Monday, December 20, 2010

More of that Christmas Spirit

One of my co-workers sat at her desk staring at the computer screen as if she was about to throw up.  When I asked her what the deal was, she told me that she'd just spent $500 on a computer for her grown son when she'd meant to spend $300 and he totally didn't deserve it because he is an asshole.  She said that he was rude to her the other day and she actually told him at that point that there was no way she was going to cough up the money for the $300 computer that he wanted and yet, here she was, spending money that she really shouldn't be spending on an ingrate when she could be using that money to do something useful like pay bills.

I did the same thing over the weekend.  Although completely determined a few weeks ago to show Lila that Christmas IS NOT about how many gifts you get, I managed to spend my entire (and I literally mean down to the nearest dollar) paycheck on toys, clothes, candy, games and stocking stuffers in a matter of 2 days.  I have no cash left to live on this week and had to beg her father to fill up my gas tank but dammit, Lila will have fucking magic on Christmas morning, at least for the 15 minutes it takes to tear the paper off all the boxes.

WHY do we mothers do this kind of thing all the time? 

I realize that Lila has no need for this crap!  I also realize that the majority of it will NEVER be played with after it's first time out of the package.  I realize that I am going to be behind on my bills and miserable without my morning coffee run at work for the next two weeks.  I realize that we do not HAVE that kind of money to spend on stupid toys and that since she is 3 she would not know whether Santa left 10 boxes or 25 boxes on Christmas morning.

And yet, there is this profound push by us mothers to get our kids more and better stuff.  To make them happier and more fulfilled at least once a year by buying Christmas gifts.  In a very rational way, WE ALL KNOW that this is insane and that this stuff makes them nothing if not more spoiled but we do it anyway.  Even when we can't afford to pay the cable and Internet and it gets turned off and we decide to live without it for a couple of months rather than to have to deprive our children of that extra toy or gadget (speaking from actual current personal experience).  It's fucking insanity. 

And don't even get me started about the stupid sense of obligation that I am fighting with to not buy dumb little token gifts for everyone I come into contact with on a daily basis.  Do I need to get a gift for Lila's teacher?  My co-workers?  My boss (-es.  I have 2)?  How about the guy at the parking garage that I see every day?  My mailman?  My neighbors?  Aunts, Uncles, cousins, grandparents, in-laws?  Isn't that what the entire point of the now 3 month, drawn-out holiday season all about?  Aren't I supposed to give and give and give to everyone but myself?  Don't I need to shop myself into a coma and then have the energy to invite all these people over for a perfect holiday feast so we can sit around a fire roasting chestnuts and singing carols?

At least, this is what the stupid idealization of Christmas says.  My kids should get everything they want and I should buy buy buy and no one should feel left out or neglected and I should be cheerful about it and sing and hum the whole time because, you know, 'TIS THE SEASON!!!!

I am going to commit to myself right now and ask that Lila's father hold me to this.  Next year, I will set a budget and that is it.   And it will be a small budget.  Maybe $200.  There will be hand-made gifts, so I will need to start planning around Halloween and I will not fight the urge to NOT indulge every wish my kid has, especially since as she gets bigger, the wishes will too.

Oh sweet Baby Jesus, there in the manger in my scraggly nativity scene, please give me the strength to not stress myself out like this ever again.

1 comment:

  1. I'm totally with you on most everything you say (and think, likely, as I'm still not convinced we're telepathic somehow). Except for this. I'm kind of a scrooge when it comes to gift buying. Or, rather, spending. I always put a lot of thought into my gift giving, but they usually don't really cost a whole lot. It helps that I'm pretty good at being cheap, having 35 years of not having a choice. This year, I actually don't even know what our 3 kids are getting, because Robert bought them all online and didn't tell me what they were. And I've been so interested that I haven't even asked. I did give $10 each toward Ava and Miles' class gifts, and because I like her a whole lot, I also gave Ava's teacher a pair of earrings and keychain I made. It's worth noting that I feel somewhat morally obligated to compensate her for the demon she's forced to tame between the hours of 9:40am and 3:10pm. We stopped buying gifts for everyone and their mother's princess. This year I decided to do a marathon baking period. I did spend some time in stores picking out a special Christmas ornament for close friends-- something that represents them, a memory we've shared, or something I know will personally appeal to them. I figure it's something they won't have to find a place to keep, and it can get put away until next year's horror. The ornaments will accompany the baked stuff. I come from a really big family, so we just draw names at Thanksgiving for the ONE person we will buy for. That's it. For everybody. The neighbors will writhe as we repeat our sounding joy.


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