Thoughts on Holidays, Family and Other Random Things

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.

joy
My granddaughter’s handmade gift to her parent on display.

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.

battleship
Holidays are a great time to learn a new game.

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!

valentines

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.

Children’s Health

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.

shoveling-leaves

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.

curious

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.

Birthdays

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.

As 2016 comes to a close, what things are on your mind?

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12 comments

  1. We had a peaceful Christmas. My stepkids (adults) came over Christmas Eve, and we ate dinner together – they brought dessert. Christmas night, we continued our tradition of going out for Chinese food. We drew names for gifts, so each person bought (and received) one gift.

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    • Christy, that sounds like a lovely Christmas. I often think I’d love drawing names to reduce the gifts I need to give but Christmas is for the children and while they are little I will continue to have a gift for each.

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  2. Awww… how wonderful for you to see that the lessons you tried to teach your sons actually “stuck” after all!

    I totally agree that when there’s too much, nothing is appreciated. My mother was definitely in the traditional American buy, buy, buy mode for Christmas, and even as a child I found it to be exhausting. I can still remember catching her counting the presents just to be sure that my brother and I both got the same number. It makes me so sad just thinking of it. It was like this HUGE buildup, and then a monumental letdown when you discovered that all of the stuff under the tree was just fancily wrapped crap that you really didn’t want anyhow. It always left me feeling hollow, and like something was wrong with me because I didn’t feel as happy and content as I was supposed to. Not that it was all her fault – I think she just felt trapped by a culture that she didn’t know how to escape.

    Anyhow, I’m so glad you got the chance to get outside for some fresh air. CatMan and I went for a ride yesterday and I actually arrived home in 35 degree weather with relatively warm toes! Success!

    And how could anyone forget the president’s fitness tests… oy! I was TERRIBLE! I could NEVER finish the 600 yard run. Of course, I think that may have had something to do with the fact that I used to hold my breath when I ran. Not quite sure how that happened, maybe I got confused between swimming and running? Anyhow, it’s pretty hard to run that far on one breath! And don’t EVEN get me started on the rope climbing thing! I can still remember picking rope slivers out of my little hands! Oh, the memories! 🙂

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    • Cat, our childhood Christmases couldn’t have been more different. My mother never got me gifts but there were so many presents for each of my siblings. It was my job to help the little ones and to clean up the mess. I always wanted something special even if it was small just for me. When I became a mother I set a spending limit of $50 per child, which went quite far back in the 80s but was always careful to make sure I had the same number of packages under the tree for both boys fearing they might count and think I loved one more than the other. I don’t recall them ever counting or passing judgement on the others gift but it was something leftover from my own experiences I had to work out.

      My school never took part in the fitness tests which is a good thing because I never would have managed a passing score on it.

      How’s your weather have you been able to get out for another ride? I’ve been able to get out a couple of times over the holidays as we’ve had much warmer temps than usual for us. Today it’s almost 50, raining but still not bad so out I went with the umbrella in tow – it felt good. The rain will freeze tonight when it drops down into the teens and snow is expected tomorrow. We seem to be on this roller coaster of weather. a few days of cold then it warms back up, not sure what to make of it.

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  3. I like your quiet and peaceful Christmas. I know how gratifying it is to see your grown children passing on important lessons and traditions that you tried to instill in them. Sometimes I wish a few more of my values would have stuck ….
    When we thought about where and how we wanted to spend our Christmas (first year without children/grandchildren), we knew we both wanted to be outdoors. So we picnicked and hiked in a beautiful state park on Christmas Eve, and picnicked and hiked the beach on Christmas Day. We watched a couple movies and we read. Oh, and we ate some special treats and opened some little presents, of course! It was a two-day extravaganza of natural beauty and peace. We were the only people in the whle state park on Christmas Eve!
    What’s on my mind this week is thinking ahead to the next year, what I want to keep and what I want to be rid of. I have always loved this week between the two holidays as a time for introspection.
    Happy New Year, Lois!

