Friday, December 30, 2011

Getting Sucked In

Last Christmas when the babies were nearly four months old, I had it in my head that I would limit the Christmas gift frenzy this year and onward.  While I am not religious, the commercialization of Christmas bothers me.  Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, I don't know.

This year, for our family celebration on December 25th with just my mom, I think I did pretty well staying on task.  The babies received one gift each from Santa (not that they have any idea who he is), one gift each from Mommy, and three gifts to share from Grandma.  They had smaller separate celebrations with close friends and our sitter before Christmas with gift exchanges and those were terrific.

Frenziness did ensue, however, on Christmas Eve.  When I was growing up, my mother, brothers and I spent Christmas Eve at my Grandparent's house with my aunts, uncles and cousins.  There were eight or nine kids depending on the year and five or six adults with some others stopping in throughout the night.  My grandpa passed out gifts and my uncle would sometimes dress up as Santa.  For our large group, we had a nice turkey dinner and opened gifts in a fairly small house and it was not a frenzy.

Fast forward thirty-ish years, my grandparents have passed, and the celebration is now held at my cousin's house.  My cousin and his wife are the parents to boy-girl twins who will be three years old in February.  My aunt and uncles and another cousin and her husband and her three children, an 11 year-old girl and twin 5 year-old boys, also attend.  (Yes, there are three sets of twins in our family.)

Now I don't know if it's because my cousin and his wife went through a decade of fertility treatments before they had children or if over-indulgence is just who they are, but the toy room in this house looks like an indoor playground I should have to pay admission for.  They have always been over-the-top when it comes to their kids.  For their first birthday party, they rented out a facility and hired an adult dressed as Mickey Mouse to attend (who scared the crap out of their son, by the way).  Birthday number two was more of the same - this time Elmo was there.

This Christmas Eve, since my boys are now standing and walking and able to really play with toys, they spent some time in the playroom.  It was nice before all the kids showed up and then it was so overwhelming, the Dynamo just looked up at me at one point with terror in his eyes.  Later in the night, Sweet Potato just started screaming like he was hurt for no apparent reason.  He was on the floor of the family room among much chaos and loud music playing.  Poor kid.  We left at the beginning of the gift exchange (only gifts for the kids) because it was already 45 minutes past the babies' bedtime.  I felt horrible that not only did I not get to see my cousin's kids open gifts from me, their parents didn't get to see my kids open the gifts they bought.

I'm torn about how to handle this tradition.  My mother says a little chaos in their lives is good and maybe she's right but I wonder if it's really worth it.  As they get older, they are going to see and realize what their cousins have compared to what they don't have and that might not be a bad thing for them to see -eventually.  Next year at age two and the year after at age three, I see this as a potential nightmare.   And to be a bit selfish, Christmas Eve at the relatives was a high stress time for me.  It's difficult for me to keep an eye on both of them and although my mom helps, she gets distracted with family.

I considered skipping the event this year but reconsidered since this is the only family the twins are exposed to.  My brothers live out of state and they have never met them, my father and grandparents are gone.  The good news is I have almost an entire year to figure it out.


  1. I have never been successful at oordinating holiday visits or even specific holiday experiences has been impossible since I had my boys. Every year I lower my expectations but am still disappointed. It's all relative (no pun intended), however. I figure even a disappointing experience with them is better than a perfectly coordinated holiday without them. You will figure it out and then, everything will change again. (Just my two cents :-)

  2. This is where the married parents have it easier - they can get out of family traditions if they want at the holidays, claiming they have to also do stuff with the other side of the family! LOL

    I can imagine how overwhelming that must have been for the boys - and with young kids, you'd think they'd at least have the festivities start earlier. Yeah, a little chaos is good for them every now and then but I'm not sure I'd want it on Christmas Eve, either. Good luck deciding what you're going to do next year!

  3. I could be wrong, but I think probably next year the kids will still be too young to really feel any sense of jealousy over what their cousins have vs. themselves. My daughter is 2 1/4 and when she goes to her cousins' house, who have many more toys than she does, she doesn't give any indication that she understands that or cares. She plays with their toys at their house and with her toys at her house - just like daycare has many more toys than home. But when they get to be a few years older, then the jealousy could come into play.

    I think more significant at this age is their being overwhelmed. I'm not so sure that it's helpful to expose a child to chaos when they are not comfortable with it. I agree that it's best to limit the amount of "overwhelming" they might have and make sure you are there to intervene and leave if/when necessary.

    Also as they get older the tendency to be overwhelmed/overstimulated will likely improve, unless it's just part of their personality. I remember my daughter fussing/crying at her 1st birthday because of all the commotion (which really wasn't all that much - just a lot more people in the room and more attention than she was used to!), but by her 2nd birthday she was fine. She is still a little hesitant/clingy at the beginning of a major gathering (like she was on Xmas Eve, when we opened presents with my family), but within 15 or 20 minutes she is fine.


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