I'm not so sure about that. And I'm not just saying that because my kids died and it's my first Christmas without them.
I feel somewhat removed from the whole Christmas extravaganza this year - partly by choice and partly just because. I'm not totally ignoring the holidays, but I have been able to step back a bit this year which has been interesting.
Obviously, as I've said in past posts, this time of year is extra hard because it makes me miss my kids even more...if that's possible. There will be no Christmas plays this year (last year Peter was one of the three kings and the year before that Kate was Mary), no decorating cookies with them and no getting to be Santa. It's hard to even put my feelings into words because I don't really want to feel those feelings; so I'm not going to try right now.
The interesting part of stepping back this holiday season is that I'm, more or less, watching others experience it. And it seems to me that we're all a little crazy.
I've always thought buying outrageous numbers of gifts for everyone I know was a bit absurd, but most of the time I did it anyway. When I was pregnant with Kate, Steve (Kate and Peter's dad) and I instituted a rule that our kids should only get three presents each Christmas because that's how many gifts Jesus got. (a friend of ours was doing that and it seemed like a good idea) We immediately started finding ways around that rule because three didn't seem like enough: stockings don't count, Santa will bring three gifts but mommy and daddy can each buy one, grandparents aren't included, etc. Every year our kids received more gifts than they could handle...so many that I started putting some of them away after Christmas and gave them back to them gradually, throughout the year. I noticed last week that there are still a couple hidden from last year.
I know, without a doubt, that my kids would've been happy with much less. In fact, I think the volume of gifts they received actually took away from their fun on Christmas day. I remember when Peter was two, one of the first gifts he opened was the Go Diego Go Talking Rescue Center which he had asked for by it's full name for weeks. He was so happy and would've been content to play with nothing else for the rest of the day, but after playing with it for a few minutes he reluctantly put it down because he had to open more gifts.
Why do we do this? And why do we feel like we need to buy stuff for everyone we know just because it's the holidays? Don't we all have enough stuff already?
I'm not trying to be a grinch. I've always loved Christmas and giving and making people happy. I just think maybe we're missing the mark a little. Are bazillions of gifts making anyone happy? And how stressed-out and in-debt is everyone becoming because of all this giving?
Stress levels are palpable everywhere I go. I seriously thought there was going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight over a parking space at Whole Foods today. Otherwise rational people are going crazy! And all in the name of holiday cheer?
I encourage everyone to give yourself a gift this year and relax a little. I know that may not be possible - there are parties to go to, presents to wrap and cookies to bake - but if you can, take a moment to breathe. Get your kids or your spouse or your parents a gift that will bring them joy, but don't feel like you need to get them everything they've ever wanted.
I think the best gift you can give anyone is yourself...your time, your love, and your undivided attention. I'm sure you've all heard that before, but seriously, take it to heart. I wish I had spent less time running around like a crazy person to make Christmas "perfect" (which never happened) and more time just being with my kids. I didn't even spend last Christmas with them. It was their turn to spend it with Steve and even though I was welcome at his house I didn't spend it with them because I wanted my space from him. Now I could kick myself, though that wouldn't do any good.
Two Decembers ago I took my kids to see "Go Diego Go Live" at Heinz Hall. It was their Christmas present from me. We got dressed up, went out for a "fancy" dinner at Six Penn Kitchen, then went to see the show. They were beyond excited to go and had a wonderful time, as did I. Even my boyfriend, Ken, who wasn't sure how much fun he could have watching a cartoon character onstage, enjoyed himself and our evening together. I'm so glad I have that memory and that, at least for that night, I took some time out of my crazy life to slow down and really be present with my kids.