When my daughter was about a year old and experiencing her first Christmas, I think I might have gone overboard.
Starting a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I became hooked on going to different stores all by myself on Fridays after work (payday) and picking out presents to wrap up for her. Mostly it was stuff that I hoped she would like because, let’s face facts: she wasn’t very old yet and her list of interests and hobbies was still pretty much limited to guzzling milk, sleeping her butt off, and tearing the pages out of classic children’s stories I had painstakingly collected for her since long before she was even born.
Now I love Christmas and all, and sure enough, I was tremendously excited to have a child in my life to share my favorite time of year with. Yet, as I sit here looking back on Violet’s first visits from Santa, I’m starting to realize that most of what went down wasn’t really about her at all.
My daughter obviously had no real concept of giving or receiving. And at barely 11 months, she certainly had no true grasp of love or how to show it. When we get right down to brass tacks, the kid was basically a helpless milk-chugging serial-napper whose only real materialistic needs in this world were onesies that didn’t show stains and a Mt. Everest of diapers to hold back the floods for the next three years or so.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, all of those Christmas gifts for her that spent my hard-earned money on, they were all about me, weren’t they. Yeah, there was pure love behind each and every purchase, I won’t even try and deny that much. But, the tee-ball set and the 16 different Dr. Seuss books and the giant wooden castle with knights and queens and little royal furniture sets and dragons (each sold separately!)…it was all,well….unnecessary.
It was total and complete overkill.
Looking back, it was mostly about me, I think.
With the best of intentions, but in a roundabout way I was essentially giving myself an extra thirty things for Christmas; things I wanted her to want and love, but things she didn’t give a glittering reindeer turd about.
Since then, I would like to tell you that I have gotten better at this.
I would like to inform you that since the birth of my son, Henry, nearly two years ago, I have much more become hyper-aware of what I give my kids at Christmas. I would wish to submit to you that since my children lack for basically nothing in terms of food, shelter, clothing and whatever other ‘must-haves’ comprise the list of necessities parents need to provide for their young, I am wildly aware of the fact that a rag doll for Violet and a plastic horse for Henry, along with a thick peppermint stick for them to lovingly share, are all that they need to find beneath our tree come Christmas morning.
I would like to tell you all of these things, but then, obviously, I’d be lying and I’m ashamed of that.
Last year was just as bad as ever, with stacks of crap piled high to the ceiling, crooked towers of books and toys and whatnot rocking back and forth in the high lonesome gales above our dining room floor, like a city of skyscrapers blowing in the wind.
And when it was all over, when the trash bags full of wrapping paper lay in comatose repose, drunk and bloated against the hutch and the bookcase over besides the Christmas tree, I took one last look around at my kids over in the next room watching cartoons, oblivious to all but one or two of the things that they had just torn open, and I swore to myself that next year would be different.
And now: next year is here.
So far, I haven’t bought much, just a bunch of used Cifford books at a yard sale for Violet and that’s it, really. It isn’t really about the money either, although my ships haven’t exactly been coming in if you know what I mean.
It’s all more about the fact that I think kids are able to love and appreciate a few carefully chosen things way more naturally than they can, say, a whole sleigh-full of stuff that leaves their heads spinning in a state of overwhelmed confusion. Yeah, they love the unwrapping part of Christmas morning and who can blame them? I totally get that!
But guess what? That’s what Dollar Stores are for.
I’ll probably pick up a couple other things along the way between now and the big day, too, but it isn’t going to be like it was. Because Christmas isn’t about me anymore, no matter how much I try and fake myself out. It’s about these two kids going on four and two, these two sweet and innocent kids who love to laugh and run around and who genuinely appear to be as damn happy playing with the free pieces of colored plastic that they fish out of their Happy Meals as they are with something that cost 300x as much.
Looking at them these days, I realize that it’s all pretty funny when you think about it.
I thought I had it all figured out; I was sure I was the guy who really knew how to make Christmas awesome and memorable. In my mind, I was the holiday junkie, the dude with the Santa Claus blood pushing through his veins. I thought the overtime and the extra bucks could capture the season for me, for them.
But I was wrong.
And all it took for me to understand was these two kickass tiny elves showing up on my doorstep.
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