Most parents of small children who live in the same city with many of their family members will understand this: Christmas time can be beautiful, even enchanting, but also, shall we say, rather exhausting.
We have just had our third day of “Christmas,” with our fourth set of extended family. The children, despite our intention to keep gifts to a simple minimum, have been inundated, almost flooded, with objects of every type and variety. They were all given from love and abundant generosity; it is interesting, however, to observe how utterly saturated children become when presented with thing after thing after thing.
Of course, my husband and I are the primary culprits in falling prey to “gift addiction.” After our children went to bed on Christmas Eve, and I placed our presents under the tree, I thought Santa himself had paid a visit. “Who bought all this,?” I thought. “Oh, yes… I did.” So much for the one grand gift per child idea.
On Christmas morning, after the ritual of tearing through carefully wrapped paper and bows was complete, it was a lovely relief to watch the children hone in peacefully on their (for the moment) “favorites:” a pretty dress and tea set for Middle Child, a complex (impossibly complex!) football board game for Somber Child.
“Oh my god I am overflowing with toys,” my son said. So we spent the rest of Christmas Day playing, spending every moment together, and he was even able to have enough patience with his slow-witted mother to teach her the (impossibly complex!) football game.
My favorite gift is this painting my Middle Child created for me with water colors. It certainly deserves a fine frame.
In all the material chaos, there was a small moment on Christmas Eve at my mother’s during which I was reminded that historically this season is about the gift of light during dark days, and an honoring of the Solstice, the pinnacle of short days and long nights of rest. During a lucky year, one that had brought good weather for planting and was free from drought or heavy rain, and with the heavy harvest over, families gathered in the darkening hours and celebrated the company of fire and light.
Now, it’s over. The cleaning and guilty recycling has begun. The children have gift hangovers, and I am once again confronted with my dueling desire to both simplify simplify simplify and to drape these little creatures with every gift they desire.