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!