Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gifting anxiety

I’m no fan of staying up late on Christmas Eve to wrap gifts only to have my daughters wake me up pre-dawn. I’m nearly finished, just a few more to wrap.

One would think completion of such a large task as wrapping would usher in a feeling of relief or satisfaction.

It never does.

After everything is neatly wrapped with personal tags dangling, I step back and look at the whole of my year-round efforts of thoughtfully hunting treasure for my family. Instead of thinking,” Wow! It’s beautiful!” I think, “Wow! It’s such a small pile.” It’s especially small this year.

We’re trained to think that our children will feel completely dejected if there's still standing room in our living room on Christmas morning. We believe our home should look something like the home of Herr and Frau Silberhaus in the Nutcracker mixed with an FAO Schwarz two-story display of toys; beyond enchanting.

It really gets under my skin. I fall for the illusion every year. I begin to feel like I’m a bad mommy because I didn’t scout out enough gifts. I didn’t give enough.

This tempts me to race out at the last minute and fill that void with more gifts.

The reality? I really don’t have enough time to think about what else could be truly meaningful. I’ve spent the entire year searching and thrown a lot of thought into the gifts that sit before me. To think I’m going to find the great and profound missing pieces in the last hour is a bit foolish.

If I did race out to buy more, it’ll likely be gift filler, meaningless stuff thrown in to aid in the illusion that quantity trumps thoughtfulness.

Why this feeling always overtakes me every year is a real stumper. It is far out of line from my standard shopping mentality.

Perhaps I need some sort of therapy for this. Or perhaps, we’ve been conditioned to think we will never give enough presents to our children. The latter is a horrible thought. It would be cruel if I had succumbed to this as a deliberate marketing tactic.

I need a distraction. I think hot cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles, a fire in the hearth and a family game of dominoes under the tree might do the trick.

I think that’d make more sense than racing out now to buy stuff that’s going to be massively discounted in three days (both in the stores and by the recipient?). Beware of the hypnosis of a big sale. Are you buying it because it’s on sale? Or because you need it?

If you’re feeling an urge to spend holiday cash, wait a few days and then head to the thrift. There you will find rejected gifts still in their boxes. The original recipient might not have wanted/needed the item, but one person’s trash is sometimes another's treasure. And you’ll spend about 75-80% less than the original purchase price.

Does anyone else ever have this feeling? What's your manner of coping?


AvaTrimble said...

Hear, hear! Christmas - or any holiday that stresses family and togetherness and celebration of life and love - shouldn't be about commercialism and it shouldn't be about more-more-more. But it's amazing how insidious those ideas are.

I do hand-made gifts every year, but I still always feel the pressure to do more and make things better and bigger. If I had the money to spend, I would probably be tempted to buy gifts more often - but given my state of ongoing college-student poverty, I can't give in to temptation! i generally don't even buy materials; I use what I have.

But you know what? People end up loving the home-made gifts - or anything that has real thought going into it. At a baby shower last year, I gave a tiny little hand-stitched white cotton bonnet, with a bit of fine embroidery, and a likewise hand-stitched little purple plaid flannel jacket. Whereas others were giving huge baskets of things and enormous boxed gifts and piles of clothes. But what I gave was no less appreciated, even by people who don't feel the same way that I (and obviously you!) feel about commercialism.

So I guess we all just have to keep reminding ourselves that the love and care that goes into one or a few well-chosen gifts really IS likely to be greatly appreciated, so we need to ignore the commercialism devil on our proverbial shoulders. :)

Shopping Golightly said...

Ava. I caught a pun in "holiday that stresses family". Holidays that stress family often stress family members. Every year we lather, rinse, repeat. Evert year there's a blockbuster movie about that very subject.

How I wish I knew how to sew. I think it's something that certainly wouldn't hurt people to know.

Modern Mommie taught me to knit and I taught Little Pie. She and I once spent an entire Saturday knitting together.

Little Pie is getting a vintage workhorse sewing machine and Modern Mommie will teach Pie the art. Perhaps then my daughter will teach me.

Keep giving handmade. I've been to baby showers and my eye always follows the handmade items, there's so much more meaning in them. It's an honor to the mother that her friend personally constructed something for her baby.

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

I really dislike the whole enforced gift aspect of the holidays. Makes me crazy to give gifts because they are expected, rather than because I wanted to give a gift. We decided over thirty years ago that we would not do 'expected' gifts, and have never regretted it.

How about when you finish all that wrapping and it doesn't seem like enough, you tell yourself it IS enough. Then grab the girls and your hubby, find some scissors and paper, and cut out snowflakes together. It'll be way more fun than stressing over gifts!

Shopping Golightly said...

