My fifth grade class has been very busily decking our classroom with Christmas décor. They’re participating in a classroom decorating contest with the other classes, and have been madly cutting out and hanging snowflakes, stringing lights around everything from bookshelves to my coat tree, and making lots of noise and mess in the process. If I were a compulsive neat freak, or even just 10 years younger, I probably would not be able to handle all the energy they are generating, and would certainly be tweaking and modifying every single thing they put up! Everything is just nearly symmetrical and tastefully done.
I remember one Christmas many years ago, when three of my five children were very little. I was feeling pressure to be a “good mother.” This meant doing special Christmas things—projects, baking, etc.—with my little ones. They were ages 1 ½, 3, and 5. I chose to make potato stamp Christmas cards. Brilliant. I thought I could just cut out a couple of stamps, then show them how to press the potato on the ink pad, then stamp the card stock and, voila, cute Christmas cards! It was a great idea, but I really didn’t have any idea that I would have to help them do every single step of this operation, nor did I realize just how incapable an 18-month-old is of holding the potato without dropping it, or a three-year old of not getting ink everywhere, or a five-year-old of pressing the stamp so that you could actually see the design. This particular group project lasted about 45 minutes before I sent them all into the other room to watch Rudolph so that I could make the cards.
The potato-stamp project was really more for me than for my kids—it was all about making me feel that I was doing what a really good mother should do. Not that this kind of activity is bad, just not mandatory; I didn’t realize that being a good mother doesn’t necessarily mean you re-enact a Hallmark movie, or relive your favorite childhood memories. What I realize now is that what really matters to little ones at this time of the year, and every other time of the year, is that you are with them, talking to them, telling them stories, reading to them, sitting and looking at the tree, and sharing with them everything that is important and beautiful to you. This is what Christmas is about—God with us, talking to us face to face, living life alongside us so that we can know Him and His love for us.
My fifth graders may win the decorating contest, but it won’t be because the room looks like a Martha Stewart creation. My students have been loved by parents who have shown them what Christmas looks like, and they know what to do!