The focus of my blog this year is endurance. So I figured I would kick off 2018 with an endurance topic we can all relate to: surviving the holidays.

This year, Brew and I didn’t buy our children any presents. Which either makes us the worst parents ever... or the most brilliant. 

Before we even thought about what to get our kids, grandparents, friends, neighbors aunts and uncles swamped our five foot tree – decorated with ornaments only on the top half so Gus couldn’t destroy them – with holiday themed boxes and bags decorated with every shade of red and green paper.

The only sacks I filled with presents this year were trash bags of culled books, toys, and clothes and delivered to Goodwill to make room for the overflow of love and generosity that would eventually find its way under our beds, into the laundry, and between the couch. I think there actually might be a force field that protects toys and games in our house from being placed in toy chests.  

We didn’t make a big deal of Santa and I didn’t want to. We repurposed some family gifts and used books for the stockings. I also went old school and put citrus fruits in there for bulk... and vitamin C. 

Frankly, I was frustrated with our friend in the fur-trimmed red suit and his ubiquity leading up to December 25th. Earlier in the month, we saw five Santas in one week. He was at the mall, the aquarium, the Biltmore Estate, he made an appearance at pre-school, and this year he even went contra dancing. The varying iterations gave Gus great angst during photos ops and provided Charley with a chance to revise her wish list on a daily basis. Honestly, I took delight in eating the cookies that had been set out for him on Christmas Eve. 

Brew and I also didn’t buy anything for each other. But we did go online Christmas night and purchase nose bleed tickets to the Fed Cup Tennis Tournament in Asheville this February. (And writing this blog reminded me to register Charley for swim lessons for the next three months.)

In general, we don’t buy our children many toys and we outfit them almost entirely in hand-me-downs. But Charley (age 5) has been to all 50 states and Gus (15 months) has been to 5 countries. So no, I don’t feel bad about opting out of more stuff for Christmas. We are life rich with experiences– and we still have plenty of toys. 

Part of surviving the holidays– and life– is to make it your own. Cultural traditions and mores are not mandates. You have options on how to live, how to spend your money, and how to raise your family. Sure, your children may resent you for it and require counseling later on. But I hope that some wise therapist suggests that maybe just maybe, the gift we gave each other at Christmas was the time we spent decorating cookies, hosting friends for sleepovers, and taking trips to the Aquarium, WNC Nature Center, and Biltmore Estate; that is, the gift of Christmas memories.   

*If you’re up for reading more counter-cultural stories of perseverance, consider placing a preorder of my new book The Pursuit of Endurance. You can pre-order from AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-a-Million, or my favorite Asheville bookstore Malaprops