I Admit It: Christmas Is Completely Out of Control In My House

Yesterday, as I was sneaking candy from my kids’ Halloween stash, my friends started a group text about Christmas present shopping. One mom was about halfway done with her shopping already and the other was getting started. Looking at their texts, my mouth full of chocolate, I was genuinely shocked.

Christmas shopping? Already? I haven’t even put the pumpkins away!


But it really is that time and this year, as I scramble to hide/eat the rest of the Halloween candy, I am also vowing to get a head start on making sure that come December, Christmas in my house goes down a little better than it has in the past. Because if you want the truth, Christmas has gotten completely out of control at the Brusie household, I am sorry to admit.

Maybe you’re like me and are feeling that same sort of shame creep up inside of you. Maybe you know exactly what it feels like to vow that this year will be different, only to look over the massive pile of presents you have accumulated (seriously, how does it happen?!) with a look of horror. Maybe you wish that you, too, could curb the crazy gift-giving that seems to come from loving and well-meaning family and friends without hurting feelings or feeling like a jerk. Maybe you wish you could just forget that unfortunate incident when your kids were so overstimulated on Christmas that they honestly acted like spoiled brats.

If you relate to any of the above, I totally understand, and not only have I been there, but I have been there many times. Take last year for example–I actually tried to get a “head start” on Christmas shopping and started ordering presents early online. Except my master plan majorly backfired when I completely forgot everything that I ordered, kept ordering more, panicked last minute that I hadn’t bought enough, and went to an actual store (who does that?!?) and bought even more gifts. Come wrapping time on Christmas Eve, I wanted to cry at how many presents I had. It was just entirely over-the-top.

Frankly, Christmas has become kind of exhausting for me and for my kids, too. Too much of anything, whether it’s presents or parties, candy or stimulation, is just not fun for anyone. So this year, I’m making a vow to cut back and enjoy the season more. Here’s my master plan:

1. Draw names. We have a big family, so part of the problem is that every aunt, uncle, and grandparents gets each of my four kids something. And it ends up being crazy. This year, I hope to suggest that we draw names so there’s not a crazy amount of presents flying everywhere. And more importantly, stop the excess before my kids come to “expect” that massive pile of presents each year.

2. Create wish lists. I’ve debated doing this for some time, as I feel like it’s kind of a selfish thing to do, but bottom line, people want to buy for my kids, and I want to do my best to raise kids who aren’t greedy monsters, so why not take a few minutes and make a list of gifts that my kids really want? I know I love when people give me gift suggestions, so I’m thinking this might be a good step for us.

3. Make my kids give back. My parenting style up until now has kind of been “just get through it.” But now that my youngest is three, it’s time to be more intentional about setting positive examples for my kids. We’ve signed up to sponsor a child for Christmas, and I plan having one-on-one time with each kid to gift their siblings with a meaningful present that they can make or create, instead of buy.  

4. Focus on experiences, not things. For my own kids and also for family members, I am making a push towards experiences, not things. That might mean a family game as a present, a gift certificate to the zoo, or even a book we can all read out loud. Whatever it looks like, I’m shifting the focus from tangible presents to experiences.

5. Cut back. There’s no other way around it—part of cultivating a more simple and thoughtful Christmas experience means cutting back on the sheer amount of presents my kids get. I’m keeping a strict list this year and not letting Amazon Prime tempt me to overbuy.

I want to feel in control this Christmas season. Every year, I feel like I am reacting to the holidays instead of enjoying them along the way and this year, I hope things are different. If I can control both my stress level and my kids’ experience, then come Christmas morning, I can sit back in front of the fire and know that we are truly embracing the reason for the season.