Why I Don’t Want to See a Picture of Your Gifts Under the Tree

I’m not a scrooge or a Grinch by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think I’m quite the opposite. The idea of the holidays makes me almost giddy like a kid. I love the lights, the music, watching A Christmas Story over and over again. I look forward to the food, the wine… I don’t even mind the wrapping or even the cooking (which I normally despise). What I don’t like about the holiday is seeing pictures of everyone’s trees. No wait, let me rephrase that…I love seeing pictures of trees and how individual they all are. I love seeing the decorated houses and living rooms full of people. It’s those pictures of the stacks of presents that I can’t stand.

Posting a picture on social media with your tree with a few gifts strategically placed underneath is one thing…it’s the shots of the living rooms that look like the tree gave birth to a Toys R Us that’s disturbing. It bothers me, not because I can’t give my children a lavish Christmas, but because I choose not to. I’m not into keeping up with the Joneses or trying to outdo all the other moms on social media. I definitely don’t want to post pictures with a overflowing tree that says “look how spoiled my kid is”.  Instead of focusing on gifts, I want them to realize what Christmas is really about.

We’re not religious, so it really has nothing to do with the birth of Christ or anything for our family (although many people emphasize that and that’s also refreshing). What I’ve hoped to give the kids is the idea that Christmas (and all the holidays) are about family and traditions. Being with the people you love and spending time with them, good, bad, or all out insane. I want them to enjoy Christmas Eve like I did when I was young…looking forward to so much more than gifts. I want them to look back in years from now and remember decorating the tree and playing with their cousins and going Christmas caroling. Putting the emphasis on “getting” sets them up for disappointment. It’ll never be enough if they’re constantly wishing for “things”. I don’t recall the gifts of 1987, but it was my last Christmas with my grandfather and I remember the events of that holiday vividly. I can’t remember what I got for Christmas in 1997, but I do know it was my first holiday that my husband and I hosted together. I remember everyone at my house and the joy it brought me (and the stress too). I don’t remember what gifts I received for much of my childhood (except that Hot Wheels City in 1983…that was the best gift EVER), but I do remember the games of Scattergories and the driving around to see the Christmas lights and Nana’s strufoli. I remember the feast of the 7 fishes and the laughter and quite often…the tears. Because it’s not always fine and dandy. Along with the joy came a lot of flipped over card tables and shattered glass. But that was the family I remember. They weren’t perfect, but they were mine, and I treasure the memories with them because many, many of them are no longer here…some are missing in body and others in spirit.

Those gifts the kids rip into in ten minutes flat (after endless nights of wrapping), will probably be next year’s garbage. What stays with them is the memories. The memories of eating cookies for breakfast of Christmas morning and the tradition of brunch at Grandma’s. Take pictures of course…you’ll want to pull out the bad hair pictures for their future spouses. Snap shots with their favorite gifts, too. Get the looks on their faces…those are priceless. Capture the joy, not the materialism.

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Top 10 Reasons My Preteen is Crying

I thought toddlerhood was exhausting. Kids that are between the ages of a year and a half to four years old seem to have meltdowns on a daily basis. In between these ages, I think that my daughter was actually crying more than not. And pretty much ANYTHING from not getting the stuffed animal she wanted in a store to having the wrong day of the week underwear one (once she actually took it off in the car on the way to school because it upset her that much). Once she hit five, I thought my days of trying to decipher irrational reasons for tears were over. I apparently forgot about the hormones…oh dear God those evil hormones. As we creep into our teen years, the crying remains…the reasons just change. (And honestly, sometimes even the reasons are the same as when she was three). Over the last year or so, she has burst into a fit of sobbing for one or more of the following reasons (and I assure you…they’re not made up despite the fact they sound absurd):
10. When she was 3: We’re having something with sauce for dinner. Or meat. Or anything that isn’t yellow. Basically, we’re not having macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Now: We’re having salmon for dinner. Bear in mind, she liked salmon last week and hated meatloaf. This week she’s demanding meatloaf or else she might starve to death.
9. When she was 3: She wanted to wear a bathing suit to preschool.  I said no. She peed on the floor.

Now: I asked her to put her shoes on. To go to school. And she’s not ready. Don’t get me started on telling her we’re going to school if she isn’t ready. Apparently we need at LEAST an hour to stare at our iPad in our pajamas in the morning before we can fathom putting on pants. And also, I told her she needed to put on different pants. Meaning “take those damn ratty sweatpants with the hole in the crotch off your body right now before I donate them AND You to The Salvation Army”. This also can lead to the “I have nothing to wear/nothing that fits me” wailing. Which leads to the “I’m fat” hyperventilating. And the eating of baked goods along with the crying.
8. When she was 3: I brushed her hair, resulting in screaming like I was scalping her because she never let me brush her hair and the knots were atrocious.

Now:  I asked her to brush her own hair. Her go-to hair style is a cross somewhere between pecked to death by chickens and rolling in the door after a frat party. Brushing is the least she could do. Usually this crying is accompanied by a hairbrush whizzing past my head.
7. When she was 3: I wouldn’t let her have a sip of my coffee. Or wine.

Now: I won’t buy her a donut or a latte from Dunkin Donuts when I make a pit stop there to keep myself awake during her gymnastics class/softball game/basketball practice….

6. When she was 3: The episode of Bubble Guppies that she was watching was over.

Now: The DVR didn’t record the latest episode of Liv and Maddie. Or Girl Meets World. Or Spongebob. Because she’s “never seen that oneeeeeeee”. The fact they play the same freaking episode forty-seven times a week is irrelevant. She wants THAT episode RIGHT NOW and she will NOT wait!
5. When she was 3: I  asked her to pick up all the toys she dragged out to play with. She throws herself on the floor in true tantrum fashion, kicking all the toys and breaking them.

Now: I had the nerve to ask her to put away her clothes,shoes, pencil toppers, books, stupid toys, or whatever else is littering my living room, stairs, and kitchen table. I barely get acknowledgement and an “in a minute”.

4. When she was 3: I threw out the broken toys. They were always her “FAVORITE”.

Now: I threw out aforementioned clothes,shoes, pencil toppers, etc., etc. after two days of asking her to put them away.

3. When she was 3: I wouldn’t buy her yet another My Little Pony in the store. Or a fish that talks. Or another fake puppy that barks. Or a princess wand. Or anything in any store that struck her fancy at that exact moment.

Now: “EVERYONE else has ALL the ShopKins and Yummy Nummys and EVERYONE ELSE’S mother buys them anything they want and EVERYONE ELSE in her class is making fun of me because MY mother won’t buy ME everything I wants. And you’re the meanest mother ever and so unfair and oh, wait…can I have this app for my iPad???”

2. When she was 3: I wouldn’t let her wear my make-up. She snuck in the bathroom and applied it all over her face and her dolls. She cut her own hair and I had a conniption.

Now: I wouldn’t let her wear my make-up. I hid my make-up from her. She can’t find it.
And the #1 Reason my 10 year old is crying? When she was 3 AND Now: I told her to go to bed. And she’s not tired because she fell asleep after school because she went to bed too late because she wasn’t tired because she napped after school that day, too and Oh. My. God. Make her stop crying before I start crying!!!

In conclusion? Preteens are just overgrown toddlers…and if she doesn’t stop crying, I’m gonna give her something to cry about.