Keeping the season unconditionally merry

December 19, 2016 - 5:00am

I spent almost ten minutes learning what hatchimals are. Not having cable television keeps us out of the loop, but we like it that way. It was strangely unsettling to learn about the silliness of hatchimals though. They are toys yet they are introduced as a companion that ‘feels’ and the programmed noises are there to prove it. Children are supposed to ‘care’ for them by rubbing them this way and that, tapping and tilting them until the glowing eyes shine a certain colour. True to life indeed (not). 

I had no clue about the extent of it until a recent news story exposed the craziness. The Canadian-made toy sells for $80 normally but the early-emptied shelves made the internet hatchimal commerce explode. One toy can be as much as $700. Many parents are distressed that Christmas morning will find their little one without a hatchimal, and they think the internet dealers heartless. 

The loss of perspective is troubling. There is a lot to fight for when it comes to our children, yet buffing up the ‘I want it no matter what!’ feature is not one of them. 

We are fortunate beyond belief to have the space and time to think about the season and plan for it. Togetherness is something to behold. The toy craze takes away much from it though. It takes away from the awareness that there are so many children who cannot think of a gift list because their most ardent one is to have their parents with them or (any) food on the table. When the basic vital needs are missing…

The war in Syria has reached nightmarish dimensions, and that is but one area in the world where people, many children too, die daily. In many regions in Africa there is famine, war, violence that most of us, let alone our children, cannot even fathom, yet children there witness it and grow up – the ones who survive – with that kind of reality. Here at home, there are abused hungry children who cannot see the glow of the season. 

We cannot change much by forgoing a certain toy, but we can change the way our children see the world by celebrating in ways that allows them to see it as it is: wonderful, troubled, worthy of compassion, wonder and gratefulness. 

Taking a few steps back reveals a picture that is not honouring. The Christmas celebration has become, at times, the opposite of gratefulness for our children and one of the biggest, if not the biggest, reason to raid stores and wrap, wrap and wrap some more. 

Those few minutes of unwrapping sure get people’s mood built up. That children are especially vulnerable to that is not unchildish in the least. It’s only too normal to be excited and eager. Taking hints from the list to Santa is no sin either. Parents get a bit of help, and children get to hope, wish and taste the magic of it all, gratefulness included. 

There is a lot to be grateful for if you’re a kid growing up in places where you can be a kid. There is a lot to be grateful for when you can raise your kids without fearing famine, war or impending death and violence of any kind. 

Preserving the gift of innocence in our children, not by bubble-wrapping them, but by having them learn about the world will never come from catering to their wants the way the holidays crazes do. Common sense, compassion and gratefulness do not grow from that. 

If we want them to learn to care about animals (rather than hatchimals or other electronic devices that feel nothing and return no love, no matter what the instructions say) we can either adopt a pet, visit a farm, or grow a garden and a have a couple of chickens since they’re allowed. 

There is much to learn about life and death, there is much to learn about giving of yourself so you can provide goodness to beings who depend on you. It’s the real thing; no reset function, but lots of lessons that can shape a human being in meaningful ways. 

Moreover, no one has to slave anywhere for that to happen, and no resources are being used just to be built into objects that sooner or later become garbage as many toys and Christmas gifts do. 

It may seem like peace of mind this time of year is only a hatchimal away, but truth is, we have choices when it comes to gifts and the way we celebrate. 

Unconditional joy brought by togetherness wins hands down every time, no matter the season. If there is one thing our children should remember years from now, it better not be the disappointment of not getting their ‘must-have-toy’ on Christmas day, but the amazing joy of waking up with their loved ones to snuggle next to with any gifts that parents could come up with. 

The horrible realities in other parts of the world cannot be fixed any time soon, but if awareness and compassion are never squished by hurried steps looking for silly toys, there is hope that we can contribute to building a world where merry celebrations come with fewer shadows for everyone…

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