Did that title make you balk? I hope so. Now read on.
Every year it happens. I vow I am not going to make our lounge look like Christmas threw up in it on Christmas morning, and yet, as the holiday season is upon us, I find myself making lists and lists of gifts to give. I love giving presents. Nothing like finding the exact right present for a person, and seeing their face when you open it. I find myself ambling along aisles in stores, unable to resist all the commercial gunk that they deliberately put out to tempt people like me. People who love Christmas.
I LOVE Christmas. I really really love Christmas.
I love the feeling around the holidays. I love being with family. I love the nostalgia of Christmases past. I love Christmas carols – even by Boney M. Especially by Boney M. I love that some of my happiest memories revolve around Christmas holiday time. I love that I cry when I hear the “Christmas Shoes” song. (I dare you to watch it without crying!) I just love everything about it. I love decorating and putting up our tree. I love the flood of memories that each special ornament brings back… my Maine lighthouse… lobsters… carefree holidays. My kitsch and very clichéd Empire State Building … remembering Rockefeller Centre at Christmas… the kids’ 3yr old hand-prints in clay… The lights (though not the colourful ones, I draw the line at those!) Christmas time makes me happy.
And that is why I get sucked in. Every. Single. Year.
But I try, every year I try, to limit the gifts. To not get to the point where the kids are just opening gift after gift in a never-ending sea of wrapping paper. And every year I believe I have achieved it. Until the aftermath… Christmas morning when I cannot find my kids because they are lost amid mounds of wrapping paper. Oops… I did it again.
I am not a material person. And definitely not a material parent. I don’t believe in keeping up with the Jones’ and certainly not the Jones’ kids! I won’t buy things for my kids just because their friends ALL have one. If they need it, or if they are of the right age, then that is a different thing entirely, but I firmly believe they should earn a lot of what they have. They all saved up for their own tablets – there was no way I was buying them one. And they were so proud. And even better, they look after them as prized possessions. That to me is the lesson. That is the kind of parent I am. But then … Christmas.
I accept full responsibility. For me, nothing beats that bright-eyed frenzied excitement on Christmas morning when they wake up and go from a state of being virtually comatose to being jacked-up, hyper-excited, Christmas-injected Energiser bunnies. On crack. Drinking Red Bull. With Ritalin.
It’s my fault. But hearing that “Mommy! Wake up wake up! He came!” at 4.40am on Christmas morning, when I had to fumble in the dark to reach my ever-ready camera to capture the moment, was the drug that hooked me. It brought tears to my eyes every time. Every. Single. Year. I was often breathless with emotion – you know that overwhelming feeling when your chest aches and you take ragged deep breaths to stop your heart from bursting at their joy? Yup, that. And I just love the excited looks on their faces as they ogle the stockings with little mysterious bits popping out, dying to see what they are. Even if it’s socks, or undies. Or stationery. It’s just so exciting.
And I am as excited filling them. Which is why it happens.
My kids are grateful. Even for the socks and undies. Even for the lopsided, hand-knitted jersey granny made them. So the problem is not them, it’s me. I know this. I own it. And I try to do better every year.
Last year was the first year without Santa. At first, my little one was so excited he was in on the secret. He was BIG now, and part of his brothers’ team. On the adult side of knowing. But it’s a bit like eating that proverbial fruit of the knowledge of good and evil… it just isn’t so great in reality. I knew that he was going to be so deflated on Christmas morning… It was going to break my heart. So I compensated. I filled their stockings. Again. Little stockings and little things, but I did it. Again.
This year I started my Christmas shopping early – which I thought was a good thing, but it turns out it just gave me more time to find more ‘perfect’ goodies. I also shoped smarter – incorporating things I would probably have to buy them in January anyway for school… But their stockings will be full of little goodies again, and then the one ‘main’ gift, but this year, I am ok with that. This year I am not going to beat myself up about it. My kids are not spoilt. One day a year that they get a small stocking of goodies is not going to make them into brats. And as long as they are always grateful, and appreciate every gift – and if not the gift, then the effort the person went to in getting it for them – then I really am ok with that. If they were turning their nose up at granny’s hand knitted jerseys, or said things like “Socks are boring, I don’t want sock!” then yes, I would take another look at this, but they are not. And this year I am not going to try not spoil them. They are great kids, and I am making memories that will outlive the latest craze, or the newest toy.
I am creating traditions that will live on and become part of their children’s traditions and Christmas. Or Chanukah or Ramadan, or Eid Al-Fitr, or Saint Nicholas Day, or Eid’ul-Adha, or Fiesta of our Lady of Guadalupe, or St Lucia Day, or whatever holiday you celebrate during this season. I am celebrating family and giving and loving. And that to me is what this time of year is about. It’s about love and forgiving and giving and receiving. Of course the ‘real reason’ for Christmas is to celebrate Jesus’ birth – but not everyone subscribes to that religious belief and that is not what I am writing about. I am writing about family and love and good times and togetherness and traditions. I am writing about connections and memories and a legacy of this season. I am writing about sentimentality and nostalgia. And all of this is about family. And one day, my family will become sentimental Christmas nostalgics like me. And they too will experience the ‘adult side’ of watching children’s joy. And their eyes will well up too. It’s genetic, this loving Christmas thing. Or maybe it’s contagious… but whatever it is, my kids love it, and that just makes me love it more!
Enjoy the season. Don’t get caught up in the ‘crazy stress bandwagon’… rather get caught up in the crazy spirit of it all and make memories that will live on in their hearts forever.
I’m off to the shops!! Chag Urim Sameach…Ramadan Mubarak… Eid Mubarak… and Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…