Why hello My Queen!

I think the best gift to give is one that says, "I have taken the effort because I love you to truly know you and learn what you need or what makes you happy".

Anonymous said...

Pile panic comes over me every year. I'd love to share how I fought it off this year -- but I didn't. I did, however, temper the extra shopping by purchasing only very, very usable items. Sure, I passed on a whole lotta great sales , but by sticking to 'usable' criterion I spent the extra dollars on really nice wool socks. REALLY! They fattened the pile, weren't outrageously priced,and are items my kids need, love, and will use. Even with these last-minute wool-cool adds, I don't expect sticker shock come January because a good many of my gifts were purchased throughout the year at rock-bottom prices and thrifted treasures helped round out things nicely.

Shopping Golightly said...

Pile Panic! So this condition has a name!

Perhaps we need a recovery plan?

Kim said...

I am another fellow pile-panic-sufferer. *sigh* This year especially, but my kids are getting older...only one left at home. This is the first year I've got 'significant others' in the mix and babies. It's whole new ball game. One 'largish' gift for each family...i.e. new pots and pans...a nice knife set. Still it doesn't seem like 'enough', because I'm so very guilty of making sure the tree is surrounded with gifts. I'm going to muster through this year though, and I'm just guessing that everything will be just fine at the end of the day, with less wrapping paper to throw away. :o)

Stephanie said...

I just had that feeling this morning as I wrapped up the santa gifts for each child. There are 3 apiece and it just didn't feel as abundant as the Christmas mornings I remember as a child.

Oh yeah...the one where my parents fought and were in debt and got divorced??

Why would I want it to be the same, I asked myself? That was how I talked myself down. (that and avoiding Target.)

Shopping Golightly said...

I broke with tradition and placed the family gifts under tree last night. Now that the children are older, we might as well enjoy the pretty packaging for more than just Christmas morning before they dive in.

Little Pie looked at the tree and said, "Wow! Look at all those presents!"

Little Pie has a sage-like wisdom. I need to listen to her and not the guilt that consumerism bestows.

Santa comes tonight!

Amber said...

I think because I grew up in a home where we had oodles and oodles of gifts on Christmas day, I often feel a need to overwhelm the tree, and my friends and family, with gifts. But, the past two years have been financially difficult (which is a HUGE understatement). So, I've been hand-making gifts or inviting friends and family over to spend time together instead of receiving a gift.

When it comes down to it, paying my bills is more important than ensuring everyone receives a gift. This year, my husband and I are not doing gifts. But, this morning, as I looked at our empty stockings and our bare-bottom tree, I felt a pang of anxiety. I felt like I needed to rush out and fill the bare space under the tree. But, as you graciously point out, I would be buying crap that I don't need and stuff that my husband really doesn't want. We've worked hard over the years to shift our consumer-based, materialistic mentality to one that strives to buy necessity-based and shop second-hand. I nearly blew it this morning. But, as I often do when I feel the impulse to purchase, I sat down and, instead, wrote out several alternatives to spending money. I came up with a fun, creative, hand-made gift (which will be a wonderful surprise for my husband). I still have money in my pocket and dignity in my heart.

Shopping Golightly said...

"Money in my pocket and dignity in my heart."

What a beautiful statement.

AvaTrimble said...

The pun was completely inadvertent! But you're very right, Shopping Golightly - there's more than one kind of stress on family involved in the holidays!

Anyway. I ran short on time (I usually do) leading up to Christmas this year and didn't end up being able to finish all the gifts I wanted to, and I felt bad about it, and felt like I hadn't done enough. But the little things counted, and everyone was delighted. It's really wonderful what a little can do - my brother was delighted with a strip of dark blue felt bearing a post-it note that read "This will become an embroidered bookmark!" and he is now brainstorming potential designs.

There's so much about the true value of gift-giving that gets lost in the ruckus, and in the end, spending time with people we care about, giving things that are meaningful and carefully considered, or just finding some personally significant way to make it clear that we care - that's what really matters. Even though it can be hard to hold onto that mentality in the face of rampant consumerism and the more-more-more mentality, it's important that we try. And whenever we need inspiration and encouragement, we can prop ourselves up with this lovely blog. :)

Reading The Thrifty Chicks always makes me feel inspired...but I can't even afford thrift stores at the moment, so I have to channel my inspiration in other directions! But really - thanks for existing!

Amanda @geekdetails said...

I have the same issues as Amber. I grew up with so many presents under the tree that it *still* doesn't feel right to not have it that way. I fight it every year because I don't want my children to grow up feeling like the quantity of presents is what matters.

""Money in my pocket and dignity in my heart."

What a beautiful statement."

I agree :)

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