Last year, my sister posted to Facebook the following picture of our families’ combined Christmas presents under her tree (and all over the family room) and tagged me in it.
In the comments were at least three “wows,” one “geez,” and one “holy shit.”
And I understand the reaction. Even we were sort of like, “Uhhhh, did these things fornicate and multiply?” But still, I couldn’t help feeling a little… judged. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to explain that those were presents for nine people, and also that many of them were hand-me-down gifts from my sister’s older girls to my little girl that my sister had just wrapped for the fun of it. But all my justifications seemed flimsy, and in the end I felt ashamed of our apparently overboard Christmas gift extravaganza.
This year, I will be much more restrained.
That’s what I told myself this October.
And yet here we are, mid-December, and getting into my closet is like that scene in Entrapment where Katherine Zeta-Jones navigates the web of lasers in a skin-tight Lycra pantsuit, except considerably less sexy.
I keep going through the kids’ lists and trying to find something that I should return (I have an excel spreadsheet. There—now you can really hate me.) But I can’t pick one! I know my kids, and I know they’ll play with and love each doll, each Lego set, each science kit, with every fiber of their being. And they will be grateful. They are grateful kids.
The other day, I lamented to my husband that I felt guilty for being materialistic. He pointed out that we really aren’t materialistic. The only time of year we “spoil” our kids is at Christmas. We never purchase toys on impulse when out and about, and for birthdays they either get a few gifts or no gifts at all, in exchange for a family outing.
My husband also pointed out that we’re still teaching and modeling for our kids about the true meaning of Christmas: love, charity, gratitude, family. We talk daily about the differences in how people live around the world, how fortunate we are, and why that makes it incumbent upon us to be grateful and to give back. We donate to charity, both monetarily and materially. We make spending time with family and friends a priority. And we do these things all year long, not just at Christmas.