Saturday, December 20, 2008

Old Christmas Expectations

Sometimes soap operas can hit the nail right on the head. As I was watching One Life to Live this afternoon, a character was selling off all the stuff that was important to him to buy a fancy gift for his kid for Christmas. Feeling inadequate as a father, he was wanting to prove something with the gift.

I can't even tell you how many years that Christmas was just like that around our house. Certainly before therapy it wasn't whether we could afford it as much as what the kids wanted that dictated what we got. Wanting to prove that we were good parents and make our kids happy was more important than any budget.

I remember the year it finally dawned on me that we were killing ourselves with debt and our kids didn't even appreciate it. I can still see the sweet angelic face of my son looking at us after opening a mound of presents saying, "Is this it?" with intonations that said somehow he had been robbed.....

I've never been dumb about things. I've never had to be hit over the head with a brick or run down with a truck to see that I was in trouble. That single incident was enough for me to get the picture.......and I was done with indulging my little monsters for Christmas.

Even long after I gave up this practice, my husband clung to it like a a drowning man does a floatation device. If he couldn't spend whatever he wanted on Christmas presents for the kids, he got very depressed and felt like a failure.

I can't even tell you how many fights we had over this. I set a budget and he went against it hiding things as he went along. I finally gave up doing anything with our finances. It wasn't worth the fighting to me but eventually it all caught up with him and he had to quit.

Funny how all of that sacrifice didn't "change" things a bit. Those kids still grew up with issues just like the rest of the world. And from what I can tell they didn't even end up with any particularly great Christmas memories from that time because they didn't appreciate or really understand the message of Christmas at all.

If you asked my kids about Christmas memories, I'm pretty sure they would tell you about a Christmas after this practice had been stopped. They would tell you how we (meaning my internal we) adopted a family from the mental health center and played Santa Claus for them.

It was the first year of the Cabbage Patch dolls. They were the hot Christmas item and nowhere to be found. Mothers and fathers were on the news for beating up each other over these dolls. ToyRUs was selling them in advance and giving people tickets to claim them when the shipments arrived. The dolls were stored with the video sets and games to control the masses.

We had our own secret stash of these dolls in our closest. Brand new in their boxes, hiding them from the rest of the world lest they find out our secret and think we were weird.

When we heard of this homeless family with a little girl wanting one of these dolls, we gladly shared. We also got the Barbie doll her older sister wanted even though we've never been fond of Barbie. I don't remember what we got for the mother of those girls, but we thought she deserved something too.

All of those other Christmases didn't mean a thing to my kids. Just like the character on the soap opera even though he didn't realize it..........he was trying to buy the kid's love, we were trying to do the same thing. Trying to be the best parents in the world with material things instead of real love.

That Christmas with the Cabbage Patch dolls is one of my favorite Christmases too. Actually it's really the only one, other than the one of my great epiphany, that I remember any details at all.


Ethereal Highway said...

I like to make things nice for my kids, but I don't like to feel pressured to go overboard, either. I just won't do it. I think the whole Christmas hullaballoo is blown completely out of proprtion by most people. It's nauseating.

Donna said...

I've been catching up on your posts. So many things you've said resonate with me, as I sit here nodding my head in agreement or thinking -- I do that too! Without children and without religion I often feel like the season isn't meant for me, but somehow in the last week or so as I've been working less and less the depression has been lifting and I feel happier than I have in a long while. Just wanted to share that.

Frazzled Farm Wife said...

I love hearing stories like that! How great of your family to help the one in need out!