Thursday, December 14, 2006

'Tis the Season

I’ve noticed throughout my years of journaling that I tend to fall into the same rut; when I’m stressed, need to vent or some other outlet for pain, aggression, frustration, I journal. When I’m content or – gods forbid – happy, I don’t find the need to journal as much. That is the rut I’m afraid to fall into with Childfree Me. I’ve decided to invest some time to talk about the good times, why I love my childfree marriage. While I’m touched that Childfree Me has touched a cord with people (for that I’m endlessly flattered; it keeps me going) because I deal with the more emotional side of this decision, I feel the need to should it out how proud and happy I am for the life I am living.

$75. $25 for each nephew. In most situations, I would have no problem spending this money, and in the past I never have. This year, like any other, I was sent a Christmas list for our nephews, but this year it had a twist: assigned gifts. That’s right, folks, Mom picked out what each aunt/uncle combo should buy for her boys. Way to take the creativity – the thing I find fun about gift giving – and dump it down the drain. What did my husband and I get? Bathrobes (not fleece) – seriously, where do they make non-fleece robes for kids, and what fun is that? Way to give us the gift that they toss aside saying “Auntie T & Uncle A are BO-RING”. Oh, and slippers. WHATEVER.

So instead, I got each kid a $25 Toys ‘R’ Us gift card, with which they can buy whatever they want. But I know what’s going to happen: Mom’s going to keep the cards, maybe buy a small gift for each kid, then keep the rest around for friends’ birthday gifts, etc. As someone who takes great pride in the gifts I choose, this regimented approach sickens me and takes the joy out of the whole situation. Mom’s a control freak for sure – always has been – but this was over the top and I can’t decide if I should confront her about it in addition to my civil disobedience.

Enter my niece, who had the most adorable list ever. She is nearly eight years old and thought very hard about her list. New pencils (cool ones), pink erasers (they work the best), construction paper, crafty things, dangly earrings and – the big gift – moon sand, some sort of crafty clay. This was her list, and she was so proud of her list, and then my 12-year-old cousin got hold of her. “Don’t you want this Bratz DVD? What about a new Barbie house? The Hanna Montana CD? New games for your Nintendo DS (that Daddy plays with more than she does)” She listed all these things (peer pressure!), but nothing makes my niece happier than sitting at a table with some paper, glue, markers and scissors; well, except maybe a pencil to write and her imagination. It kills me to see everyone (her daddy included – he likes buying her things he can play with when she gets bored) pressuring her to ask for bigger and more expensive things when all she really wants to do is craft and draw and write. Oh, and she wants to learn to knit.

What stinks about this is that I’m going to get her some earrings I bought in a lot on Ebay, some cool pencils and pink erasers, and my brother, her Daddy, will treat me like I skimped on her gift, when in reality I got her what she really wanted.

I can’t imagine managing this for my own kids, nevermind the worry over the potential appearance of favoring one child over another. Too much stress.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying buying little things for all our friends, for my husband, and for honorary nephews (with parents who don’t get crazy)… The holidays are about family. It’s ironic that I find my “second family” – the large group of friends with which I’m blessed – much more enjoyable this time of year.


timi said...

That Christmas list, from the parents, thing? We've had that every year since my nieces & nephews were born. I'd get an email with what I am supposed to get them. Then, I have to if I got it or not so they - the parents - can update their lists.

This year, we finally grew backbones where my siblings are concerned and ignored our instructions. The nieces (11 & 14) got gift cards to the mall - what girl doesn't like to shop? And the nephews (5 & 7) got tickets to a pro soccer game, with us.

I have no idea how it will fly, but we'll find out next week. We've been doing baby steps for a while now, slowly weaning ourselves away from what my siblings want for their children and what WE want for our nieces & nephews. There's a line there, and we're finally starting to acknowledge it.

We have been married 9.5 years and don't have kids, and won't have them. My sister seems to be operating under the impression that we want them but since we can't have them, we're living vicariously through her or something. She has zero capacity to understand adult lifestyles and adult happiness that has nothing to do with children - not even her children.

Anonymous said...

I've found one unique way of avoiding the gift-giving madness...GO ABROAD FOR A HOLIDAY. If you're not going to be around for months at a time then no-one can send you lists of anything. Failing that you just ignore the email and blame it on technology.

Demanding what someone should spend their money on is equivalent to holding a gun to their head and we all know what 'fun' that can be!

If you can demand what I spend my money on I can demand that you pay my mortgage. If you can't do one then I can't do the other. How do you like them apples honey?