Editor's note: Today, we welcome new contributor Kim Seidel to our CatholicMom.com family. Kim will join us monthly to share her thoughts on parenting and family life. Please join me in welcoming Kim! LMH

As a Catholic, I’ve learned that there’s no need for a post-Christmas let-down, that empty feeling after all of the weeks of preparations, it’s suddenly over after Dec. 25. We have the gift of Epiphany, which is celebrated about 12 days, two Sundays after Christmas. Then, the holiday season “officially” ends.

I enjoy hearing the story of the Magi, traveling from the East, following a bright star to see the Christ child. They present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus and adore Him. Many Catholics, including myself at one time, usually don’t remember Epiphany and that our Christmas joy can be stretched out for two more weeks. With more time to reflect upon the coming of Christ, it seems easier then to carry our light from Jesus into the world for the rest of the year.

As parents, we can easily get wrapped up in our children’s wishes for material items. Last year, my daughter wanted a particular toy puppy so much for Christmas that she carefully cut out a coupon for it and circled the details in bright pink marker. She eagerly presented it to me, much like she was giving me a gift herself.

“Mom, my puppy is on sale now, so it would be a good time to go shopping,” said my 8 year old with that extra politeness in her voice she uses when she really wants something. After my youngest kept reminding me that the coupon would expire, I finally made it to the busy department store. Along with the coupon, she clipped out the advertisement of the smiling critter wearing a bright pink collar. I felt like a detective, and I nearly panicked in the toy aisle when I could not find the pup that matched the ad. Then, I found the dog barking loudly – only two left and it wasn’t even Thanksgiving.

I assumed a quick flick of the switch would turn off the barking, but I could not find it, even as I squeezed my fingers through the small hole in the plastic showcasing the puppy. And the sides of the box were taped as tightly as a double bolted locked door. After a sales clerk suggested that I open the product at home, I walked through the store, cradling the package in my arms, to the check out. I felt many eyes on me perhaps wondering why I didn’t shut the annoying toy off.

Once in my car, it dawned on me that my daughter would be home and she would hear the loud barking coming from my shopping bag. Now I was on a mission to shut him down in the parking lot. I used my car keys as a scissors to tear through the sticky tape. It was no small feat. The yapping was getting on my nerves.  I carefully lifted the furry creature out of the box and could not find a switch anywhere on it. I needed directions. Those were hidden even deeper in the box. I was beginning to sweat.

Finally paging through the surprisingly thick book of instructions, I learned where to hit the operating button. The quiet was welcome, but now I was surrounded by papers and tape cluttering my car.  I managed to put the puppy in her make-shift dog house and made mental plans to fix up the tattered box to cover my tracks.

Although we’ll make the extra effort to buy our children those special toys, the one or two they want so much they’ll clip the coupons out for them, we’ve tried to instill the message that Christmas isn’t all about “stuff.”  As we go through Advent together, we observe how many more of the four candles are lit on the wreath upon the church altar during Mass. For the past four weeks, we’ve heard our parish priest consistently tell us, “We are a people of Advent. We are a people of hope. We have a future.” We talk about what that means to us. We leave up our Nativity set until after Epiphany.

Coincidentally, my then second-grader who talked constantly about the puppy she wanted for Christmas, was just as eager, if not more, to make her First Reconciliation during Advent season. She prepared to make her First Communion in the spring. Children can get so excited about the faith when it’s new to them.
As they grow up, I want to keep our daughters’ enthusiasm for their faith life as alive now as when they’re experiencing sacraments, learning prayers, and reading Bible passages for the first time. That would be the greatest gift ever.

Copyright 2011 Kim Seidel