Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas Gear Up

Well, the season of Joy is upon us. Our tree is up, much to my daughter's delight. The stockings are hung and the wreath is upon the door. I keep finding shepherds and kings scattered all over the house because Peanut is convinced that our Nativity scene is her own personal "Baby Jesus Action Figure Set" Baking is being planned, cards addressed, and soon wrapping will begin. And through it all I've been feeling like a fraud.

I care about my family and what impact we have on the world at large. I try to be caring and responsible. I feel the need to live life simply and happily. But often it seems that everything in my life is working against the ideals that I have set for myself. This becomes especially obvious at Christmas.

I go overboard when it comes to gifts, particularly when it comes to a certain little girl. I tell myself that we are not going to go all gift crazy this year, all the while, there are mounds of gifts waiting for one little three-year-old. A three-year-old who doesn't really want anything. A child who, when asked what she wants from Santa says, " Candy" or "Mail" or "Snow". She isn't old enough to have contracted the 'gimmies' yet. She wouldn't care if there was no more than a book or a doll under the tree. But, for some reason, her Momma does.

I find myself buying all sorts of nonsense that I will be tired of picking up off the floor before Twelfth Night. Piles of books, multiple Barbie dolls, Play-doh, Playmobile, Polly Pocket, as if trying to fill some void with toys that we don't need; and I'm not sure where it comes from.

Is it because I didn't have much as a kid? Am I trying to compensate for some area that I feel is lacking in my mothering? Am I just completely neurotic when it comes to Christmas?

I have these flashes of joy and peace sometimes, like tonight, sitting here with the lights off and the tree on, and it feels the way Christmas did when I was a kid. A kind of warm, glowing, happiness and anticipation. But the older I get, the fewer they are. It seems that all of the grown-up, commercial worries of the holiday tend to dominate my thoughts. As if the shinning, joyful, true meaning of Christmas gets covered up by all of this 'fake' stuff. Maybe that is why I buy so much. Maybe that is why I feel so fake.

I hope that I can get it together before the big day gets here.


Sarah said...

I went home a few months ago and sorted through a lot of toys from childhood. My mom was moving and she had stored a bunch of things in the garage that she wanted me to go through. As I went through them, I realized I had literally dozens and dozens of dolls. And a bunch of other toys. As a little girl, I never realized how I'd been so spoiled. My mom told me how all she ever got for Christmas was a new doll from her grandma and maybe some candy or something. She was trying to give her children what she didn't have -- a big Christmas filled with presents. But the truth is, kids don't need that. Most of the stuff I had her garage sale (except for a few prized possessions that were well-loved). My mom even pulled some toys out of the sale that she couldn't bear to part with. "They're from when you and you sister were little!" Sigh ...

thicket dweller said...

I understand this completely. This year is especially difficult for us because we simply don't have it to spend, so there likely won't be much, if anything, under the tree (if, that is, we are actually able to do the tree at all). It's quite depressing, given that Christmas is really my favorite time of year.

Last year, we did an all-thrift Christmas, and it really was quite fun. Aside from a couple of very small gifts and their stocking candies (of course), everything was either from the thrift store, the used bookstore or garage sales. I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt, and packaging things in unique ways was a real blast, too.

This year, I hope to put more emphasis on the spirit of Christmas, on traditions and baking and being together. It's a challenge, because I honestly feel too overwhelmed to do any of it. But if I don't do it, I'll be very sorry. I hope I can pull myself out of the doldrums long enough to get into a real Christmas spirit.

My prayers of peace for both of us this holiday season, Friend!

The Happy Housewife said...

Thank you for your kind words of support on my blog - it is good to have friends like you! I am so impressed by how organised you are! I haven't even started the Christmas thing yet - but I know this. There is nothing you can give Peanut that she will need as much as she needs you. Nothing else matters. You are a great Mum, and the magic that you are trying to create is a perfectly wonderful thing to do. She will recognise your ideals, your values, because underneath all the fake stuff is a heart of gold.
Bless you!

Anonymous said...

I have had experience with a "gift crazy" (that's what my brother and I call her) mom.
My mom, like some others, didn't have a lot growing up and didn't get a lot for Christmas.
As a result my brother and I were overrun with toys at Christmas. We got so many presents at Christmas that by grade 7 and 8 I quit telling my friends at school what I got for Christmas b/c it was so embarassing for me. I would tell them my favourite gift and pretend that was all I received.
I am married now and my husband comes from a very devout family. They don't give gifts b/c the season is about Jesus not santa. That is their choice. However, I feel way more comfortable at their house than I do at my own parents' house. At my in-laws the focus is on family, good home cooked food and love.
My brother and I have been trying since high school to curb my mother's spending. She gets very upset and insists on buying too much every year, even now when we clearly do not need half of what she buys. We have resigned ourselves, and I have to say that Christmas is now my brother's and my least favourite holiday.
What am I trying to get at here? I don't even know. I think that Christmas is a tricky time. I would just like to say this though. If there comes a time when Peanut tells you that your love is enough and Christmas would be nicer without quite so many presents, just recognize that she is saying this b/c she loves you and not b/c she is trying to hurt your feelings.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas season!


Happy Housewife said...

Memories, dear i-Mom, are made of everything - traditions, words, games, singing, dancing, photographs and yes, even gifts. Everything is necessary and in moderate amounts.

The idyllic picture of "mother wiping off little girl's tears in slow motion" is fit more for the silver screen than real life. While, as an adult, I love my mother for having been a dedicated parent, what I remember being thrilled about as a kid are the lovely frocks she painstakingly smocked, the second-hand mythology books she bought us and the store-bought brand-new toys she gifted us with.

The point is this: Peanut is going to remember these dolls and toys, believe me. So don't flog yourself for being a 'fraud'. In fact, the presents might actually be a good idea. Why? Because, like it or not, Peanut is growing up in a very material generation and you are insuring her against a future feeling of want. I find that when you have plenty of some things as a child, you don't crave for it as an adult. (Caveat: provided you also teach them that the material things aren't the be-all and end-all.) Besides, when you give your children what you can when you can, they will understand and appreciate you when you can't give.

And when you are unable to do the plethora of gifts, you can always do the baking and thrift-shopping like Thicket Dweller. Btw, isn't she so cleverly creative in these things? and sooo dedicated!

HOWEVER, Peanut will hardly be convinced that you love her just because you buy her gifts every Christmas (and otherwise). What she will take along into her adulthood (and she herself may realize this only much later) is a VALUE SYSTEM of love, responsibility and care that you are imparting to her. Give her your love _and_ the gifts because both are precious and appropriate in their own ways.

You are a wonderful mother, we are all convinced about that. Your introspection and gentle self-admonition are a virtue that will help you grow as a person.

By the way, I hope you bought YOURSELF somethings too. Mothers are known to forget themselves. :-)


Happy Housewife said...

By the way, i-Mom, sorry about that very long post. I did really want to say every word that was in there.

May Your Holidays be Filled with Peace, Joy and Prosperity!