Sunday, February 1, 2015

Post-Christmas Recap - A Year with No Presents

Those would be the first 3 prototypes that broke...  the night before Christmas
Last year, after this bow fiasco (redeemed later), I wrote up one of my longer posts, ranting about the misery trying to hand make a gift the night before Christmas.  Here's an excerpt:
"I have suggested to my family that we have a gift free Christmas next year.  Not joking either.

It's a tough call.

On one hand, this year was extra stressed out because I had a funeral to attend just before Christmas, needed to shop and wrap gifts to our kids for other family members who couldn't, had a bunch of house stuff to do, as well as having to prepare for two kids birthdays right next to Christmas.  I mean, our yearly gifts are already limited.  We each only get three gifts, to imitate the original Christmas - a stocking (which has treats, practical items and few other small toys), a gift to encourage our walk with God, and a gift that we really want.  It's not like our gifts are extravagant and gifts are one way to show love and care.

On the other had, I get so stressed.  Last year, even when I managed to get all of my kids gifts by December, I still had a ton of other shopping to do.  I hate that I barely got to see my family because of gifts. We haven't gotten to do anything else that's Christmas-y in a bunch of years.  Christmas caroling, volunteering, making cookies, seeing friends and family...  even relaxing has gone by the wayside.  Even when I take a week off from work.  And I'm so strongly opposed to the commercialized version of Christmas.  I want my (and my family's) Christmas to be about Christ, and not about fallible things like expectations, traditions or material goods.

I guess we shall see what happens, but I'm hoping for a simple Christmas next year."

Well, I followed through. We decided not to give our kids any Christmas presents this year.  That didn't mean no gifts were exchanged though.  I did give Christmas presents to my sister's family (mostly because we were all trying to keep warm during Thanksgiving power outages by Black Friday shopping... I'm still holding off sharing that painful story).  It made sense, I saw some good deals in the store for them, and they were up visiting from Texas this year and aren't here every year.

I didn't prevent my family from giving the kids gifts.  My sister gave them her typical gifts for the kids.  Generally, my grandpa gives money and requests that we shop for the gifts from him.  I decided to forgo shopping that this year and I just gave them the money.

My Mom took my lead, and decided to go small with Christmas too.  She decided to make everyone's gifts this year.  Although, she has also discovered the stress that comes with handmade, meaningful gifts as well.

The goal here was not to deprive the kids of the love that is shared when gifts are given. It wasn't a punishment, nor did our kids think it was.  We weren't short on cash, and this wasn't a religious boycott on Santa.  (We are Evangelical Christians, and Christ is the reason we celebrate... so Santa wasn't ever a part of our Christmas.  So I guess we already boycotted Santa.)

However, the goal was completely selfish, really.  As a working Mom I'm stressed. It takes almost all of my free time for one to two months to shop for gifts (birthday's and relatives gifts included).  Since I work full time, it pains me how little I get to see my kids.  The idea was that for the month of December, I would be free to spend time hanging out doing fun Christmas stuff with my kids instead.  We wanted to buy our first real Christmas tree, do some volunteering, make cookies, etc.  Focus on sharing God's love, spending time together and relaxing.

But that didn't really happen either :(  Between the flu, the power outage Thanksgiving week (when I planned to finish up house stuff), and the request to have a finished livingroom for Eli's Birthday party (by Eli), I spent most of the month working on the house. Yeah, pretty much every waking moment was working on the house.  At least, it was with the kids almost the whole time.

Isn't that awful?  While I didn't have leave the house shopping, or hide away with a kindle and lists trying to shop at home....  I still didn't get to have the one-on-one Christmas time with my kids I wanted to.  I'll get back to that, but lets press on to Christmas morning.

So Christmas came, and the night before I decided to stock the tree with toys that they had received in past holiday's. Ones that the kids still loved to play with.  Legos, dolls, books, trains, etc. 

I'm not surprised, as our kids are really good about material things, but very proud of them.  There were no tears.  There was no complaint.  It was pretty much a non-issue. Eve, our oldest at almost 9, expressed remarkable amounts of thanks for past gifts and pride in not needing any more stuff.   Of course, her Birthday was less than a week away :)  The kids just sort of... started playing.  It wasn't really a big deal.  Eve, upon looking at the Christmas trees on facebook with 100's of presents under them, told me to post our empty tree to contrast it (we were waiting for everyone to wake up upstairs, and she didn't know I had actually 'stocked' ours).  She was even proud of our simple Christmas!

And actually, it was much easier not having to find places to put all the things we acquired.  It was nice to not have any filler presents, clothes or other essentials disguised as gifts, but purchased as needed, and often with them. 

Yet, Christmas night, as Jon and I were laying in bed, Jon surprised me with the revelation that he felt super guilty for not buying presents.  It wasn't a conscious type of guilt, where you know you had done wrong.  Both of us were really happy with how things went.  But, it was the feeling of failure, shame and wrongdoing.  It was...  really great to hear him say that.  I was feeling the same way.  So a Christmas morning filled with stockings and presents was so engrained into our past, our culture, our society, our stores, and our heads... that we felt like we had broken some sort of strong biblical law... that we both knew wasn't true.   Neither of us expected that, at all.

Back to the real failed goals of the whole thing...  spending time with my kids for the months up to Christmas.  I was able to redeem some of that by decided that I would not do a single construction-type thing on the house for my entire break, the 23rd to the 28th. I could do much needed "mom-work", but no "dad-work". 

It didn't seem like too much at the time, but looking back at pictures, it seems we were able to do several of the things we wanted to do in that week.

A visited the local indoor skatepark, Rye Airfield, during a homeschooling session -

 Dinner in a diner -

Baking cookies with my sister -

A trip to the NH's Christmas shopping store (The Christmas Dove) for a new Christmas ordainment, Followed by lunch and soda 'tasting' from a Country Store -

Cookies to the neighbors  -
 Trip to a Children's Museum -
 Candle Pin Bowling -

And finally, a drive through lights show - 

So while, it wasn't the slow paced, stress-free, family focused December we were hoping for...  we were still able to throw together some fun together as a family. 

I liked it so much... I might just have to extend this break from house work.... :D

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