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    • Cynthia, I love my boys dearly but yes there are a few lessons I too wish would have stuck with them. Can’t have everything I guess.

      I loved how you spent Christmas and I wouldn’t mind having nice enough weather to be able to enjoy the holiday outdoors for a change.

      I think the shorter days and the slower pace after having spent so much time between Thanksgiving and Christmas getting ready for Christmas was made for us to relax and do some soul searching on what we want the new year to be for us. Hope you are able to see your goals come to fruition.

      Happy New Year’s.

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  4. There is a lot here, Lois. It will take me a few to respond. I love Christmas and am always glad when it’s over. I love finding and making gifts but there are always so many to make for that I just can never quite get it all done in time. I always plan to start earlier but life just keeps its own agenda. We each got one lovely gift from the other. I made my son a quilt that he is very delighted with. My daughter got books on Japanese language which she is learning. She just finished a semester of it and is enjoying it to no end. I embroidered a store bought blanket for my niece. It was quite inexpensive and she can take it to college and with her name on it, she won’t be so concerned about it disappearing. We like to keep it simple too. Just not simple enough for me, yet. I could never have passed the fitness test. Neither could my daughter. I think she got fibromyalgia in grade school. Me, I just spent my life wrangling kids instead of being physical. I could do awesome hospital corners on beds though. I would not have wanted to walk with your neighbor either. I do no after holiday sales and almost no before holiday shopping. I did get my nieces crafting projects and I got Spirograph’s for the big and little ones. My adult children were like little kids again. I never do Valentine’s Day so it’s not an issue. I too, would be hiding under the table with too many people and too much going on. When my niece and her daughters came up the day after Christmas for gifts, I sat in my chair in the living room watching and listening to the chaos in the dining room. The little bit of distance helped. I was feeling rather unwell that day. I love January and February so I can sit and read, sew and write guilt free. No shopping necessary.

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    • Japanese! I am impressed. When my oldest was in school they had a program that matched each of the students in his grade with a pen pal from a Japanese school to help the Japanese students improve their English. He wished his school would have taught Japanese so he could practice with her.

      Sounds like you had a lovely Christmas and I know you will continue to simplify things each year until you have the perfect balance to suit you. I know all about trying to make too many gifts and running out of time, that happened to me last year and the year before when I first took on this house.

      No I never could have passed the fitness tests either. Luckily, having gone to a Catholic school I didn’t have to try as they didn’t participate in the program.

      Hey, I can do awesome hospital corners too! It was required at home that a bed be properly made and so it became natural. I think it’s a lost art because I’ve had to teach the technique to my daughters-in-law who never heard of it.

      I rarely do anything special for Valentine’s day, some years I’ll make a little card for the children but that’s about as far as it goes. I didn’t get much of a break on gifting for January and February as I have two birthdays to take care of, one I have a handmade gift ready to give but needed to purchase a frame for it.

      Sorry you were feeling unwell while your niece was visiting, it’s never fun to have guests when you aren’t feeling up to it.

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  5. First Lois.. A belated Happy Birthday to you.
    Loved your post.. Yes Christmas is so commercial and full of bling and excess including gifts I so agree.. Those special hand made gifts mean the world to me.. And among my most favorite of treasures was a little book made out of folded A4 paper stapled together by my Granddaughter who had thought to write and draw me a story in it.. 🙂 I loved it.. 🙂
    And that JOY gift looks lovely hanging up..

    It was kind that your neighbours were looking out for you on Christmas Day.. 🙂

    Sending you a Warm Hugs your way Lois and Well wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year my friend..
    Love and Hugs Sue xxxx ❤

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    • Thanks Sue. It was a lovely birthday with my family here and even though my son left the dishes for me it was a treat to have him cook me dinner.

      I know you will cherish your book from your granddaughter. My boys used to make me little books and handmade cards which I still have to remember those days.

      Hope you had a Happy New Year’s and that 2017 will be a great year for you and your family.

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