Frantic with Last Minute Christmas Shopping?

My guess is that even with Christmas less than a week away, many of us are still frantic trying to make sure we get those last minute gifts for our tweens and teens.  If your kids are anything like mine, something seems to happen in our teens’ brains the week before Christmas.  Those synapses that didn’t seem to be fully functioning as the semester came to a close suddenly switch into high gear. Without prompting, it’s as if a whole new Christmas list begins to  emerge.

Just when I think my shopping is done, I sometimes find out that what I’ve already purchased is no longer on the Christmas list.  Things that have never before been mentioned become all they want under the tree.

And we question our purchases and run back out to the store to get the “special” gift.  After all, most of us don’t want our kids to be disappointed on Christmas day.

Last week my son and I were in the car together talking about what he might get his siblings for Christmas.  Of course, the conversation turned to what he was hoping would be under the tree for him.  I listened in disbelief as he told me that all he wanted was two items.  The crazy part for me was that I had no idea those two things were even on his list even though he assured me he had mentioned them several times.

So I do what most parents do.  I debate with myself.  Do I take back an item and replace it with the new wish or do I just add to my Christmas budget rationalizing that Christmas only comes once a year?

And then a Christmas memory surfaces from when my kids were teens.  The latest requested gift was not under the tree.  Some of you might remember the video game Rock Band that was out several years ago.  It came with electronic drums, a guitar, and a microphone.  Yes, there was some disappointment that it wasn’t under the tree, but then something amazing happened.

I think for the first time in history all of my kids agreed on something.  They agreed they needed Rock Band.  Then they devised their own plan.  They pooled their money (not equally, but as each one could afford), and they decided together to purchase the game.  My husband and I had no part in the discussion.  They worked it all out on their own and they had the most awesome Christmas break ever!  They took turns playing guitar, drums, or doing vocals and they laughed like I’d never seen before.

It made me realize what we would have missed if we had put the game under the tree.

Almost a decade later, if we talk about Christmas memories, that one is the first to surface.  They learned some valuable lessons that year.  

  • They learned that Mom and Dad are not always going to supply every want under the tree.
  • They learned to deal with disappointment on Christmas day.
  • They learned problem solving and negotiation skills.

And most of all–they created an awesome memory that will be remembered for a lifetime.

We all know that Christmas is not about the gifts–but is that how we parent?  Are we more focused on giving our kids exactly what they want at that moment in time or are we focused on the memories that will remain even after the gift has lost its appeal?

Many of you have probably seen the IKEA video that went viral on Facebook.  While the kids in the video are certainly younger than  tweens and teens, I’m guessing that in reality if that experiment was done with our kids, we’d see similar results.  

Dare you to contemplate what memories you want your kids to have on Christmas morning or throughout the holiday season and decide if the frantic trip to the mall might be sending the wrong message.

Enjoy the holidays with your family and friends!

“Let go…and let God”,

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5 Steps to Resetting Christmas Expectations


The other day I found myself in a fast food restaurant  with two teens sitting a booth away.  As I eavesdropped on their conversation, I realized that they were in the same mode I was in!

Here I was sitting with my list of all the things I needed to accomplish to make the holidays perfect.  As I sat making a list of presents to buy and activities we could enjoy together as a family, these two boys were planning their perfect Christmas break.

“I’m going to move my gaming system down into the basement during Christmas and play games all week.  Hopefully, I’ll get the new controller that I want along with a game.  You can come over and hang out with me and maybe spend a day or two.  I’m also going to invite Josh and Simon.  I wish I could be Ryan this year.  Then I would be sure to get all the gaming gear I want for Christmas.  His parents are both PhD’s with great jobs.  He’s set for life and can get whatever he wants…”

And the conversation continued.

But I stopped listening.

The light bulb in my head was shining brightly.  Wow!  I wonder what his parents are doing to combat his expectations?

