Friday, December 16, 2011

the joy and the struggle

Hmmm, the Christmas season. 
I love the preparation for Christmas. I (generally) love baking, making and thinking of people I love as I think of gifts for them. 
I don't love trying to think of presents when I am uninspired... the "I'm only getting you this because I am expected to get you a present" present. I don't love creating handmade things and gifting them to unappreciative people who think I have taken the 'cheap' option by 'doing the homemade thing'. 

For anyone who doesn't know- many crafters don't necessarily craft for thrift now- my mum always made our clothes because it was cheaper (and I assume, for personal satisfaction!)- that isn't true these days. If I make myself a shirt, say, it will cost more that I could pick one up at a chainstore or op shop for, for sure. The pattern, the fabric, the time, the's not about thrift (it can be and that's pretty fun too)- it's about creativity and my spirit, as I have said here before.

I digress. What I don't love, is when gift has turned to expectation. Joy and celebration turns to stress and busy-ness. Thoughtfulness has turned to obligation. 
We don't get junk mail but I do see the piles that arrive at my work at this time of year- it's nuts. Really. And when did gifts for children get so massively out of proportion? In my opinion. I don't intend to judge other peoples practice, just expose the tension in my mind.
I could go on, this churns me up abit, but I wont.

I don't love so many people encouraging consumerism in my children- I don't like 'what do you want for Christmas?' but I dislike 'what are you getting for Christmas' even more. I have an 11 year old son and a 9 year old daughter. If you have hung around here abit you may realise we live relatively simply. 

I don't want to drown my children in stuff (there bedrooms get messy enough as it is!). But I also don't want them to feel like they are (and we are) total freaks because they haven't got their own laptop, iphone, ipod touch, playstation, tv in their room... whatever. There's plenty of time for those things, isn't there? 

Sigh, I really struggle with this. I read an article about a bloke who is a professional 'declutterer'- or something like that- he said children's rooms are interesting, it's often the parents who want to hang on to the toys but as he encouraged them to get rid of some of the stuff in the kids bedrooms every single time he would witness a child come in to their clearer room and dance!

I don't really want to teach my children to value their possessions above their relationships, but I have never heard some random stranger ask 'who are you going to spend time with this Christmas'.  I also want to demonstrate generosity and thoughtfulness to my children; my discomfort with all the 'stuff' isn't just about the huge drain on financial resources (although- I don't think there's any need to go into further debt over your kids Christmas presents, just quietly!) I hope they see and value the time I spend making jam and understand that that is part of the gift.

At 9 and 11 I reckon my children are now at a more 'peer influenced' age, so how do we parent so they are not excluded from there peers whilst upholding our values and what we think is important. I don't know what gifts our children will be getting from us for Christmas. Our family present from the 'in law' side of the family is a family ticket to Puffing Billy. Great present, we are going to have our 'big day out' in January probably.

I find the comparisons hard too. What are your kids getting? What did you get? My kids get home grown fruit and vegies, parents who hang out with them a decent amount, meals around the table, family games...I can't wrap any of that and put it under a tree but they are some of the things we have decided are important. 

Another article I read recently was by a Palliative Care nurse who said that many peoples dying 'regrets' are remarkably similar- they wish they had spend time with their friends more, maintained a bit of silliness (!), gone  abit slower... and the one that challenges me- had the courage to live according to their convictions- be who they are- rather than live according to how they thought other people expected them to live.

What a big rant, I didn't intend to rave on, there's alot banging around up in my head today and no other adults around- so I chose to 'chat' to you!

I'd be really happy to have a conversation about this stuff- does anyone else on the planet find the excess difficult? Wonder how to 'do' balance? Or do you all love the Christmas spend up? Am I just over thinking it all? 


  1. Great post Tanya, you've made me stop & think for a moment.

    I like presents at Christmas & I don't mind "What would you like Santa to bring you" kinds of questions, as my kids are little & it's all part of the joy & wonder of Christmas, but as they get older, you're right, that expectation that they'll get whatever they want or they should get whatever they want it pretty dismal.

    I too like the thought that goes with choosing the perfect gift & I'm lucky I've none of those "I'm just getting you something because I'm supposed to" people on my shopping list, if I did, I probably wouldn't bother at all!

    I think presents are a fun part of the day, but obviously not the most important, & that's just what we've got to try to help our kids to learn or realise, that Christmas is about spending time together as a family & sharing the love. I know there are extreme examples of what people get or give for Christmas, but I like to think most people do have a good balance - I mean, that's what the traditional Christmas lunch is about, isn't it?

    As for over-thinking it... maybe you are! From someone who just goes with the festive flow & has a great time, I can speak for the ease of that route lol, but I'm also not making my own jam!

    You don't have the link to that post from the nurse do you? I read it too but can't find it now, it's worth printing out, I think.

    Doubt I've contributed anything here lol, but MERRY CHRISTMAS, whatever you want that to be for you. xx

  2. Well said; I couldn't agree more! Go with your instinct and not what is expected by everybody or society. You know what's best for your family. Happy Christmas!

  3. Great post Tanya. I'm sewing for my nieces at the moment and my sisters do appreciate it but I still don't think they understand the real cost, especially when I compare the skirts to the $4 tshirts I picked up at Target to go with them. Christmas is a time for us to stop for a day and appreciate and celebrate the day. I hope you and your family have a wonderful day too x

  4. I'm with ya. My brother and I grew up fairly 'middle class' as youngsters but became a very cash poor family in our teens. We didn't get random extra pocket money or things bought for no reason but we did get a nice haul of gifts at Christmas (I realise now that they spent about $100 on each of us but it seemed liked HEAPS when we were little) I set the limit for Harvey's first Christmas, $100 and managed to get some great toys on sale.
    Christmas together will be rare for us over the coming years because of shift work. I think that will mean making more of an effort to make sure the kids know how important people, love, laughs and togetherness is at Christmas.
    Wishing you fun festivities (and lots of yummy jam!)

  5. Hi Tanya, great post. I must both my partner and I love Christmas and we probably do get too much for the kids but it is not necessarily expensive. I shop carefully buying lots of stuff on sale, they usually get something handmade as well, although I've lost my sweep this year. We usually have a big clean out before Christmas and break things down into different piles - broken, donate and keep. My kids realize that there are people who don't have as much as they do and they are happy to donate toys that are no longer used. They also buy a gift for the wishing tree at Kmart and I hope we teach them that Christmas is no just about the presents but about family and friends.

  6. I agree with you !!!! but wanted to share a warm fuzzy 10 yr old moment that happened to us the other day. A girlfriend asked to buy my kids gifts and I said please don't we'll just enjoy seeing you for dinner. She really wanted to so I said buy them a duck or a goat from the Oxfam shop. She gave my (younger) daughters each a toy from the oxfam shop that they both love and gave my 10yr old son a donation card that said that he had bought toys for disadvantaged kids in south africa that lived in poverty. My girlfriend was really concerned that he would think he had been cheated of a present.
    The smile on his face was wonderful. He was sincerely chuffed and really happy with this gift and told her how awesome it was. It was lovely because he really understood that this was a really special gift and that even though she had purchased/donated it, he was part of it.
    And even though he still has the I-pod/pad/touch blah blah on his 3 page list (which he won't be getting) it is really nice to know that our little guy understands that giving isn't all about material stuff.


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