There. I said it. I hate Christmas. I’m a monster. (Momster?) My disdain for this upcoming season has been growing exponentially over recent years. I used to love it. I loved the music, the decorations, the parties, the family togetherness. Or rather, I think I loved my expectations of all these things.
Christmas now just screams “Money! Obligations! Disappointment!”. I get this feeling of loneliness during the holidays, I think because my Christmas “experience” has changed so much over the years. We don’t really do the same things we did when I was kid, spending time with extended family at lively dinners and get-togethers. My family dynamic has changed so much over the years for many reasons, and we just don’t have that type of family you see in all the Christmas movies. I wish I had a family with strong traditions to look forward to, to lean on, to contribute to. I used to try to create my own traditions for my little family – it only took me one year of cookie baking all weekend long with three kids around to decide IT WAS NOT WORTH IT. I don’t need those calories, my kids don’t need that sugar, and I seriously contemplated burning my kitchen to the ground when it was all over.
Another great joy that comes with the holidays is one only parents with shared custody will understand. It starts with Halloween. Working out where your kids will be for Trick or Treat, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, So and So’s Party, This Other Thing That Just Came Up, Boxing Day, Winter Solstice Day…you get the idea. It’s ridiculous and I hate it. Coupled with the fact that we have not one, but two kids with two different homes, and it’s just a giant cluster fart. It’s probably the largest contributing factor to why I start feeling my stress level rise as the holidays inch closer.
And can we talk about gift giving for a moment? Do I not pretty much buy myself whatever I want, whenever I want? I’m not going to ask my husband to splurge on some ridiculous gift just because it’s “that time of year”. Our household budget doesn’t magically expand over these winter months, so I don’t know where he’d get the funds for a 2 carat, oval cut, white gold diamond ring anyway! The most extravagant thing I want is a glass shower door, and let’s face it, that’s not really for me. I’ll have to price them out, purchase one, get it home, arrange installation, and then clean it for the rest of my life. So as far as gift giving goes, I don’t think that’s what the Three Wise Men had in mind. Do my kids not already have an ungodly amount of stuff? I mean, just last night I asked them to clean their rooms and their response was so unbearable I contemplated getting out the trash bags and going to town. Again. Except actually throwing the stuff away this time. (Side note/Mom tip: If you also have a child who resists cleaning up the atrocious messes they themselves make, grab the Hefty’s, head upstairs, and say “I hope you can pick your toys up faster than I can throw them away!” Then hide the bags in the basement for a few weeks and let them earn some toys back. It has worked for us in the past and it might be time to do it again.)
The amount of toys, games, gadgets, and general junk they are circling in magazines right now is making me cringe. By my mental calculations, they think Santa’s budget for them is around $23,760.52. American dollars. They have even been so generous as to circle things for their baby sister, thinking this wins them “good list” points. How thoughtful, dear children. Another lovely factor in our gift giving gauntlet is competing with those other households I mentioned before. No matter what we give our two eldest kids, they will likely get bigger, better gifts from their other family units – and it’s hard to deal with that, for us and them. They may start to notice these things soon, (if they haven’t already), and perhaps wonder why we don’t love them as much as their “other families”. How do you explain to a child that “our Santa” has a slimmer budget, likes less stuff around the house, and prefers experiences over things? You don’t – you just drive yourself crazy making sure everyone has an equal amount of lots of stuff to open and hope it’s enough. And before you know it, you’ve done it again – created the type of Christmas you hate that completely goes against your own core values.
This season should really be about the ultimate gift: selflessness. Yet it quickly becomes an all-consuming, toxic time – especially for moms. It should be a time of generosity of spirit, not just generosity of the wallet, for the entire family. The focus should be on giving, not receiving. I am going to try really hard to figure out how to do that this year. My mom has already come up with a great idea and our kids are on board. We are each going to contribute $5 of our own money (allowance) to buy chickens and water jugs for a community in South America through a local church missionary program. We spent time together as a family deciding on what to buy, based on what would be the most useful and make the biggest impact on a family. I am going to take the kids to the store (God help me) and have them each pick out a toy they really like and then take it directly to Toys for Tots. In addition to writing their own letters to Santa, they will be making a list of gifts THEY could give to the important people in their lives. I’m hoping to prepare a meal for a family in need, and get the kids involved in that process somehow as well. These are the only ideas I have right now that I feel good about, but by having this small plan I feel like this Christmas is already off to a better start than last year. In fact, thinking of these strategies is making me almost look forward to the Christmas season. I’m getting a little happier just writing this!
Now, my only question is this: is it acceptable to not put out any decorations whatsoever and instead place a modest amount of gifts under the “Christmas house plant”? Asking for a friend.