So we have this thing, where for Val we don't go batshit crazy at
Christmas. In her 3 previous Christmases, she's not woken to a giantess
pile of presents from us (please note that her grandparents have been
amazing in this regard and she has, in fact, gotten many, many wonderful
Christmas gifts thanks to their generosity). Instead, she's gotten a
few, hopefully well-chosen items that we feel good about giving her.
Plus, she wasn't all that cognizant so it was just fine. She didn't ask
for many things and we didn't bombard her with demands that she want
many things. As an aside, I remember so many Christmases where I was
hounded for a list of Things I Wanted. We had a budget for our
Christmases and I felt obligated to use that whole budget on Things I
Wanted so there would be enough packages under the tree to make a Nice
Christmas, even though I might've liked fewer things. I know this type
of tradition isn't unusual and oh yes, I had many Nice Christmases. But
I also had some where most of my memories are clouded by the pressure to
want Things when, that year, I really didn't.
I've wanted something different for Val. And I think we've created it,
for the most part. Yes, so far, our Christmas is still Santa-free but
we're on track for Val to have another Nice Christmas without adding a
ton of things she didn't really want and we don't really have room for.
Instead of that giant mound of gifts at Christmas, she gets things
throughout the year, little or big surprises ranging from blowing off
some activity for a bookstore trip to the day she got to get a Hello
Kitty dress that has glitter, sequin AND a built-in tutu. If you ask
me, these random gifts are more powerful because I'm thinking it's a lot
easier to be sure that gifts bought one at a time are the Right Thing
than to compile a list of 20 things.
Plus, Val gets a surprise, which she loves. For me, these outings are
about the memories we're creating and oh, I must tell you, her excited
3-year-old gasp makes it all worth it.
But as I wrapped her few (hopefully) well-chosen gifts for this
Christmas, I sort of felt like a chump. Seeing the meager pile under
our tree doesn't quite outweigh those excited gasps throughout the year,
not when compared to the Nice Christmases of my youth. I look at our
pre-lit Charlie Brown tree, the one that we now sing the opening bars of
the Charlie Brown theme song for each year as we pull it from the box
because it's more than a little vertically-challenged, and I think oh,
this is so much less than what I had growing up. Is this Enough
Christmas for my children?
But I know I'll get over my minor guilt over having just a few things
for her because in the long run she is getting something much better -
the knowledge that we really do listen to her (even when that means
embracing the fact that somehow we have a daughter who loves all things
pink, sequined and of course, The Tutu) and that we're more than willing
to spend time really listening to her.
I think the power of spending time together when we didn't expect to or
the appeal of a little impromptu shopping is greater than the sum of all
packages under the tree. It's just proving harder to remember that
today than it is on the random June day I pick Val up from school and
take her to the park, walking with her in a man-made stream as the sun
begins to set.