By Marion Roaman
One Christmas Eve, in the wee hours of the night, my mom came into my room.
“Marion, Marion wake up, wake up!! Santa is here!!!”
I jumped out of bed and my mom quickly guided me to her bedroom window.
I sleepily gazed out to see Santa, his reindeer, and sleigh getting ready to take off into the sky. My mom opened the window as I shouted out, “Santa, Santa!”
Santa looked up at me and while waving back said, “Ho ho ho Marion!! Merry Christmas to you, and to all a good night!” He then got back into his sled and magically took off into the sky. I will never forget that night. I can still see it so vividly as though it is happening right in front of me.
The next morning I awoke to a hand-painted toy chest from Santa and his elves, as well as a few other surprises. Oh, and of course, an empty plate of cookies and half-finished glass of milk. I guessed Santa just wasn’t that thirsty.
Thirty-seven years later, times have changed. Retail Christmas displays are going up on November 1st, Christmas music starts to play the day after Thanksgiving, if not sooner, and Black Friday seems to overshadow any mystery there once was to Christmas. Kids are taunted by media, television, and online ads to want, and better yet NEED, the latest and greatest electronics. Parents are manipulated into feeling they have to supply these items to their children — God forbid their kids don't have what the other kids have.
I'm not sure when the switch happened. When did Christmas become only about gifts? Isn’t it about the gift of giving, and the SURPRISE of receiving? Don’t get me wrong, I always had a list for Santa and it was LONG! I would keep my fingers crossed and hope and wish for those gifts, but I didn’t get all of them. In fact, Santa’s gifts were more creative, and not gifts you would find in Best Buy or at the Apple store. Santa was magical. My mom would always give me a gift or two, from her, that were more mainstream, but Santa’s gifts were always unique and one-of-a -kind.
Now that I am a mom, I feel it is my privilege in life to raise responsible, polite, and giving human beings. Of course I want them to be financially successful, live in comfortable homes, and travel the world; however, more importantly I want them to be happy and grounded. In my opinion, the key to this is to be balanced and have priorities in line. As their mom, I need to give them the tools to achieve all of this and understand their priorities.
In order to keep my kids grounded throughout the holidays (and not greedy little “brats” who open gifts and toss them aside only to open the next), the work starts months before Christmas Day. In fact, the work starts at home every morning. Here are a few ways I help my kids to stay grounded throughout the gift giving season and subsequently, life.
My kids have responsibilities around the household. They are expected to clean up after themselves, clear the table, help with the dogs, and keep their rooms in order. It is invaluable that my kids see how hard I work to keep things in order. But even more invaluable is the lesson they learn in participating in keeping the order. By the time the holidays roll around, the kids genuinely feel the excitement building as they have been active participants in the day-to-day chores.
Help prepare for the holidays
In my household, we do not decorate the tree unless we are all together. This takes time and patience. Between my husband’s schedule, their school, sports, and my own work schedule, it can be tough to get us all together. When we do all get together to decorate, it feels extra special, particularly since it means shifting schedules and compromising. Another great way for the kids to get involved is in the kitchen! It takes a little patience, but give them jobs within their age range (crack the eggs, stir the batter). Your kids will be proud to have taken part in helping out.
We have been using the same decorations for YEARS. Every year I give each member of my family a new ornament. My daughter LOVES the moment she unwraps the ballerina ornament I gave her when she was 3. These special moments add up to years of memories. After the holiday has passed, we work together in removing the ornaments, each of us wrapping them and putting them away safely for the following year. We make a night out of it. Again, reminding them, we are all in this together!
As opposed to just volunteering at a soup kitchen once a year, I find it is more valuable to commit to volunteering several times throughout the year. My kids and I have started a new tradition of volunteering once or twice a month. We volunteer at the Selis Manor Center for the Visually Impaired. The kids take such joy in socializing with the residents. This week they helped to wrap Christmas gifts. Exposing my kids to the process of helping people in need has completely changed their outlook on receiving gifts. These experiences have had a direct impact on my kids, and remind them to be both giving to others and grateful for their advantages.
Please and Thank You
My children have been taught to always say please and thank you. More importantly, they have been taught to understand why they are saying thank you. All throughout the year, we talk about what we are grateful for and how lucky we are to be healthy and happy.
Give Creative Gifts
Sure, we can give that one big item they have been asking for all year, but I think it is best for the other gifts to be ones that spark creativity or fill a need. Another great gift idea is to give them an activity or tickets to a show. This may not spark the instant gratification of a brand new iPhone, but can’t we hold off on gifting those until the kids are older? Just because they want one, doesn’t mean they can or should have one…
Take the time to help your kids give gifts to others. My kids take a lot of time thinking about what to give the people they love. The more connected our kids are to the giving process, the better they will be at receiving.
Keep the Magic Alive
On Christmas Eve 2009, my kids were too excited to sleep. There was a major snowstorm in NYC. Around 4am, both my little cuties came into my room asking, "Mommy, did Santa come yet?" I somehow coerced them to fall back asleep with me. About an hour later, the snow on the rooftop of our building had become so heavy, that the apartment literally shook. All three of us woke up at the same time. "Mommy!!! Santa's sleigh was here!!!" They quickly ran to my bedroom window. "Don't you see it Mom? There he goes!! It is Santa and his sleigh!!!" Afterward they quickly ran to check the tree. Sure enough, Santa had eaten all the cookies and left half a glass of milk. They figured Santa just wasn't that thirsty.
No matter what your faith, the holidays are a magical time. As our kids get older, they question their faith and wonder if certain traditions are based in truth, fact, or make-believe, rightfully so. Times are tough — we are all working so hard to keep the magic alive. My son is turning 10 this year and for the last two years he has said, “Mom, I know there is no such thing as Santa.”
I just look at him and say, “Honey, I choose to believe in Santa. It is up to you to believe or not to believe but for me, Santa is real.”
Since discussing this, he now looks at me and says, “I do mom, I believe in Santa.”
And that is good enough for me.
Marion Berrian Roaman has been completely devoted to indoor cycling since she first discovered it at her local gym in Boulder, Colorado. As a chef with her own catering company, Marion no longer had time to go for her six hour rides in the mountains. Discovering indoor cycling completely changed her life. Marion's addiction to indoor cycling quickly became obsessive. "I found I was going to class at 6am, 12:30pm, and 6:30pm. It started to interfere with my career." As a bold 27-year-old, Marion sold her half of the catering company, moved back to New York, and opened the first indoor cycling boutique studio in East Hampton, New York. As much as she loved running the business and all that entailed, at the end of the day it all came back to the teaching. "No matter how difficult the day was or how tired I felt or how afraid I was of dealing with competition, I always had that bike. I always came back to teaching. I have been through some really tough times in my life. The combination of the energy in the room, the music and the passion for fitness is what always gotten me through." Marion taught at the major New York fitness clubs as well as her own studio, ZoneHampton. In 2011, Marion sold her business to Flywheel Sports, where she taught for three years as a Master Instructor.
Now Co-founder and Chief Content Officer at Peloton Cycle, Marion has the opportunity to spread her passion for indoor cycling worldwide. You can find her at Peloton’s flagship studio in NYC, where she also works as a Head Coach and General Manager. Marion is also a Health and Wellness Coach, a wife, and mother of two beautiful children.