Today I'm thinking about all my long held notions about Christmas and gift giving. Some time around becoming a mother, I grew to hate all the consumerism of the holidays. I tried so hard to make the holidays "authentic." And economical. I made everything from scratch. I made some things by hand, and encouraged the boys to do the same. I poured over ads, scraping to get the best possible price for the things I had to buy. One year I even got my family to agree to a gift exchange, which everyone more or less hated. I struggled internally through the entirety of many Christmases to design the perfect balance of needed things, wanted things, and surprises for the kids, without going overboard. Yes I ventured out on Black Friday a couple times, to get $20 scooters, and blue jeans for the boys (an exhaustive task, keeping them in jeans!). And I've ventured out on Small Business Saturday, in search of the "perfect" hand crafted one of a kind gift for the people I thought would appreciate it (and received lukewarm response.) I tried to convince my family to only give me experiential gifts, which made me feel like really I was just shilling for gift cards. And I tried giving experiences, only to end up in the awkward situation where the other party didn't understand that the dinner out, trip to the movies, etc. WAS the gift. I've sent Christmas cards, because I genuinely enjoy sending them, then switched to e-cards because they're greener, which led to me receiving far few paper cards, which bummed me out, and then I sent none at all, except to post a family picture with a halfhearted greeting on Facebook. I've baked and decorated tons of cookies and sweets, feeling quietly guilty because really none of use should be consuming this quantity of sweets, especially when many of us are struggling with our weight and health issues. I've given to charities in other peoples names, only to have them do the delayed response "wow...how cool" thing. And I've asked for a list and bought them what they wanted or a gift card and it was really just like a cool business transaction.
Then I realized I am exhausted. I'm tired of stressing about all this stuff. It really shouldn't be this hard. The thing I've come to realize is that we lay so much on these holidays---we try to make up for not being present for the people we love during the rest of the year. Then wonder why we have the foggiest idea of what to give them. Today is November 29th and officially this is the latest I've ever put off Christmas shopping since becoming a mom. And I'm in no hurry.
Here's what I miss: I miss that excited feeling I used to get when I was first getting into the whole gift giving thing. Imagining what the person might like. Not worrying that it was mass produced in China or that it was commercial or inauthentic. Getting my dad the Old Spice gift box because 1. He liked Old Spice and 2. I could afford it. Home run. I used to spend a day or two at most and finish my list no problem. People usually liked what I got them, and it didn't seem like it was anybody's main focus in life. Somehow, in my zeal to simplify and de-consumerize the holidays, I've convoluted it all to the point that I'm now HYPERfocused on them.
And honestly I'm done.
This is not to say I've gone Scrooge. I want the cocoa, the tree and decorations, and the festive meals. I want to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol" and "A Christmas Story" with the kids. I want to string up the lights (the evil incandescents are just prettier, sorry) and listen to (and sing with) Andy Williams and have everyone over. I want to take the kids ice skating and sledding and hiking. And I want to go to church.
But the gift giving---I'm going back to basics. A list, with a budget. Give the people what they want. Get it done quickly and enjoy the season.