To all the hurried moms and dads,

You, with the tired eyes from midnight shopping trips on Amazon. You, with the after-work trips to WalMart and gotta get the Nintendo Switch and gotta fight the crowds on a Saturday to be the first in line to see Santa. You, with the lists and the addresses and what does Aunt Margie want and shipping costs so much anymore and look at that line at the UPS store.
Yes, you. Breathe and take a step back. You’re not doing anyone any favors, least of all yourself.

So why are you doing this?

Is it because it’s what your kids expect? What you think they expect? Because it’s how you were raised?

Pause right there.

Recently I found myself in two different conversations with two friends. Both had known hard times, like can’t-afford-presents-for-their-kids-at-Christmas times. Both were blessed with friends and coworkers that bought their kids gifts that year.

Both said their kids remember that as their best Christmas.

Not the year when they had more than enough. The year that they didn’t have anything. To be sure, picture a living room with four large piles of presents, one for myself and each sibling, with enough wrapping paper to wallpaper a room. That’s how I grew up. Santa was less about Christmas magic than about bringing stuff.

Stuff that was forgotten about, sometimes before the month was out.

What I don’t forget: my aunt and uncle hosting Christmas brunch each year and having eggnog there for the first time. Playing Silent Night on the piano for my grandparents and not messing up once. Sledding in the backyard with my brothers until our fingers froze in our gloves.

Skip the stress. Keep it simple. Put away the computer and support your local retailers (I begrudgingly include Leavenworth in that, despite its ready-consumerism and energy-hogging Christmas lights), because they are part of what makes this valley thrive. Teach your kids about other holidays, like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. Stay home on a Saturday and bake cookies together. And let’s be honest, your 3-month-old would be terrified of Santa anyway.