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Steve Novotney Says, "It's About Need Not Want"

I will admit it. I got caught up in "the wave."

Nope, not during a football or baseball game but instead under our Christmas tree.

"The wave" is how I referred to the bevy of Christmas bounty my wife and I placed under the tree for our two children. We loved their reactions when they first awakened and made their way to the living room and felt we needed to continue.

Weight benches, baby dolls, golf clubs, electric keyboards, Nintendos, Sega systems, bicycles, boxing gloves, ice skates, remote control cars and trucks, ball caps, Super Soakers, tennis rackets, Game Boys, and Beanie Babies. That's just a sampling of examples, too.

The worst part (It is embarrassing to admit this.) is that "the wave" blocked the vision of Joseph and Mary, the Three Kings, and Baby Jesus in the manger, and no one seemed to care although we all were raised Catholics.

And then while they were both teenagers, it hit me. What do they need and not want? I realized that, while I was attempting to complete their annual wish lists, I was expending far too many dollars on items they may use only a few times before losing interest in whatever activity the item provoked. My children, now in the their mid-30s, are not boxers or tennis players or keyboard players or ice skaters, and they barely touched those skates, the rackets, or that darn keyboard that cost me in excess of $100 more than 20 years ago.

That's when the switch took place, and I began asking my children after Thanksgiving dinner each year what they truly needed, and that's when we started hearing about tennis shoes and jeans and shorts and shirts and socks and jackets and sweaters and under garments. It's not as if the children ever went without those important items, but the different approach altered their mindsets, too, and these days that is what determines the presents that now show up under the tree each Christmas Day far away from our Nativity Scene. In fact, we started a new tradition when Amanda was 14 and Michael was 13, and that was to place Baby Jesus in the manger because, after all, He wasn't there until his miraculous birth.

They took turns placing the Son of The Lord in our manger BEFORE ripping open their first gift, and we've continued the tradition ever since.

Now this is not a commentary offering parenting advice because we all go about raising our children the best way we see fit, but I tell this story about our family because no longer do we feel that "shopping season" pressure that was ushered in by materialism, and we enjoy everything about Christmas much more now than when "the wave" was the priority. It's easy to fall into it I suppose, but I often thank The Lord for leading us away, and now that our children are in their mid-30s, it's hilarious to me to hear them both ask at this time of year, "Hey, Dad, need anything?"