Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas: A Reflection

I would love to say that Christmas is my favorite holiday. But it isn't. It's as much about the greed on my part as it is on the part of others.

No one is enjoying the presents I got them as much as I want them to. No one is gushing the "thank you's" as loudly as I'd like. No one is complimenting me on my roast turkey breast. No one is picking up the Christmas paper wrappings quickly enough. And, worst of all, no one got me a single present that I wanted, except for the presents that I went out and purchased myself, put into a flimsy gift bag, put on a self-adhesive gift tag, and in my own handwriting wrote "To: Mom, From: Santa".

This year I had to actually remind all the kids on December 23rd, "Remember, when you open gifts this year, you may or may not get exactly what you wanted. You are getting what Dad and I thought would be nice presents for you. You are getting what we could afford to buy you. You are getting gifts when other children are getting nothing. You WILL say "thank you". You WILL NOT pout. You WILL be polite. You WILL NOT compare the size or number of presents received to your siblings presents. Oh, and by the way, you WILL be taking your presents to your room or else your presents will be taken to Toys for Tots."

I'm kind-of a crazy grinchy bitch like that.

I have to say, I guess my kids have just gotten the better of me. And as far as I can understand that expression, I am taking it to mean that they have sucked all the good out of me. Any part of me that was once patient, understanding, kind, gentle, generous, and willing to twist her mouth into a smile is long since gone. I just want everyone to SHUT UP. And GO TO BED. Or PLAY OUTSIDE. And, for God's sake, don't ask me to make you food or give you a snack.

Now, when I say what I say, you have to understand that it's all just tongue-in-cheek, especially since I just wrote a post about not getting angry at the people in the parking lot of Toys R Us. Oh sure, I can keep my cool with them, but my own children? Yeah, I get a bit psycho after an hour or two with those monkeys.

But seriously, Christmas has just lost its appeal for me. I'm just tired of buying things in the belief that material gifts make people happier than sentiment. Christmas seems like a time when everyone, including me, is expected to just buy buy buy. And the gifts are more about hitting a certain price point than about getting a person what he or she would genuinely use or like. Have I spent enough money? Did I spend as much on that person as they spent on me? Are all the kids going to get a relatively EQUAL amount of gifts AND have an equal number of gifts? With friends and family, I just don't want to receive any more presents or to give any more presents. I want love, time, kindness, sharing, cooperation. But since you can't put a dollar amount on those things or wrap them with a pretty bow, instead we give each other things like sweaters and popcorn tins and Chia Pets.

I suggested to my husband, way back around August, that this year we only give each of the kids 3 presents: one "big" present (around $50 each), one small present, and $20 cash. He nixed that idea right away. He said he just didn't think it would work. I argued that it would be hard, but we needed to MAKE it work. All the continuous piles of toys and presents are causing the gifts to lose their significance. Sure, I stand in the toy aisle forever, wait in the check out line for an eternity, just so that my kid can rip off the wrapping paper and say, "Eh? What's next?"

And it's not that our kids are spoiled or selfish. I just think it's that our kids are... American. We live in a throw-away society where toys are a dime a dozen and not meant to last. Toys are designed to break after minimal usage and be replaced with new toys. I guess it helps the economy or something. So, my kids don't mind losing pieces to their toys. "It's okay mom. We can just buy a new one." UH? NO!!!! Legos strewn into every corner of the house? "No biggie mom - I've got plenty of Legos. If I don't find them all it's okay." UH? NO!!!! Getting tired of a toy that is only months or weeks old? "Hey Mom, I think I'm going to just throw this toy away. I don't want it anymore. It's boring." UH? NO!!!!

It's a vicious cycle. Kids get toys for gifts.... then they play with them... and eventually get bored with them... so we buy them more toys... and the old toys never get played with... and the new toys eventually become boring... and the kids realize that all they need to do in order to get new toys is to "get bored" with them... and then it's a Birthday or Christmas... more toys... old toys boring... lather, rinse repeat. And I am totally guilty of this. I spend all day cleaning up toys that my kids have only lukewarm feelings for. But I need them to stay occupied while I"m working, so I find MORE TOYS TO KEEP THEM INTERESTED AND THIS JUST MULTIPLIES MY PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!!

So, now you can probably understand why I love holidays like 4th of July: no presents, and all the decorations explode and get thrown away. Now that's my kind of holiday.


Jennifer said...

I am SO with you. I was just over Christmas before it even began this year. I know I want to do something different next year, but I'm not exactly sure what. I need to think about it. I want to start some new traditions now before the kids get much older. I would love to do a "simple" or a "homemade" Christmas like I saw some other bloggers doing, but I'm not sure how to transition to that. I want Christmas to have meaning again.

Gigi said...

I agree with you 100% - but really the kids don't remember how "big" you did Christmas before - so scaling back shouldn't be to hard.

One suggestion I do have to keep them from getting bored with their toys would be to pack some of them away for about six months (or three - kids have short memories) then rotate them back out and pack up another batch. Seems to work especially for the younger set.

Next holiday (after New Year's) is (I believe) MLK, Jr. Day - no presents! ;-)

The Old Geezer said...

I love the title of your blog
God bless you

Shawn said...

Just visiting over from SITS....

Good points---all!

Keely said...

Yep. My kid is TWO and he's already all, "What else you got??" I was originally going to let other people buy him the toys - he's too young to know that 'santa' didn't bring him anything - and at the last minute I felt social guilt and bought him stuff anyway. Which he already doesn't play with. Sigh.

When I was a kid my Mom would quietly take half our toys and hide them for 6 months like someone else suggested. When they came out they were brand new toys! But they were a lot more durable back then...

Foursons said...

I'm right there with you. And 4th of July is my favorite holiday too!

Anna See said...

we used to give 3 gifts- a toy, a book, and something to wear. the kids were happy with that. then i started buying too much. i wish i hadn't done that.

Cookie Crums said...

I'd have to say normally I agree but this year was different. My family is in the construction business and to say it was a rough year is putting it mildly. We had a very low key Christmas. Everyone got a gift or two they really wanted but we didnt' go crazy spending like we normally do. We were more interested in just spending the time with family and being relaxed because all the bills were paid and caught up.

And as for toys, my son is only 2 but we only buy him presents/toys at Christmas and his birthday. I think since he's been born have we bought him a toy that wasnt' at one of those two holidays. We dont' have toys everywhere and I'm pretty hardcore about sticking to that. Now.....I'm not getting on my high horse b/c I only have one child. So i know that's easier now than maybe this time next year when I'll have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old. We shall see! :)

Emily said...

I love how you write. And I totally get it too...with each passing year my oldest gets more and more "Amerianized".
And just an FYI, my hubs and I have done the 3 gift thing every year and it's always been awesome. (But, I know my kids are younger than yours...it's easy to pull of when kids are happy just playing with the wrapping paper!)