Tuesday, December 22, 2015
The Grinch at Toys are Us.
I met a real life Grinch.
The Grinch was obsessed with material things. The Grinch thought the number of packages and piles of presents was the most important thing about Christmas. The Grinch also thought that my idea to focus my energy this Christmas and reduce the amount of 'stuff' was stupid and awful and would ruin my kids' Christmas.
The Grinch showed me all of the toys in all of the aisles of Toys R Us and pointed to carts overflowing with shiny gadgets and gizmos. The Grinch reminded me that Alex loves trucks and there is an entire aisle of them! And if I'm going to get a train toy, shouldn't I get mega wooden set that looks so perfect on the box and will last for years? The Grinch looked at the two small boxes I had chosen and scoffed. How could an amazing Christmas morning come from those?
"Don't you want Christmas to be magical? A Christmas morning that's beautiful and abundant?" The Grinch hissed at me. "Your kids are too little to understand the concept of "Less but Better" or the idea of being intentional, all they will think is you don't care or are stingy." Then the Grinch took an even lower blow. "Other people have gotten your kids all kinds of things, they might like them better than you."
In case you didn't know, that Grinch was me.
As I walked out of Toys R' Us I was almost shaking with anxiety and conflict. the heart of which was this:
I want my kids to understand my values of people over things, quality of quantity, and owning only what we love and can manage.
I want my kids to have a beautiful, and fulfilling Christmas.
I want them to receive gifts they can love and cherish and enjoy, and not more. And that's harder than it seems.
I don't want to be the counterculture hipster family that doesn't 'do' presents, and like most parents I don't want my children to feel deprived.
Almost everyone agrees that the meaning of Christmas, even beyond its celebration as a Christian holiday, is not material things. I have yet to meet anyone who proclaims to celebrate Christmas as a time to frantically buy material objects to give to other people who may or may not want or need them. Yet it seems that's how many people experience it.
Even the quote I shared at the start of the post... Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store, but have you tried participating without visiting a store (Amazon counts!). After my toy exchange I was happy and excited. These are toys my children will enjoy! These are good toys that will get a new life!
But as I stood in line at Toys R Us, all I could think was 'who gives used toys to their kids for Christmas? You aren't that poor! Are you really that cheap and lame?
The logical side of my brain reminded myself that the VERY first thing I would do with a package was tear it off and throw it away, but the ingrained consumer in me balks. Not only that, logical engineer brain said, my kids are getting an absurd amount of awesome toys, one of which is huge and big and awesome and will last for years!
This year, I was able to walk out of Toys R us and eventually recover. I was able to wrap the gifts with love and anticipation and I'm looking forward to celebrating with my family. Still, I know that this is an internal struggle that is far from over.
I'd love thoughts and advice from others struggling with these issues.