6. Thank you for this! I have a friend who is constantly harping on kids feeling entitled and talking about how technology is ruining kids. Her kids get 2 presents for Christmas and she has often commented my my kids "huge Christmas" (my kids get maybe 7-8 presents). My 12 yr old son is getting an ipod for Christmas and when I told her that she lectured me for 15 minutes about how it would ruin him. Made me feel terrible. But I know it won't ruin him as there will be limits and he is a great kid. I needed this reminder

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  7. Michelle,

    This list gets me thinking. It might haunt me, even, if I let it!

    make homemade peppermint Oreos (They exist?)
    read a Christmas story every night (have not read 1 yet. . .)
    go to mountains to cut Christmas tree (Um. Palm trees here)
    make gingerbread houses (Last done: '97)
    cut paper snowflakes (Last done: '77)
    go to the festival of trees (They still do these? Not fair!)
    see the lights downtown (Ok. Whew. Checkola!)
    set up train under the Christmas tree (Never done nor had.)
    act out the Nativity (Last done '99. . in Norwegian. Adorable moose and reindeer in the manger.)
    light the candle chimes (What?)

    Your fortunate children, Michelle! And the glistening photos, to boot. Simply magical.

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  8. Oh ouch! I didn't mean to sound egotistical or set an impossible standard. Everyone's list is different, and we certainly won't make it through ours– but Xander is determined to try. 🙂

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  9. This made me think of a story a speaker told in church last Sunday: a small child on his great-grandmother's lap, exploring her wrinkly face. After some chatting, the conversation turns: "granny, did God create people?" -"Yes, He did." -"Did He create me?" -"Yes, He did." -"Did He create you?" -"Yes, yes He did." And after a small pause of exploring the wrinkles the child came to the conclusion: "I'm glad He makes them better these days."

    But it's true though, isn't it? Every generation is better than the one before it (if it isn't so, everything is shot to h). Kids nowadays can astonish you with being so smart, so good, so quick to learn, so strong, so… anything. All they need is to be given a chance to succeed.

    Interestingly, I was thinking about this earlier today before reading this post, how in the world we have two standards: for the kids we want the message to be "don't give up" (like Bruno Mars sings with the Sesame Street monsters) and to adults that message (given by the society at large) is "don't even try". I think I'm going to start listening more to what Sesame Street has to say from now on…

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