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The Joy of Christmas

December 6, 2009

The green grass is still peaking through the dusting of snow that has accumulated in the past couple of days.  It is already December 6th, and I feel behind on all of the holiday preparations.  This year, I have been trying to keep the joy in the season.  It is harder than I thought.  It seems that the joy is the first thing that goes for me, and I look forward to Christmas Joy all year.  I am a procrastinator at heart.  I don’t shop before Thanksgiving, or decorate, or write the Christmas Letter.  All of Christmas happens in the actual “Christmas Season.”  When I was younger, it was so fun, and I am not referring to when I was a kid.  I am referring to before I had kids.  Which seems backward, doesn’t it?  Kids are supposed to bring the season into focus, not blur it to oblivion.  It isn’t their fault.

My parents and my husband’s parents love being grandparents.  They love our kids beyond measure.  They love bringing Christmas to my kids.  Which is great, right?  My kids will remember how magical and wonderful Christmas is now, when they are old like me.  I love that.  I really do.  What I don’t love is that it requires so much of me.  I start getting the request of Christmas lists in October.  I do my best to take my head out of Halloween costumes, and wrap it around Christmas presents.  But, always there are more requests right after Thanksgiving as well.  My kids are really good about presents.  They know what they really want and that is what they ask for, but I need MANY ideas for the grandparents.  And then, more than that.  My kids are all very close in age, Sarah is 8, Katie & Nicholas are 6.  They all play with the same toys.  We don’t need (nor do I want) more toys.  We have too many already.  I know, it is Christmas.  Everyone wants to give them toys.  So, as I am compiling lists  all I can think about is WHERE are we going to put all of this stuff?  Most of which, is just junk.  There are the few things that they really want, and the rest are the plastic, huge, will-break-within-a- week stuff.  It is just such a waste, of everything, money, time, space, landfill….   I know that I need to just get over this.  My parents have always been huge gift-givers, and they are not going to change.  I have tried talking with my mom, making very specific lists, shopping with her…everything.  She is going to get them as much as she wants, and I have no control over it.  Jeff’s parents do the same thing, although I don’t feel comfortable telling them what to do, but even if I did, my guess is that they would do what they want as well.  So, buck up, right?

This is when I begin to resent Christmas, and feel ungrateful at the same time.  This is when the joy seeps out of me like air in a leaky balloon.  I just HATE it, and then I tell myself that I can’t hate it, it’s CHRISTMAS!  Say thank-you and be done!  And then my stomach hurts, and I don’t feel like decorating, or baking, or writing a happy Christmas letter.  I think the worst part is that I feel selfish.  I just want to go shopping and buy my kids what they really want, and some things that they need, and be happy about giving them presents.  I LOVE giving presents.  I love their faces when they open them up, and the aftermath playing that goes on right under the tree.  I know that their grandparents love that same thing.  A true catch 22.

So, today I delivered some Lists.  Now that is done.  My focus needs to change.  Maybe we should go and visit Santa this afternoon.  He needs lists too, but I think I have that covered.  Maybe I should put the Halloween books away and bring out the Christmas books.  I love reading Christmas books.  Maybe I should begin to decorate, and let the kids help.  They are big enough now.  It might be fun.  Yes.  The best way to get through this is to re-inflate the joy, doing joyful things.  So, that is what I am going to do.

  1. December 6, 2009 8:44 pm

    I love Christmas books, too! I keep trying to steal them from my parents house, and I have taken my most favorite ones. My mom resists me taking them ALL, because they’re technically my brother’s too, but I don’t remember him reading them, ever! They should be all MINE!

    Oh wow. Present overload is no fun. Do you suggest things they ‘need’ – like jammies, bathtub toys, that sort of thing? Or, is there any way to purge whatever toys you have before Christmas, so there’s a little more space? Just thinking out loud. I am praying Thomas doesn’t get too much ‘stuff’ this year, and I definitely need to do some purging myself.

    You just focus on what you love about Christmas, and enjoy the heck out of it! Your tree is lovely. Ours is terribly scrawny, comparatively!

  2. December 6, 2009 9:02 pm

    Here’s my take on it: yes, it’s awful with the present overload but it doesn’t last very long and your kids are at the age where pretty soon they won’t be able to get any of that giant plastic crap any more. By age 9-10, we were already staring gift certificates in the face, because toys just didn’t cut it.

    What about telling your parents that you’d prefer to have tickets to a show for the kids or an outing or something that they can give for the whole family instead?

    And I agree with Sam about the toy purging. We had to do that yearly as well…and honestly, it’s only know when Karin is 10.5 and Martin 12 TOMORROW (!) that I feel as if the plastic giant toys are really and truly gone for good. Now it’s all about books, music, and electronics: consoles, mp3 players, phones, etc.

    The only other thing to do is put your foot down and give them a dollar limit or an amount limit: no more than 3 things per kid, or no more than $50 or whatever. We always try to make sure that the lists we provide for the kids include things they actually need but wouldn’t think to ask for themselves like pajamas and such, as well as the toys. At least here in Sweden we’re not inundated with toy commercials and catalogs. I am really glad about that.

    Re-inflate the joy, Megsie! Embrace the madness…it doesn’t last forever, and it’s better to find your peace with it now :) HUGS!

  3. December 10, 2009 10:42 pm

    I hear you on the grandparent exasperation. I already bemoan the fact that our girls rarely play with most of the great toys that the have, and here we are getting them more for Christmas. (My husband is probably beyond tired now of me saying, “Can’t we just reallocate that one for a birthday? Or next Christmas? Or the one after that? Technically, we could be done with our holiday shopping for the next three years!”) And then both sides of grandparents are lumping birthday and Christmas shopping sprees into one big extravaganza for them. I have horrible visions of the morning after Christmas when the girls will wake up, trudge through the pile of new toys littering their floor, and whine “We’re bored.” :) I hope Liz is right and this is only a stage of grandparenting!
    And… I would love if you did a post on your favorite Christmas books. ::hint hint, nudge nudge:: We have exactly two: Olivia Helps With Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Not exactly grown-up reading material. I used to love curling up in my room with several compendiums of [mostly cheesy and sentimental, but still heartwarming] Christmas stories my parents found somewhere and feeling all awash with the hot-cider happiness of the season. I would love that experience again…

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