It’s four days before Christmas, and I’m in full Scrooge mode. That is, if Samuel L. Jackson were playing Scrooge. My dialogue with myself in my head about this time of year would make a Sam Jackson character proud.
In years past, I’ve blogged about fighting Christmas depression because I couldn’t afford a big, splashy, keeping up with the Kardashians kind of Christmas for my kids. Last year, we were all blue because it was our first Christmas without my Mom.
This year, I still miss my Mom, but my mood is attributable to something else. It’s partly a rejection of crass holiday commercialism. I could afford to spend a lot this year, but I don’t want to. It seems pointless and wasteful to blow thousands of dollars on stuff just because I can. Even if I focus on buying things the kids ostensibly need, as opposed to want, it feels wasteful.
People have suggested focusing our energy on helping others, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen. The last time I mentioned that idea to the kids, the resistance was overwhelming.
So no. Not until they’re ready.
But it’s more than rejecting commercialism. The end of each year signals a new beginning, a time to re-assess and re-group. A time to set goals and make plans for the New Year.
This has me feeling overwhelmed.
2009 and 2010 were filled with unexpected changes. Some were good, like dating again, and having my ex-husband resume a relationship with his kids after a four-year absence. Some, like losing Mom in ’09, were obviously not so good.
But all of these changes, both expected and unexpected, are permanently life-altering. Everything requires adjustment. You’re going along one path and then BOOM! Life knocks you off course and upsets all your expectations.
Radical changes create new opportunities, but also require new rules. Change is exciting. It’s also daunting and scary — scarier, somehow, than my divorce nearly seven years ago.
So here I am, once again, trying to understand and figure out this next phase of my life. How to co-parent with my ex. What’s next for me, career-wise? What DO I want to be when I grow up? Relationship-wise — what do I really want? Everything is open to re-examination. Including whether to remain in New York or explore other possibilities, such as living abroad.
And one thing that will be continually redefined in the coming years, especially as my kids grow older, is the meaning of Christmas.
9 thoughts on “The Least Wonderful Time of the Year”
I’m struck by the “overwhelming resistance” of your children to volunteering or helping others out. To what, exactly, did they object? Did they not want to be out of their home on a holiday, or was it the actual idea of volunteering that set them off?
I’m not trying to be critical, but I wonder if there is ever a time when kids are “ready” or “not ready” to volunteer or help out others. It’s something they’re taught over time, and although it might (sadly) be an acquired taste, I’m not sure I would wait for them to want to acquire it. My husband has never been into Thanksgiving (“it’s a holiday celebrating the decimation of American Indians!”), or Christmas (we do a Kwanzaa celebration instead). But I’ve been insistent that if we aren’t going to do up a big celebration, we aren’t gonna just sit on our butts and act holier-than-those who do choose to celebrate, either. It’s a wonderful time to help people who are not as blessed as we are to have a roof over our heads, or food on our table. It can also help children (and adults!) not be affected by the crass consumerism you yourself want to reject. Even though the baby is only 18 mos old, we figure now’s the time to start showing her how important it is to help others all year, and during the holidays–whether she’s “wants to” or not.
Actually, you are being critical, but that’s ok. Truth is, I have plenty of other kid battles to fight right now. And I do believe the time will come when they will be “ready” to consider serving others at Christmastime. They’re not there yet and I’m not going to force it.
D’oh! I was honestly wondering, but I suppose that “I’m not trying to be critical” + my own personal thoughts on the situation=critical. My apologies. Thanks for keeping it real. I hear you.
I totally feel you on the commercialism of xmas! I married into XMAS and I genuinely feel like, “isn’t this what birthdays are for?”
“Isn’t this what birthdays are for?” This made me laugh out loud. I love it!
All I can say is that (with respect to Xmas only), it doesn’t get better. I’ve watched Christmas grow into Giftmas over the years, expanding from around December 4th (three weeks), overtaking Halloween, now steadily encroaching on Labor Day. My best adjustment (in order to avoid the caught-up feeling), is to buy presents throughout the year, stow them away. Then, when Xmas arrives, you’re done. However, if something else intrudes (say, a fight with your SO in June), you can always pull out an instant make-up gift, then restock for Xmas later.
As for the pain from other memories and losses, you’ve already covered that: It’s a part of life that requires your ever-vigilant adjustment and self-cleansing, nothing more. No easy way.
I love Christmas. For me, growing up, there was always just a spirit of love an warmth around that wasn’t necessarily there during the rest of the year. For my children, I’ve tried to recreate that same spirit – the music, the decorations, the tree. The magic of Christmas.
We have, although, also made it into an opportunity to care for others. I know my children will get lots of toys from their relatives b/c they are the only children in the family. So the other day the kids and I went through all their toys to give away the ones they don’t play with anymore for children who don’t have toys. They are only 3 and 4, but they understood that there are children less fortunate than they are. When I first mentioned it a few weeks ago, they were very resistant. So I’d planned to just do it without them, and not fight the battle. But something about the other day felt right, and they were into it. They were going to give away their favorite toys! I decided against allowing them to do that, b/c I didn’t think they really understood the significance of that, but I think in future years we will buy new toys for toy drives, etc. I gave money, etc. but I want them to be a part of that.
I wish the grandparents didn’t buy so much for them, but they are grandparents with two grandchildren – what are you going to do? 🙂 We aren’t materialistic people, and don’t buy toys during the year – my kids are happy with construction paper, scissors, glue and odds and ends (children of an artistic mother). I haven’t been to a mall since Black Friday, and don’t plan to. So I hear all of you on the materialism thing. But I still love the underlying spirit – celebration because a baby Savior was born. That’s what’s written on our calendar about Christmas: Jesus’ Birthday. That’s what I want my kids to celebrate.
I am so with you. I have always loved Christmas, the decorations, the “crafting”, the cooking and the gifting more as a giver than as a receiver. When I lost my Mom years ago I lost the only person that truly understood what would make me smile in a gift. Now I get that same feeling giving to my little one and others. Not in commercial way, just trying to be genuine. My little one loves paper and crayons more than stuff. She has plenty of toys and she will get some more come Saturday. But its not about the gifts. It is the celebration – the making stuff, crafts, cookies you name it. So count me out of waiting in line at 4am on Black Friday, count me out of shopping until I drop for the month, but count me in for Christmas and creating good memories with friends and family.
I understand the overwhelming-ness (just made that up 🙂
It makes me tired and a little resentful…but mostly tired. In general I am a fan of Christmas…food, happy people, new clothes & bright lights. This year I am wondering why my house has to be the center of everything, how much longer this divorce is gonna take, why my 5th grader doesn’t know her multiplication tables, how I’m going to pay for college for the oldest and elementary tuition for the youngest. AND how I am going to pay for my trip to Europe this summer…all while saving $10K in 2011.
So I’m a little blah this Christmas season. Glad to know I’m not alone 🙂