Christmas Day is drawing near, the tree is up, fairy lights are flashing and Ellie is practicing Jingle Bells for her upcoming (first ever!) festive concert at nursery. But there are no presents under our tree – not today, not tomorrow and not on Christmas Eve. 2016 will be Ellie’s second Christmas and little Osci’s first experience of carols, mince pies and the jolly, bearded guy (no, I don’t mean Daddy).
What they won’t experience is unwrapping presents on Christmas morning or playing with new toys that day.
Before you rush to start up a JustGiving fund for us, we’re actually CHOOSING not to give our children presents. Does this make us the meanest parents in the world? I hope not.
I was born in 80’s China, so Christmas was not (surprisingly) top of my childhood experiences. (Yes, it was mostly extra Maths homework) When I first heard the Christmas story as a bight eyed 6-year-old, it sounded simply magical! The elves working hard to package up presents delivered by Santa Claus and his trusty team of reindeers, and how excited the children would be on Christmas morning to discover stacks of shiny presents under a beautifully decorated Christmas Tree. I was a pretty impressionable kid and lapped it all up, longing for my first true Christmas experience! It never quiet happened – my parents didn’t really believe in indulgence (to be fair, we weren’t exactly loaded) and presents for no good reason (Sacrilege!) definitely fell into that category. And they considered it perfectly reasonable to expect an excitable child to accept this willingly. So I never had many presents as a child, not for Christmas, not for birthdays and when family friends bought me stuff, it was kept in its packaging to preserve the “newness” until I outgrew it. Did I mention that my parents are Asian?
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a miserable childhood and my parents weren’t ogres, they just weren’t big on presents. They preferred for us to all play badminton together, or go for a walk, or listen to me practice my violin (I have forgiven them for everything). I enjoyed all these things but I swore that when I had children, we would re-enact the McAllister household on Christmas day EVERY year!
Growing up does some funny things to a person, as does having children. Not in a ha-ha way. I look at the room in our house that is solely dedicated to capsuling our children’s toys, some of which I have no idea where they came from, and find myself wondering whether they really need more presents? They are both under two and do not yet understand the concept of presents. They will most certainly be more interested in the wrapping paper and/or box. It all seems a little unnecessary. Now, I’m not one to get on my high horse and start bleating on about poor African children, it’s just that my perspective seems to have changed somewhat.
Hubs and I both work hard-ish (to fund this playroom it seems!) and sometimes through the blur of nursery run road rage, juggling full-time jobs and funneling down haphazard dinners, I wish I had more time to go for a walk with my family (without an actual destination).
So this Christmas, there’ll be no presents in our house. Instead, we’ll lounge in bed, stuff our faces with food, mess around in the garden and remind ourselves what makes this Looney Tunes family gel.
Of course, when the kids grow up into selfish, materialistic little tyrants, there will undoubtedly be Christmas presents and lists for Santa. I very much look forward to seeing their little faces light up at the (modest number of) presents under our tree, but for now, I will enjoy these years where playing hammocks and having a cup of juice gives them the same delight.
Roll on 25th December 2016!