Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Only A Hippopotamus Will Do


Along with all the good cheer, peace on earth and general cosiness, there is a nasty, prickly side to this, arguably our favourite, western holiday.

The expectations built up by Christmas consumerism are immense and destructive. For the last three years I have battled with Himself, carving a trail of misery through our lives with his anger at the guilt and inadequacy spawned by his inability to buy everything he perceives is expected of him. It is a rod made for his own back but fueled by the behaviour of his father decades ago, who filled the parenting hole left by his frequent business absences with large gifts of cash every Christmas. And I mean large.

For three years now I have tried to reason with him on the subject of moderation at Christmas; living within our means; the true meaning of the season and the general ill advisedness of always getting the kids exactly what they want ( the possibility of this resulting in spoiled, ungrateful children was not a link he had made himself). I have described to him some of my most memorable Christmases where, for one reason or another, there was not as much to go around as usual. I described the joy of making things, of making do, to no avail.

"I understand everything you are saying logically," he explained,"but it doesn't change how I feel. I feel that I am unable to provide for my family. I feel like a failure."

I have tried to point out the values lessons which are imparted at Christmas: the joy of giving as well as receiving; value for money; the messages we send in the types of presents we give: personal, educational, things that stimulate family interaction. I have tried to explain to him that sometimes it isn't the cost of the present which is key but rather knowing what it is that your kids want, demonstrating an understanding of their interests and showing that you have listened (this is especially true in the case of older kids).

I have discussed the issue of quality replacing quantity as children get older.

But I am a hypocrite. When I looked at this photo I felt we hadn't done enough.

This Christmas, I watched my 14 year old search in vain for something she had specifically requested which wasn't there.

I didn't 'approve' of it. She didn't cry, she is too old for that, but the disappointment was palpable. Most of the things she received she already knew about

and the 'surprises' were things I valued, not things she values.

Her step brother received just about everything he had put on his list and if he didn't get it from dad then he got it from mum.

But she didn't say a thing and when I hugged her and asked if she was ok she just smiled and said 'of course'. I guess I've taught her to be gracious? Why then did I still feel so bad that I went on ebay and found the rotten 'Gossip Girl' Season 1 dvd set and won it at auction for $19.50?????? She will get it late but she will get it. At least I didn't pay $69.00 for the rubbishy thing!

We are imperfect but we are together.

And these pictures were taken before she knew I'd caved in!


chaoticfamily said...

Great, great, great photos... There is always highs and lows with Christmas, no matter how much we prepare. I was still pleasantly surprised with my christmas purse from my parents - lol - even though I was with my Mom when she bought it. It's about the family and the time, glad you all had a nice one!

HipMomma said...

Sometimes the best lessons are the hardest to teach. For you and for them. I think what you were trying to do will be a great step for next year. It just might be easier then. And you are not alone. I tried to do it too but all the while I kept thinking that I wasn't giving them enough. Off course they got what they truly wanted but I hope by next year they will have given what someone truly needed. Hopefully.

A Free Man said...

I think I know why you didn't approve of it, but it's actually just a pretty entertaining lark of a show. 90210 for the 2000's.

Glad that y'all had a good day and glad that we got to spend most of New Year's Eve with you.

natalie said...

I married a man whose family went OVERBOARD at Christmas. He not only recieved TONS of gifts, but there was always a gift of cash hidden somewhere in the tree. He insists he didn't get any new toys during the year (other than his birthday), but as I watch him father M, I don't believe that at all. He treats her to things all year. Because we have an only child, we do entirely too much at Christmas and we're both aware of it. Because I'm a teacher, all of her toys have "some" educational value (developes creativity, interpersonaly relationships, blah, blah, blah).

I'm sorry that BA was a bit disappointed with her gifts. I'm proud of you for realizing that perhaps it's okay for her to have this thing she wants. I'm so out of touch with pop culture that I don't even know what it is! Talk about Dora the explorer and I know all about it!

Amy Jo said...

I have to agree that moderation at Christmas is sometimes necessary. When I was a kid we didn't have a lot of money, and my folks would save and scrimp all year to give us a massive haul at Christmas. My kids are fortunate enough to have most everything they need and many things that they want, so I try and keep Christmas simple. Plus, they're wee, so I might as well reign it in while they're still young enough to not realize, right?

I'm sure BA loved what you got for her, and I'm sure she'll be even more pleased when she gets her DVDs later on.

SSG said...

When I was wee we wrote our christmas lists on christmas eve and posted them up the chimney, so santa didnt usually give us the things we wanted, but sometimes we would get one or two of them. As we got older, I would let my mum know if there was something I really wanted, but most of the time I just wanted "a suprise". I think we grew up without ever thinking of asking and getting at christmas, but I do think nowadays its not like that so much and kids perhaps discuss at school about what they are "getting". I always thought suprises are what make christmas, christmas! So I agree with you on the one hand that it shouldnt be about i want i get, but I also think you shouldn't beat yourself up about it so much- you have children of the age where things are wanted, but without the money to buy them. Think of all the christmases when they were younger and they didnt ask for such things and when you didnt feel the pressure to buy so much. This is only one year and things will pass!
A Happy New Year to You!

Anonymous said...

Muuuuuum!!! I loooove you and miss you!!! I wasn't upset that you didn't get me gossip girl!!! I appreciated everything you gave me!! Loads of luuuurve!! BA (ps I'm commenting you on my iPod touch!!)

Arizaphale said...

SSG: I think the problem for me was that there really wasn't a lovely 'surprise' for her. That's the bit of Christmas that still matters. Even Himself came to the party in the end, printing out awesome gift vouchers for the BA and I, promising a Band Night, a Dance Night, a Games Night(for me) and Beach Day (for her), complete with participation and transport. :-D He might just be getting the hang of this Christmas thing after all.