'Maybe we shouldn't do presents this year,' I texted my husband a few Fridays ago.
The thought had occurred to me in a moment of radical conviction. I knew that he would save me from myself. Because if we don't do Christmas that means that I don't get a Christmas present.
And I really want a new winter coat.
I want one of those down sleeping bag coats that covers me all the way to my knees.
I pointed out a picture of one to Scott about a year ago,
"What do you think about this coat?"
"It's not that flattering, I think it looks like, 'I give up I'm cold,'" he responded.
I give up.
"What do you want for Christmas?" I asked both of my children.
There was some silence. Emma thought for awhile,
"Pinkie Pie," and that was it. I looked at Carys, and asked again, she lifted both hands over her head and proclaimed joyfully,
That was pretty much that. I was so proud of my girls. I proudly told people that they didn't know what they wanted. They don't watch television, except for PBS and DVDs, so they don't see commercials. I strutted for a few days...and then my mother in law sent a Little People Nativity set. Something I am more than happy for them to have, but it came with a catalog. Pretty soon Emma started following me around with that catalog. Asking for something every day.
Eventually I threw it away.
I remember wanting as a child. Seeing toys that I was powerless to purchase and wanting them. I am sure that I caused many embarrassing moments for myself and for my parents over that want. I was hoping to spare my children of that want.
Christmas makes this hard. Sure there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to give small children gifts. The experience is certainly fun. I do remember eventually being disappointed with those things that I wanted and then actually got. Or deeply wanting something and never getting it. Not understanding all the nuances that go into gift buying, like budgets or that something may have already been purchased for me.
We asked our Kenyan friends what they do for Christmas and they all talked about getting a new Christmas outfit and then walking around their town and visiting family and friends and eating. That seemed lovely to me.
Giving presents is part of the tradition that our country has adopted to celebrate Christmas. To take that out of our families tradition seems, well, grinchy. So I can't do that. How do I help my own children not get into the want trap. Or is it inevitable?
Well, fortunately for us, our budget forces us to keep the gifts at Christmas simple.
A friend of mine just hosted a Toy Swap at her house, where we all brought toys that our children no longer played with and picked up toys that we could give to our own children. I was able to score Carys' main gift and find a few things we needed. A total blessing.
Now for the extended family, we exchange gifts with ten families. For the past several years we have constructed a box of things that were important to us that year; like a souvenir from a place we traveled that year or a shell ornament from the beach by our house. My relatives have kept it simple as well, either making things or giving food. One sister usually gives a box of fun snacks from Trader Joe's, one sister made a body scrub for the women and her husband (my brother) made a bbq rub for the men.
Simple, easy, and I'm thinking of you.
Isn't that what this is about?