The One Where I’m That Person, Part 1: You Did Not Just Do That

“Hey, how’d your Christmas go?”
“Well, it was good.  A little overwhelming.  RR’s grandmother gave her SO many toys.  Like every single Little People set known to man.  Also, a sit n’ spin.  Also, 15 stuffed animals.  A suitcase full of clothes.  The entire nation of Weebles.  A zoo, a desert island and a canary.  More or less.”
“That sounds great!  That’s what Christmas is all about, after all.  I’m surprised she didn’t get RR a ferris wheel.  Actually, sounds like it was a modest Christmas.”
“…”

So I’m the italics here.  They symbolize the swoon I fell into when I saw the number of gifts my mother-in-law brought for RR.  Actually the swoon started when I found out that my family members would give RR a gift in addition to what we’d gotten her (that’s 4 more).  Or maybe it started when D and I started discussing gifts and I realized that I wasn’t going to get away with nothing.  Or one thing.

Maybe some backstory?  I grew up with enormous Christmases.  Well, in retrospect, they were nothing like some kids had, but the present opening rolled into the afternoon.  Also, it isn’t my favorite holiday and it’s one where traditions can be confusing for kids (and adults!)  It just all seems like…a lot.  A lot of food.  A lot of gifts.  A lot of family.  A lot of lights and noise.  A lot of everything.  I know RR won’t have that as a comparison, but I wanted to give her a bit less of all that.  Tone down the excess.

I could have called this post excess, I guess.  That’s what gets to me.  To be clear, it’s excess as I define it and I’m that girl who would move to a commune in a heartbeat if I didn’t think I’d have to explain myself to my family.  I also fret (in my head, most of the time) if I can’t reuse the foil and I get all sorts of flustered when I have to buy something new.  I know.  I’m this much fun to be around all the time.  While I try keep this to myself, Christmas is one of those times where I’ve been insistant.  Gift giving, yes.  The entire Fisher Price catalog, no.

Tack on our minimalistic approach to toys in general (more on lights, noise, movement, talking later) and I just expected to see, well…less, for RR.  I don’t think I realized how deeply this would/could affect me or my extended family.  Midway through the Great Unwrapping that commenced when RR’s grandmother and cousins joined us on the 26th, I felt my throat close up and the room dim a little around the edges.  I know you know my ways.  I exaggerate greatly for your benefit (after all, RR is not eaten by wolverines ALL the time) but in this I am truthful, I almost fainted.

There were so many toys.  The wrapping paper buried us.  RR sat like an automaton (better than I expected her to, frankly) while toy after toy was pulled from wrapping paper and thrust at her.  She’s not a ripper, our girl.  She reads big kid books delicately and had not ripped a page.  Until, of course, last week.  But the look of horror on her small face (and ours) stopped her from doing it again.  I’m a librarian, for pete’s sake.  Her cousins did more of the thrusting/unwrapping, reveling in her toys far more than she did.  Her grandmother’s face lit up as RR let her fingers drift over each soft thing, each plastic contraption, each shard of my soul dissolving into dust. Her aunt, to my horror, gleefully ripped open each box and removed each toy, forever sealing the door on returns or “unwrapped new toy” donations.

The delight on their faces was evident.  Had I scrooged them into moderation, I would have taken some of that joy and bitterly pushed it back to them.  Our relationship is often strained and besides deepening our divide, I would have slipped from them the opportunity to spoil a little girl, to buy things they never would, to watch for moments of surprise and delight when she saw each new thing.  I may have given them small gifts of cookies and candy, but I am considering my other gift to them on par with their gift-giving display for RR.  I kept my mouth shut and I didn’t faint.  Merry Christmas.

Stay tuned for The One Where I’m That Person, Part 2: the Whiz-Bang Edition

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8 Responses

  1. I have a friend with similar issues around consumerism, and they do something really cool. Each Christmas Eve, they ask their daughter to pick out toys she already owns to put under the tree for Santa to take to other children. She just thinks this is how Christmas works, and she is quite generous.

    • That’s a great idea and one that would help me balance the craziness. I wish we could just…not…with the presents but I doubt that will be what happens.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. This sounds an awful lot like what happened when my parents came to visit. Despite numerous requests over the years, my mom just can’t seem to scale down the quantity of gifts. And when it’s for her only grandchild, it’s even harder. I keep trying to remember that her inability to respond to our requests means that this deluge of presents is doing something important for her, even if I’m not sure what it is. And Tadpole really enjoys a number of her gifts. But I’m totally with you on the overwhelming quantity thing. The cozy Christmas morning at home (with just the 3 of us and a few, carefully-chosen gifts apiece) was the perfect size for our family. What came a few days later with my family felt like just the kind of excess you describe and led to a similar kind of panic.

    • I wonder how we’ll negotiate the future when she thinks that the mamas “shortchange” her and that grandma is the gold standard. That will be a fun chat. 🙂

  3. Man, RR would be a millionaire if she was Chinese! You’ve heard about the red envelope in Chinese new year, have you? Btw, you can still donate toys even if they’ve been unwrapped, plenty of orgs will take them.

  4. Well, you’re right! We can count Fisher Price as currency! I don’t suppose that you gals or RR sees either grandparents often?

  5. I am so like that. That being, at risk of fainting in the face of excess.

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