It all happened like I thought it would. He got some gifts that I probably wouldn't have selected for him. He got some gifts that I certainly wouldn't have selected for him. And at the end of the night, I asked him if he had a nice Christmas he looked at me and said "It's not nice to get too many presents at Christmas." At some point Christmas morning he just looked kind of quiet and befuddled. When the relatives came in the afternoon and we opened more gifts, he opened his first one, and went off to assemble it and play with it, but then people *insisted* that he come back into the fray to keep on opening gifts. It made me a little sad because that greedy present-ripping behavior that adults so often criticize is a learned behavior. It really is.
And I could try to put a stop to it all. I could hand everyone a list of the "Christmas Rules." I could try to dictate all the terms of everyone's gift-giving. I could try. But then I would run the risk of actually making Christmas about stuff, after all. I would ultimately be saying that the stuff you give him or don't give him is more important than our relationship. I really do love our relatives very much, and they love our boys, and it's their Christmas, too. They get so much joy out of giving him things. And once the holiday is over, we can make choices about what keep and how we use the gifts. That's sort of an unspoken contract, right? The holiday is for everyone to share and celebrate in the way that works for them, but our home is our home is our home.
People love Thanksgiving, and that's a holiday without gifts. In my perfect world, Christmas would be kind of like that plus a couple of gifts, but not so much gift madness. And lots of Christmas music. And snow. Lovely, sparkly snow.
I think it might be particularly strange for people like me who want to have a meaningful Christmas, eschew consumerism, but also aren't deeply religious. We talk about Jesus being born, and the whole Christmas story. We read him the accounts from two of the Gospels (which he called poems), and he sweetly asked for "more poems about Mary and Joseph" (we did oblige). But I think that Christians feel that story in a very real, meaningful way. I've always felt like I was faking it when it comes to religion. For as long as I can remember I've felt that way. I love church services, music, etc., but in terms of having a truly spiritual experience on Christian holidays, well I don't. But nor do I feel any special connection with Solstice, even though that seems like the natural alternative for --ahem-- the crunchy and semi-crunchy folks like me. I could work on these things.
Yet I do feel Christmas. I like making candy and doughnuts for the neighbors and having a special meal together. I love Christmas music and singing carols. I like looking forward to winter. I love our Christmas tree and the "end of the semester" feel. I adore getting the mail in this season and seeing the pretty cards and photos people send. I like making it seem magical for the little ones. It may sound odd after my ranting, but I really do like giving and receiving, despite my many reservations about that whole process.
So another Christmas season has started and will end soon enough. I think that some of the most wonderful moments of the year have happened in the past month. All the singing that our little boy has been doing around the house. All the love that he has for our beautiful tree. All the fun he has giving candy to our neighbors. Ultimately that little guy is right about Christmas, I think. It really is not nice to get too many presents, but it is nice to give and receive a little something around this time. In his stocking he found a sketch pad and colored pencils, and he took great pleasure in drawing a picture for everyone who had Christmas dinner with us. At the end of the night he said that he hoped "Phil's knees would feel better so he could walk." (Phil is my mother-in-law's husband who has MS, and no, we haven't been talking about Tiny Tim with him). So I must say that on Christmas day I just felt grateful for having such a wonderful little boy who is so sensitive to others and to the world around him. The meaning of Christmas is in that sweet little soul who thinks about others* and sings, sings, sings.
*Lest I end on an overly sentimental note, I'll also share another Christmas thought from the little guy. As his Auntie was playing with him on the rug, she said "Oh I'm so full from dinner!" And he said "If you go poo-poo, then you will have room for more food!"
I hope you enjoy all the pictures below!