'Tis the season for ribbons and wrapping! Even if you're not religious, there's no denying presents aren't the reason for the season. Still, gift-giving is a significant cultural tradition in this country, and I believe it's part of the magic of the holidays. It's a process that requires a lot of thought, and those thoughts don't end when the shopping is over. From reflecting on the joy in their child's face to silent hopes your kids will be gracious receivers, there are things every mom thinks when her kid is opening presents.
Last year was my daughter's first Christmas. I'm pretty sure it was more entertaining for the adults than it was for her. My mom bought her a Noah's ark and wrapped each animal individually in tissue paper, so she could enjoy unwrapping (arguably the best part to a baby) every single part of her gift. However, my husband and I ended up dumping them all out of the bag in frustration while thinking, "Hurry up, kid! There are more presents to get to!" I'm pretty sure this won't be a problem going forward but, a year ago, it was a serious issue.
Now that baby girl is a toddler, I've been putting a lot more thought into her gifts. I want to give her things that she can both use and enjoy, I'm encouraging her relatives to give in moderation and, of course, I'm trying to avoid creating a spoiled present-monster. We'll see how I do. Come Christmas morning, that hamster wheel in my head will be working overtime and, for some reason, I feel like I won't be alone in my thoughts.
"Screw Santa! That Present Is From Me!"
There's nothing quite like the look on your child's face when they receive what they wanted the most. I'm an absolute sucker for those video compilations of kids getting puppies for Christmas. I mean, the kids are crying they're so damn happy.
So what's the problem? As parents, we often reserve the big gifts for Santa. Well, you know what? Sometimes mom just wants some damn credit for giving the best gift ever.
"Oh, Sweet Jesus. It Makes Sounds."
My mom was so excited when my uncle finally had kids so she could get him back for all the obnoxious noise-making toys he bought my sister and me when we were little. I'm pretty sure my Rock 'em Sock 'em robots were the straw the broke the camel's back.
What is it about aunts and uncles that makes them want to give your kid that horrid little dog that sings about its tummy? Or worse: a tambourine. Musical instruments are wonderful, but they don't come with off switches.
"Well, You'll Never See That Again"
OK, this is easy for me to say because I haven't had to do it with a kid who realizes I'm taking something away. However, I think every mom has a line in the sand that she refuses to cross. Maybe yours is a drum set or video games. Mine is Elf on the Shelf. Fair warning: if you buy one of those f*ckers for my family, it'll be reporting to Santa from the dumpster.
When I was growing up, we weren't allowed to have Barbies. My mom didn't want us developing unrealistic expectations for beauty, and I'm inclined to agree now that I have a daughter. Still, I remember getting a Skipper doll one year, and realizing sadly that she was on borrowed time.
"Oh Sh*t. Do I Have Batteries?"
Not everyone can be grandma and remember to buy batteries and attach them to the gift. When your child opens a battery-operated toy, you will whisper a silent prayer that you have AAAs (and heaven help you if it's something obscure). There's nothing worse on Christmas morning than looking into that sad little face and telling them they'll have to wait to use their new plaything.
Sometimes, kids get gifts that are more for mom than the kid. If you're still choosing your young child's clothes, you know their wardrobe is for your personal enjoyment. And Nerf guns? You'll be borrowing those for an epic battle with your partner.
Last night, my sister sent me a picture of a fox clock. She asked if my daughter would like that for her woodland-themed room or if she'd a prefer a toy. Maybe this makes me a terrible mother, but I chose the clock. I'm under no illusions: it's mine.
"Really? You're Still Playing With The Box?"
It doesn't matter if you're talking about kids or pets, the box will always be the most interesting part of anything. When moms watch their kids set aside the expensive gift to climb into the box it came in, she silently wonders why the hell she spent all that money.
"You Better Say Thank You"
Growing up, my siblings and I were required to say thank you, give a hug to the gift giver, and write a thank you note. I got in trouble as a little girl when I didn't show enough thankfulness for the Ewok doll (its eye lit up, you guys) I got. I felt like absolute garbage, but I never made that mistake again.
It's important to me that my daughter sincerely demonstrate her gratitude and know that no one has to give her a gift. I know how much it bothers me when I give a child a present and get no acknowledgement.
I once heard a child open a package and pronounce, "I don't want just books!" If my kid ever utters anything like that, she'll be in world of hurt.
"Well, That's Going To Be An Interesting Thank You Note"
I'm old-fashioned when it comes to correspondence, so handwritten thank you notes are the order of the day in my house. That being said, some people make it, shall we say, difficult. If your kids are old enough, you may have to encourage them to be creative.
I'm still writing my daughter's notes (or else they'd probably say, "Doggy dada bye-bye"), and it's hard sometimes. Like, thank you for the embroidered hand towel. She loves it. (I'd say I'm putting it in her hope chest if my inner feminist didn't find that idea so revolting.)
"Does It Come In My Size?"
Don't lie. You know you love you a good "mommy and me" outfit. I mean, it's not the entire reason I had a kid, but it was definitely a plus to this whole motherhood thing. Plus, kids' clothes are so cute these days. This year, my toddler is getting a pair of Schnauzer slippers, and well, we wants them.
"What A Lucky Little One You Are"
Sometimes the commercialism of Christmas really gets to me (of all Charlie Browns, I'm the Charlie Browniest). I lived and volunteered at an orphanage in Central America for a year, and those kids are happy with the chunk they chopped off a sugar cane cube with a machete. While blindfolded (bet you didn't know that was a fun holiday game).
I always ask my friends and family to go easy in the present department because the precious has plenty. Still, I know that people want to give to her because they love her. I'm also grateful that I'm able to provide for her wants in addition to her needs. As I watch her rip into that wrapping this year, above everything else, I'll be thinking about what a lucky little human she is (and how blessed I am as well).