Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Above all else, mothers, tell the little ones stories at Christmas..."

We often think that an over-scheduled holiday season that veers away from the true meaning of Christmas are a modern-day problem and think longingly of the "olden days" when Christmas was more about peace and love. But apparently over a hundred years ago, moms had the same nostalgia for a simpler time and struggled with some of of the same busyness and worry over the focus on toys and treats during the holidays that we worry about today.

A couple days ago, my sister-in-law emailed me this great quote by Emmaline B. Wells, a writer, champion of women's suffrage and early Mormon church leader. This quote is from the December 1901 edition of the Young Woman's Journal.

"The olden times were the days of comparative seclusion from the outside world, and we had to depend mainly upon our own resources for amusement...In those far-off days, however, the children were as much on tip-toe with expectancy as in the present day when Santa Claus time comes round. Then we had to tell them stories to make up for the things we lacked. Now there is so much to occupy the time that mothers have no moment to spare, evidently, to tell them stories at all. They depend on church and the kindergarten teachers to do all this for them while they, the dear blessed mothers, lose all the sweetest hours life can bring. To sit at evening round the fire and listen to the children's prattle and sing them the old-fashioned carols and tell them over and over the stories they long to hear, makes one forget care and trouble, and draws the mother and children closer together with ties inseparable that can never be wholly broken apart. The mother, who denies herself this privilege for the sake of some outside engagement, or even to do extra household work, is doing herself as well as the children an injustice....

"Children do not have too much love not even at Christmas, no, not that, but they very often have too many toys and sweetmeats. How many children there are in the world who long, more earnestly, for real love than they do for aught else. There is no comfort or luxury that will supply its place even in the heart of a little child. There is more happiness because of love than from any other gift...

"Above all else, mothers, tell the little ones stories at Christmas..."

This quote grabbed my attention big time. I know that my children need to feel my love in extra abundance at Christmas and I really think Emmaline got it right when she suggested stories and cozy snuggling as a great vehicle for expressing and teaching about love.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions has always been reading stories by the Christmas tree. I've got a great collection of Christmas books that we build by getting a new one each year. Most years, we've fit in a Christmas story before bed pretty much every night in December. But after reading Emmaline's words, I realized that this year I've been letting outside engagements rob me of some of the "sweetest hours life can bring."

So I decided to prioritize time to "sit at evening by the fire (and the Christmas tree all lit up) and listen to the children's prattle and sing them the old-fashioned carols and tell them the stories they long to hear."

The last couple nights, despite Christmas concerts and basketball practice and homework and a myriad of other things pulling us all in different directions, we have made time to snuggle on the couch and read Christmas stories by the Christmas tree. We got to bed a little late one night. And another night, we opted out of an engagement I realized really wasn't that important in order to protect story time. But really, once I made story time a priority, I realized it doesn't really take that long and it's worth the small sacrifices it may require.

Story time and the love and lessons we can emphasize and re-emphasize through story and song truly does "draw the mother and children closer together with ties inseparable that can never be wholly broken apart." My undivided attention and my stories - as well as the love wrapped up in them - will ultimately mean so much more than any other activity or material gift I can offer my dear children at Christmas.

I guess some things (like busyness and the incidence of conflicting priorities) never change - even when you look back 100 years. And some things (like letting the busyness rob us of what is most precious and allowing our priorities to get out whack) must be changed. We CAN protect time for real connections and love at Christmas. We really can.

Thanks, Emmaline. I really needed your message.

P.S. I've got all my favorite Christmas books listed in the Power of Moms Amazon Store. Check them out if you'd like. And it would be really great if you'd do all your Amazon shopping by starting at our store because a percentage of everything you buy once you've clicked through from our store (whether it's on our list or not) goes to support The Power of Moms website (a pretty great cause if I do say so myself).


Anonymous said...

absolutely love this. And its not just for the little ones. My 12 yr surprised me this year by asking me to purchase a new copy of Lets Smell Christmas, a scratch and sniff book that describes the smells a little bear associates with the holiday.

My kids really opened my eyes yesterday - I needed to purchase a cheap holiday mug and goodies to fill it with for a mug exchange at school and I had lots of fun with it. I was putting the final touches on it when 2 of my kids walked into the kitchen with eyes opened wide and declared to me "gosh I hope I get one of those for Christmas". I was so surprised - the whole thing had to be under $8 so not expensive - and said its just normal stuff like chapstick and a few candies and we already have tons of mugs and they said they just loved the way it was all wrapped up together. I realized I need to spend time to put those touches for THEM so that they feel special and see the time and care I give THEM. lesson learned - sometimes the simple things packaged with care and love are just the right gift.

Julia said...

I love Christmas stories and I can't wait for my baby to grow and understand stories so I can read him my favorites. By next years I will probably have my collection ready so I can read him his first Christmas story :)

Kristine said...

I feel the same way and sure appreciate you sharing that quote. We have enjoyed Christmas books and stories for years and even wrapped them up like presents. This year, however, I realized just how much we enjoy this simple tradition. Perhaps it's because my kids are getting old enough to have meaningful discussions about the books and they are young enough that they still love to cuddle together. I love lots of Christmas activities but this one just might be my favorite.

Andrea said...

We open a wrapped up Christmas book each night and we are behind a few nights. Thanks for the kick in the pants to make sure it's a priority!


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