Caveat: My family and friends (even the grandparents) are generally good at curbing consumerism. If you are someone who gave us a present, we are not blaming you for stealing our Christmas. Overall we had a lovely Christmas. This is just a rant about over consumption in general.
Remember the anticipation that Christmas brought when you were a child? Counting the days until Santa came, thinking about what gift you wanted him to bring, and the delight on Christmas morning when you saw that he had eaten the cookies and finished the milk? That’s the type of Christmas I wish for my children. But this year it was an uphill battle and I blame consumerism for hijacking Christmas and holding Santa hostage.
Our preschooler is old enough to understand Santa, but young enough to believe in magic, so we were very excited about Christmas this year. However, he had a few questions. Why Santa is everywhere (parties, malls, street corners), when he’s supposed to be in the North Pole preparing? It is a reasonable question. We fielded that by saying that these are Santa’s helpers. But why do Santa’s helpers hand out gifts (that were not asked for, or needed) before Christmas has arrived? No matter what we answer, this kills the anticipation for Christmas morning. Why does Santa bring so many gifts to family gatherings? The overwhelming amount of gifts means that time, which used to be spent talking to each other and playing with the kids, is now spent opening presents. There were so many gifts that even the adults were overwhelmed. Then, after we tackled the mountain of presents from Santa, we parents made the mistake of opening each present in front of the person who gave it. Despite good intentions, that was a bad move. Our poor preschooler was completely overwhelmed. He seemed happy as he tried to play with everything he was given, but by the end of the day his attention had been pulled in so many directions that he was frantic. He was up the whole night with night terrors (very scary for him and us) and had tantrums from exhaustion the next day as well. Luckily the baby slept through most of it. Where are the days when kids played happily all day (and for days after) with the one or two gifts that they asked for?
Most troubling is the fact that I know I am not the only one drowning in stuff. I also know that manufacturing and shipping it all uses huge amounts of energy and resources, which we humans are quickly depleting. My kids don’t need a mountain of toys; they need a habitable planet to inherit in the future!
You can call me Grinch and you can call me Scrooge, but next year we are laying down some rules. First – one gift per child. This sounds Draconian, but with so many people insisting on giving us presents, the kids will still get a small mountain of stuff. Second, grandparents are entitled to request an extra gift from Santa, but that needs to be delivered to our house. Third, if the kids show any sign of over-stimulation after opening a few gifts, then the remainder of the presents will be opened, a few at a time, over a period of days. Finally, we adults need to communicate with one another about gifts for the kids ahead of time. Hopefully next Christmas will be less overwhelming and instead of a mountain of presents, we’ll have a roomful of adults who are truly present – there for the kids.