New Year Reflections

This was the first Christmas that the Munchkin has really understood anything about the holiday or been able to get excited about it. It was also his first healthy one! His first two were plagued by sickness bugs and fluey-colds for all three of us. Finally we have some nice photos of all of us looking healthy and well on Christmas morning. Yay!

In the build up to it he got excited about the decorations, especially the tree and he loved helping open cards as and when they arrived, the first few he memorised which was from who but eventually there were too many for him to keep track of. We noticed that he kept saying, with longing “Wish I had [insert name of train here]” a lot and hubby and I would cast furtive glances at each other, knowing we hadn’t bought him what he was pining after.

The solstice passed quietly, although that’s the meaningful day for hubby and I we prefer to celebrate the season with our families a few days later. So Christmas morning arrived and started well. The Munchkin was up relatively late for him, so we didn’t have the ridiculously early start we had prepared ourselves for. We’d put out the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and didn’t really trust the Munchkin to play happily on his own in the living room like he usually does with all of those parcels tempting him, so knew we would have to get up at the same time as him.

Hubby distracted the Munchkin while I nipped to the living room and turned the tree lights on and when they came in we were treated to the biggest “wow!” you’ve ever heard. It was lovely. But we didn’t dive right in, we got breakfast and got dressed, took our time, determined not to start out on the road of presents being the all-consuming primary feature of the morning. The Munchkin was fine with this and went along with it amicably. Phew.

When we started opening presents it was all very sweet and peaceful, each gift was opened slowly and thoughtfully and the moment of revealing it was treasured. A few books came first and the Munchkin had a flick through each one, enjoying them and asking what they were about, appreciating who they had come from. It all seemed to be going perfectly.

But the pace began to pick up a bit and when the first of the train-based presents came out we noticed a change. The Munchkin no longer cared who the gift was from, he wanted to play with it right away, but only for a few seconds before clawing desperately at the next gift. Once all the presents were opened we took some time to play with the new toys and at lunch time my parents and grandfather arrived, to much excitement from the Munchkin. They brought with them more presents and so a second opening-session began, this one nothing like the relatively positive first one.

The Munchkin had no patience for opening the gifts, he wanted the paper off NOW and carelessly discarded it, each new train, for he received several, was met with a squeal of delight but very quickly it was cast aside in a feverish and desperate need for the next one. When all of the presents were opened he almost seemed disappointed and we were soon met with requests for more and choruses of “Me want a talking Gordon/Edward/Percy” etc.

My delightful, thankful, gracious little boy had been replaced with a greedy and impatient monster and I had to take myself off to my room for a little cry over it. What did we do wrong? How did this happen?

As the days have gone on his pleasure in his new toys has been very positive and the pining for the things he did not get has been steadily diminishing, but it isn’t entirely gone. There was, in fact, one talking train that we ordered that hasn’t yet arrived and hubby and I have decided not to give it to him right away when it does eventually turn up. We don’t want him to think that we got it for him because he was demanding it. We don’t want to encourage the idea that he will get whatever he asks for, whenever he asks for it. So we will save it and give it to him when the new baby is born instead.

Hubby and I have done a great deal of talking over the last week, to see how we can nip this behaviour in the bud and try to prevent it developing into a Dudley Dursley situation (“36?! But last year I had 37 presents!”). This is what we’ve come up with:

  • Just one present from each family member. No more huge stacks, not even of small, thoughtful gifts. I’m confident that with some thoughtful explanation we can get our parents on board with this and more distant family and friends already only give one gift, which is as it should be.
  • Time tokens for all, for example, promises to cook for one another, or go for a walk together and so on. These can be unlimited. Day trips will become more of a feature too, tokens for days out at theme parks, museums and so on.
  • No more wrapping paper! Yes really. We’re thinking of each family member having a bag with their name on it and all the presents go in there, unwrapped. There is still the mystery and some excitement at discovering what’s in the bag, but the emphasis comes away from those physical gifts when they are not wrapped up individually. It also results in massive financial and environmental savings!
  • More regular giving of new stuff throughout the year. This might sound odd, but we think that by spacing out new acquisitions it will diminish the excitement and emphasis of those things on celebrations. It won’t be such a novelty to get a new toy or a new book. We don’t hesitate to buy the Munchkin new clothes as and when he needs them throughout the year, so why not do likewise with meeting his developmental needs with toys and books too? It also spaces out the spending so that December is less of a financial black hole, though see previous steps for the knock-on effect of reducing the cost of Christmas too!
  • We were already decided on not making a big deal out of Father Christmas and certainly steering clear of the bribery element (“Santa only brings gifts to good boys and girls”) and feel even more strongly about it now, confident that we are right in our stance on that one.

As a side note, we’ve also seen the wisdom in the decision of some of our friends to not send Christmas cards and will be following their example as of next year. The whole point of the Christmas card is, in my mind, to touch base with people, send them warm wishes and so on. But how many cards do we actually write a personal message in? Isn’t it better to reach out and actually speak to those we care about most in order to wish them well and catch up? Pick up the phone if you feel you’ve not kept up with someone as well as you would like. Duck out of the awful politics of who to send a card to and who not to, avoid the environmental and financial waste of cards that few people really value. I always buy charity cards made from recycled paper and recycle them again when I take them down, but the recycling process still uses energy and not all people do likewise.

Now that the festive season is coming to an end and the new year has begun, it’s all about our forthcoming new arrival. We have already begun de-cluttering the house; sorting out piles of paperwork and bills for filing, we’ve gone through our CDs, DVDs and even books (for those reading who know hubby in particular, this may come as a huge shock!) and started listing things on eBay. There’s a big stack of old clothes ready for charity donation. Hubby has tidied our cluttered landing and guest bedroom and we’ve retrieved our birth pool from the loft and checked that it is fit for re-use. The baby clothes have come out of storage, been washed and put in the baby’s wardrobe.

New year, new start, new life. Bring on 2012.

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