Last year, my children spent nearly 12 hours ripping open the colorful paper of too many gifts. From me, from my mother, and from their aunt. The vision of Christmas-- gifts spilling out from under the tree, stockings stuffed to the brims with candy and toys-- well, it just didn't turn out the way husband and I had hoped.
To give you a little back story, we had asked grandma -- our children are her only grandchildren-- to tone it down this year, to significantly cut back on gifts. Then, if she still felt compelled, she could send a few dollars to the kids' 529 plans in leiu of toys. A few weeks before Christmas, my mother was beaming when I walked into her kitchen. There was a check for $100 on the counter, made out to my youngest's college fund. "He has so many toys. I didn't know what to get him," she said proudly, pointing out that she had honored my wishes. We have two children, 19 months apart. We aren't hurting for age-appropriate toys.
I was relieved, thinking that Christmas day would be the minimal, laid back family-focused food and togetherness affair I had fantasizes about for weeks. But alas. Grandma pulled up to the house. Her idea of toning it down? And entire carload of gifts. I wishI were exaggeratting. I also fell prey to the "is it enough?" school of gift buying, throwing myself whole-heartedly into deep holiday discounts and buy two toys get the third free deals. I too had too many gifts under the tree. The result was a very long, very exhausting gift marathon for the children and for us.
This year, I am determined to try again, to keep the gifts reasonable: fewer and more meaningful. To remember that the days of excess should be behind us, as a nation, and as a world. I have grandma yet another talk, and more specific gift limits for the children. Three each, less than $100, please. She thinks I am crazy. Maybe she should read this:
December is a lovely month. Christmas lights, hot cocoa, and ice skating downtown. What's not to love? This year, my family is trying to focus on togetherness and celebrating, not how many gifts are under the tree.