How many times do we as parents plan the perfect holiday season while our kids are off doing the same thing.  I’m sure this kid’s parents didn’t envision him spending his Christmas break holed up in his basement with his gaming system and all his friends.  I’m guessing all the boys that he is planning to invite have parents that are making family plans as well.

So what will most likely happen?

Conflict and lots of unrealized expectations!

It’s natural to have expectations and planning does need to take place before the holidays arrive, but what are we as parents doing to set expectations–realistic expectations–for both us and our teens?

A couple of years ago, my oldest son and his wife were coming home for the holidays.  Since I hadn’t seen them in a while, I absolutely couldn’t wait to have all my kids home for Christmas–it was a treat that only came around every two years.  I had set my expectations on all the fun things we would do as a family.  

And then my expectation bubble burst.  

Yes, they were coming home but they were bringing his wife’s sister and my son’s best friend.

“What?  For the holidays?  But that should be family time” was ringing in my head.  “How are there going to be intimate one-on-one conversations when we are entertaining guests?  Christmas morning will be weird with others watching our family open presents.”

And the list of objections went on…

Not only did my expectations clash with my son and his wife’s expectations, but I realized that my other children also had expectations of what Christmas would be like.  They couldn’t wait for their brother to come home in anticipation of all they cool things they would do together.  

I could see my youngest’s heart was heavy with disappointment as he realized that his brother’s time would be spent with his friend and not with him–a cruel reality in his mind.

It became a time of expectation readjustment–for everyone.

So how do you get everyone on the same page with expectations before school is out and the holidays begin?

  1. Plan a family time to have conversation–if not together at least separately.  Be sure to include kids that are away at college and those that are married.  Find out what each person is hoping for when you all are together.
  2. Set expectations early and stress the importance of flexibility.  Let everyone know that not every dream for their holiday can be met fully.  
  3. Let everyone know the non-negotiables.  For example, if dinner is on Christmas Eve with grandma then that might mean family only.  Period.  There will be other times during the holiday to include friends.
  4. Make sure everyone is in on the plan early rather than the day of the event.  Let each person know when they will have free time to do their thing.
  5. Make sure everyone has plenty of time to “grieve” their expectations before the holidays begin.  Time gives the person time to readjust the dream versus the reality.

As my youngest got used to the idea that his brother was bringing guests for Christmas, he had to “grieve” his expectations.  I’ll admit, I grieved with him.  For him and for me.  But what I discovered was I needed to allow him to express his disappointment.  We talked frequently about what he was going to miss about the one-on-one time.  And then we put words to his desires with his brother.

“What is one thing that you could do with your brother that would be special?” I asked.  As he contemplated that, it helped him to reset his expectations of the holiday season.  

For me, I knew that I wanted at least one moment where my oldest where I could just have deep conversation   without interruption–just our special time together.   Once I shared those desires, it became an expectation that my son was more than willing to fill.  We went to his favorite restaurant while my husband entertained our guests.  It filled my soul.

That Christmas had a profound affect on our family.  It helped us be more flexible in our expectations of the holiday season.  It also forced communication in dealing with disappointment by verbalizing “one thing” that was import so that our  expectations would be lowered which meant less conflict.

For us, we also discovered that having friends join the festivities during the holiday season took the focus off the gifts and made it about connection.  What we got was the “best” of the Christmas season and memories that will last a lifetime.

Dare you to start having your holiday expectation discussions today with your kids.  Find out what everyone wants and put a plan in place early so that there is time to reset expectations of the season.

“Let go…and let God”,


Why not buy your family a gift during the holiday season that will impact your relationship?  With All Due Respect was written with families in mind.  It is guaranteed to stretch you as a parent as you navigate the tween and teen years while deepening your relationship with Jesus Christ.  Whether you are in the sweet spot of your kid’s lives or they are making you crazy with their never-ending attitude, With All Due Respect will help you define a healthy relationship with your kids for years to come.  

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