Welcome back, I hope you had a lovely Christmas and were able to spend time with those you love. My Christmas was quiet but not as strange as I thought it might be after celebrating a week early.
With my youngest son and his family away for two weeks it meant my oldest wouldn’t be visiting to work for his brother and that gave me some much-needed solitude. I’ve spent much of that time resting, crafting, and doing whatever moved me at the moment. It’s also given me time to think.
What Others May Think
Mid-afternoon on Christmas day I received a phone call from a neighbor asking if I was home. She had noticed no cars in my drive and was concerned for me. Soon after a knock at the door delivered two plates of food from this neighbor. It got me thinking how ingrained it has become for us to believe we all need to celebrate holidays in similar ways. Where my friend would have been depressed should she not be surrounded by her entire family on Christmas I was content and enjoying a new experience.
On Gifting and Over-Stimulation
I raised my children with minimal gifts on special occasions. Christmas was a time to give educational or crafty type presents which would be welcome during the months it was too cold to spend much time outdoors. As a parent I often wondered what my children would take from me and build on when they were parents and what they would choose to leave behind. Turns out my boys loved receiving educational gifts and are repeating this with their children. Microscopes, telescopes, jewelry making supplies and other such presents were found under their trees for the children.
On the other hand, my youngest two grandchildren got to experience a different type of Christmas this year with their mother’s side of the family. Excess was the general theme. Gifts were mostly mass-produced popular toys such as Shopkins, electronics and matching PJs for all. My daughter-in-law has even called to express how disappointing it was to experience so many gifts being opened at once that none of them felt special.
Excess in gifts isn’t the only thing my little ones are experiencing. For a week, all of my daughter-in-laws siblings moved back in to their mother’s home with all their children. There were ten children, three of which aged two and under. My grandson has been overwhelmed the most by this. He has come to his mother and asked to go home now or “take me to Nama’s” his name for me. At one point he took a couple of toy cars and climbed under the dining room table where he then pulled all the chairs back in effectively closing himself off from the rest of the group for a bit of solitude.
Children love attention but they also need time to decompress. When there are too many gifts to open there isn’t time to enjoy what they have received. When crowds persist they too need time to decompress and have their own space to breathe.
Manipulation through Marketing
The Friday before Christmas we finally had temperatures above freezing after more than a week of single digit days, I took this opportunity to take a stroll outdoors. I thought I’d be nice and ask one of the neighbors if she would like to take a walk with me seeing as how she’s been through several months dealing with a very sick child. She did and off we went. I hadn’t been able to get out to the post office earlier due to the weather so made a stop to mail out my Christmas cards, and wanted to stop by the grocery store.
She wanted to visit the dollar store to see if they had their Christmas things on clearance, they didn’t. While in the grocery store she pulls out her phone and calls the pharmacy to ask if their Christmas things were discounted yet. When she heard everything was half off we were headed there next. She was excited to hopefully find a bargain while I was regretting asking her to accompany me.
She made a couple of purchases simply because one of the children might like the item. I was feeling irritated and asked if she’d waited for the sales to do her shopping only to be told she was done but was shopping today because she liked getting a good bargain, I smartly kept my thoughts to myself.
Finally, we found something we could both agree on. Valentine’s Day merchandise. Yes, we turned a corner and came face to face with a large display of candy in heart-shaped boxes. This was two days before Christmas!
We aren’t expected to purchase one of these heart-shaped boxes now to put away for February. Instead, marketers expect us to have good intentions of doing just that but know once home the candy will be eaten and we will be “forced” to replace them, maybe more than once.
Some retailers have fought back against the pre-Black Friday sales after customers complained. I think it’s time we complain about all the early marketing of holiday merchandise. The stores won’t stock these items if we band together and refuse to buy them.
Being born with a physical disability it was important to me to be physically active. I climbed trees, hiked, swam anything to be outdoors and use what I had. I was told my life would change when I had children and in some ways it did, but not my desire to be active. My children joined me in the activities I loved and they participated in soccer and other group sports. We took advantage of free programs to try snorkeling, kayaking and horse back riding and more.
This is another of those areas where I wondered if these experiences would be passed down to my grandchildren. For those of you who have followed me from the beginning you know only too well how active their little lives are.
One of the discussions we had over Christmas dinner was about the Presidential Fitness program. This is a school program that tests children on their physical abilities from speed and strength to flexibility. My children began to share stores of how well their children did on the Presidential Fitness tests this year. Every one of them scored higher than their peers, higher than the rest of the school. This shouldn’t be happening.
The fitness test is a timed test where depending on age you are expected to be able to do a certain number of each activity. For example you may be expected to complete 5 push ups. Have they based these expectations on what they feel a sedentary child should be able to complete? If this is the case we have done our children a grave injustice by not keeping our communities safe enough for all to be outdoors playing freely as children should. Maybe 2017 is the year we need to take back our communities and open them up to our children.
I’m a bit of a Grinch when it comes to birthdays. I don’t like seeing the focus on gifts on this day. My view of birthdays is that it is a day for family where both mother, and father, and child are honored as the day we welcomed a new member to our group. My children received a small gift from me and one from their grandparents. My children often made something little such as a card for me, but it was never expected. Over a home cooked dinner we talked about the day they were born and how happy we were to finally meet them. It was a simple day but one I always enjoyed and hoped they wouldn’t grow up feeling let down because I never threw them some over the top birthday with all their friends or a trip to Disney World.
Tomorrow is my birthday and while I would rather not have a celebration my kids, and grandchildren, won’t hear of it. My son is arriving tonight with his partner and the children to spend the day with me tomorrow. I was informed not to make plans as his gift to me will be him making me dinner. It’s the perfect gift to receive and yet a sign that the birthday dinners I gave him as a child were all he needed.