For as long as I can remember, I have not been a big fan of the holidays.
Well, that’s not strictly true. When I was a little kid, I loved the holidays. I mean, what kid doesn’t like getting presents?
But as I got older, Christmas lost some of its magic. Part of it – and this will sound like the most assholic thing ever – was that my mom loved Christmas SO much and was SO generous that it was overwhelming. ((Seriously – who complains because they got too many gifts?)) We would tell her repeatedly that we didn’t need so much stuff but she never listened. (Definitely a failing of my mother’s. Once she got an idea in her head, she didn’t listen to you or anyone else if you wanted her to change her mind.)
Another part of it is that Christmas, as a teenager and young adult (early 20s, I mean), was a very difficult time of year. I won’t get into the details, but there were a couple of years where bad things happened and the season definitely sucked. And that tarnish on the season has carried over from year to year.
Once I moved out of my parents’ house and before I had a child, I was pretty content to be Scrooge at Christmas. I only bothered with one tiny fake tree and never went to holiday parties ((Not that I was invited to any, but I wouldn’t have gone if I had been.)). I did enjoy getting gifts for my friends and family, but you would never catch me humming Christmas carols.
Now that I have a child, I understand a little bit better my mom’s desire to make Christmas spectacular. It is much more fun to view Christmas through your child’s eyes than through your own. It honestly does make me want to be a little bit better to my fellow man.
But I’m trying to strike a balance between the Scooge-like tendencies that are my natural inclination and the Super-Santa tendencies that are a combination of my mother’s inclination and the overwhelming messages that society is sending out.
So how do you strike a balance? How do you keep from getting so caught up in the hype and consumerism and one-up-manship that you end up going completely overboard?
I found a neat idea online that some families do as regards Christmas lists that I think we’ll be instituting in our household. The idea is that each child makes a list for “Want, Need, Wear, Read.” Obviously, you can change or add categories so that it better suits your family. And just because your kid has 4 or 6 or 8 categories and a wish in each category, it doesn’t mean they’ll get something from every category. But it gives them a chance to be more mindful about what they’re asking for and it gives you a way to get meaningful gifts without totally spoiling them. It may be a few more years before LB and BIT can actually do this idea, but the DreadBrewer and I can use it as a guideline until then.
I’ve also read some good suggestions for donating time or money to charities with your kids, an idea that I think we may also pursue when LB and BIT are older. I want my children to know the real reason for the season and not just see it as an excuse to get more plastic crap and gimme gimme gimme.
I have also started putting a little bit more effort into the Christmas decorating. This year, we’ve got a real tree, our stockings, a crèche, and some wreaths. I really did mean to put up Christmas lights but the weekend I wanted to do it, it was cold and raining and I’ve not gotten around to it since. And now it’s too damn late in my opinion. Which is sort of sad, as much pleasure as we’ve gotten walking around and looking at everyone else’s Christmas lights.
I don’t know that I will ever be one of those people for whom December is the most wonderful time of the year. But I know that, for my kids’ sake, I’m making an effort to make it a meaningful, magical time without losing sight of the real reason for the season.