Like most everyone else, I'm starting to think about holiday gifts. But unlike most everyone else (I imagine), the post-Thanksgiving pit in my stomach signals a battle that will soon ramp up: the wrestling match with my husband over whether Christmas is a good enough reason to toss out what I teach all year. I've tried to make my kids understand that they have more than enough stuff and that millions of kids have nothing. And that yes, I love them more than life, but that doesn't mean I'm obligated to buy stuff. I want them to be more grateful and less greedy. It's been largely a losing effort, a fact I am confronted with every December.
And I blame my mother-in-law. There. I said it.
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My husband's told me stories of piles of gifts for him and his sister. His mother presenting receipts to prove she did not favor one over the other. As a single mom, she never had much money, but if she had to borrow it "to make Christmas happen" she would. Then there was her silly tradition: They'd unwrap piles of "mundane" gifts, like clothes and board games and puzzles and dolls and toy trucks, then pretend that was all there was. Then she would smile and say "Oh, what's this?! I guess Santa brought two more gifts!" and then she'd reach behind the door, or under the sofa, and pull out the electric guitar and the diamond earrings or whatever the big ticket items were. She did this every year, as I understand it. And every year, he and his sister feigned disappointment at 27 mundane gifts, and then extreme relief when the "real" presents were found. Because only receiving clothes, a board game and a truck would have been a cruel joke indeed.
Read the rest over at Elizabeth Street: How My In-Laws Ruined The Meaning Of Christmas
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