By JENNIFER STEUER
Hello, holidays! Hello, heartache, headache and insomnia. Howdy, budget busting basics. Hi, hair-raising, non-stop brain overloads. Cue constant feelings of inadequacy. This swirling mix of emotions leaves me dizzy and breathless, and makes me feel so inept at this part of mothering. These feelings lead to more guilt, and the cycle perpetuates.
The galloping gimmies (Thank you, Berenstain Bears!) are rampant. The numbers of catalogs, commercials and YouTube videos this time of year push the kids into thinking they need more in order to have friends. All kids know some people have more and some families have less. Part of me wants to ban all gift giving and receiving holidays, but it isn’t my place to say what other people do with their money. How on earth do we keep up?
I admit, I fall for the material things, too. All the shiny new technology and gadgets out there beg to jump in my cart and come home with me. The kids beg for the latest and greatest video games, the cool clothes and the best holiday vacation. I would love to hit the mall and blow my budget without a second thought. There are plenty of things that I would love to slide my credit card across the counter for just because I want them. Here’s the thing though: I know that needs and wants are not the same thing.
We parents are in a world of hurt! As the mom of three kids who live their truths differently, a gift that may have meaning to one child could be meaningless to another. Or it could be a complete bomb.
Each of my children is an exquisite human being who should not want for anything, but I won’t spoil them. Harlan and I agree that giving them everything their hearts’ desire could only create problems as they get older. I am not going to lie. There are tantrums. There is begging and pleading. There are tears. Sometimes there is bartering or an offer to do extra chores. We try to hear the kids out and listen to the reasons. Sometimes I give them what they want, but they have to have some skin in the game.
Raising Jewish kids is hard in December. Never mind that it all starts in October. So much of the three months is spent looking at all the Christmas decorations and feeling like Chanukah is overlooked. Don’t get me wrong Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is an amazing festival that celebrates one day of oil lasting for eight days. Miracles are the name of the game! We play dreidel, eat latkes and doughnuts, and we exchange small gifts. When the candles are lit and the flame sends shadows dancing around the room, we will say the blessings. Then we sing Moaz Tzur (Rock of Ages) and I cry. If I don’t have a tissue nearby, I’ll have to use my sleeve to wipe the tears away. The pride I feel when I hear the blessings and when they sing overwhelms me. The love I have for my family is overwhelming.
Our little corner of the world is safe for now and we snuggle close. Our Chanukah traditions help us remember our loved ones and connect us to generations past. I look at Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca smiling and learning traditions, and I see future generations in their eyes. I wonder which of our Steuer family traditions they will continue and what family traditions they will make their own.