My teenager stopped pining for Christmas catalogs and my heart aches

When I was a kid, there was nothing like typing in the mail and finding the Sears catalog or Service Merchandise. I would bend over them for days, painstakingly circling whatever I wanted for Christmas. There were toys, clothes, and the finest electronics the 1980s had to offer. It was a childhood right of passage and I have fond memories of it.

My kids are the same, but now it’s Target and Amazon and Lego and American Girl. The thrill is still there. They love to scan every page and hunt for amazing new treasures. I’ll find objects surrounded by four distinct initials next to them, so I can tell Santa who wants what. But this year, there are only three sets of letters in these books. My eldest son unceremoniously ditched the Christmas catalogs this year. And to tell you the truth, my heart is a little broken.

He is now a teenager and the fairy tale magic of the holidays is long gone, but he is still a child. At least in my heart it is. But this kid doesn’t need to circle things in a catalog anymore. Instead, he’ll send me a link from Amazon with the new AirPods he wants, or just tell me he’d like some cash because he’s saving up for a new gaming system. Of course, it’s simple and efficient and takes a lot less effort to coordinate when I can just click and add something to my cart, but it’s cold. It doesn’t look like Christmas.

My house is not devoid of all Christmas magic. I still have believers, so we have an elf who comes to visit us every night and leaves little notes behind. But, Rex was his elf. He named it after his favorite “Toy Story” character. It just doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but those Christmases have come and gone so quickly. Why is everything going so fast? He may not buy the game from the elves anymore, but he plays the game for the sake of his younger siblings. I’m really grateful that he’s not a Grinch who wants to ruin everything.

When he was little, I used to decorate the house the night after Thanksgiving once he had gone to sleep as the first piece of seasonal magic. Rex would appear with a note that he made a special stop to bring some holiday cheer. The look on his face as he walked down the hall was priceless. I will never forget those big green eyes that understood everything. Things have changed over the years and now he’s going to help me decorate the tree. It even indulges in my love of Hallmark movies playing in the background. I’ll take it.

He no longer looks for Rex when he gets up. He doesn’t talk about visiting Santa Claus or looking for his sleigh on Christmas Eve. But her sweet and innocent Christmas seasons live in my house during the holidays. I have a special tree made up entirely of memories. There are ornaments for family holidays, birthdays and other happy days. My favorites are the ones my kids made. I have little hands that have been cut out and turned into Santa Claus and his beard. There are tiny fingerprint reindeer, all with their name and year written on them. Handmade beaded candy canes and darling ornaments with their school photos adorn the branches. These are my treasures.

As my children grow, I will always have my keepsake tree with its beautiful colored lights to light me up on a cold December night. Knowing that there was a time when they were all caught up in the holiday magic, and that I helped make it happen, will continue to bring me comfort.

When your kids outgrow the elves and reindeer, the man in the red suit, and the stuff that surrounds the Christmas catalogs, you may feel like the magic is gone. But it doesn’t have to. Maybe he just needs to evolve. Maybe it’s time to usher in new traditions and create updated holiday memories? Last year, I introduced my two oldest boys to the “Christmas vacation”. They loved it. They especially loved Clark’s rant towards the end. Yes, the language is flowery, but it’s nothing they don’t hear all the time and it made them laugh. They already asked when we’re going to watch it together this year. It warms my heart.

This year’s Christmas catalogs sit on the living room table already dog-eared and marked, ready to share holiday wishes with Santa. My eldest son still enjoys building his LEGO sets with his dad. I can grab this book and throw it on his bed, just to see what happens. I’ll even add a new Sharpie machine for the good old days, and a note from Rex telling him that Santa is watching and looking for ideas. Who knows? Maybe there’s just a snowflake of magic lurking behind the headphones and the iPhone… just maybe…