It really is a material world. Growing up, I never caught glimpse of all the materialism. Since becoming a parent, I can see how material it really is.
Take Christmas, for example. Now, we always hear about the "materialism" and "secularism" of Christmas. But I never really understood how it had infiltrated our supposedly humble LDS culture until this year. This year, in talking with friends about Christmas, I've found out that many of my peers, who share my beliefs, spend exorbitant amounts on Christmas and think nothing of it. Even if they don't spend a ton of money, they go to extremes (like waiting in a line overnight in subfreezing temperatures) to get certain gifts for their children or spouses.
Now, I don't have a problem with getting a good deal. But fighting someone in an aisle of a chain store at 12 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to get one of three Big Wheels for $88? Is it really that important that your child have that specific gift? For me, no material item on this earth would be worth getting up at midnight to get in line outside in subfreezing temperatures and try to fight off all the other shoppers.
Or the fact that so many people cannot seem to grasp the concept that just because it's Christmas, you don't need to go all out. I frequent random parenting message boards on the web, and often I see parents saying how they will get their kids whatever the kids want only because it's Christmas. Or they will forgo getting practical things (like coats, boots, clothes, etc.) and buy expensive, useless-after-one-week, toys that their children want "because it's special--it's Christmas!"
My sister-in-law told me her new method for Christmas shopping which I really like. I shared it with my husband and we decided that we'd like to do it next year and see how it goes. For Christmas, she and her husband bought each child "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read." They additionally got one Santa gift per kid, but you could also do a family Santa gift. Then it stays simple, the kids kind of know what to expect and can give you very definite ideas of what they want within those categories.
But that's also something that I'm not sure I agree with. Getting the kids what they want. Do we always have to ask them what they want and get that for them? What if we see a great deal on something we really feel they will love, can we not get that because it's not on their list? Some of the best gifts I've ever gotten have not been from a list of mine. I don't always know what I want, it's nice to be pleasantly surprised.
In fact, this year, I saw an ad for a certain boot I wanted. I circled the ad. I went to the store and tried on the pair. I wrote down the size, color, and name of the shoe. Then I passed that information on to my husband. He did buy me those boots. I was glad for that. But in addition to buying that pair of boots, he also got me some really cozy slippers and a really pretty pair of red pumps that I had never indicated I wanted. I didn't need those other two pairs either. But it was so nice to be surprised Christmas morning. Likewise, I enjoy finding a gift that would perfectly suit my kids and giving it to them and then seeing them be excited about it, even though they didn't ask for it.
I had plenty of conversations with other parents, despairing that their children didn't know what they wanted for Christmas and so they didn't know what to get them. I'd say, look at their interests and get them something along the lines of that. Even clothing with pictures of my child's favorite characters would make my children happy.
Next year, I want to make all their stocking goodies. I want to do as many homemade gifts as possible, actually. I want to make Christmas less material. After all, the true reason for the season isn't the next ipod or the next video gaming system, is it? How do all these material things fit in with the real meaning for the season anyway?
That will be another challenge I'd like to overcome--focusing on that true meaning. It will be hard with the materialism all around us. I even get sucked into the materialism, even though I try not to. It's hard not to--after all, gift giving and receiving is fun, isn't it?