The whole gift giving thing started out innocently. In fact, I remember vividly that for our first Christmas, Guy and I had a $20 budget. Not $20 each... $20 total. I remember Guy managed to find tennies for me for just $5, leaving him five whole dollars to splurge with. I don't remember what he bought me, but I do remember being impressed. It must have been chocolate.
As the years and the babies piled up (because that's what we do with babies around here, pile them), and as our meager income grew to meager-plus-twelve-cents, we found ways to provide Christmas for the family, and in the years since, present buying has gotten a little out of hand. Not that we have ever spent very much on "a" gift, since there are ways of finding things like coloring books and small games for a pittance. But once we got used to giving more here and there, so too, on the receiving end, the kids got used to getting more. More to unwrap, and play with, and wear.
A problem that comes along as children get older is that you can't get away with shopping at the dollar store anymore. Then there is the planning, remembering what you got for whom, and in the day or two before Christmas, pulling it all out and assessing "where you are at" with things. Comments like, "Well, we didn't get as much for Ellie as we did for Tessa", or "We spent more on Ethan than we planned" were often uttered. We found ourselves saying things like "We HAVE to get so-and-so" this or that. Or, "We didn't get enough stuff" for this kid or that. Stuff. That's what it was, but we were so used to the status-quo, and we knew for years that we were not proud of the way we were handling Christmas, but it wasn't easy to change. There was dual guilt; guilt that it was all too much, and at the same time, not enough. Not good enough.
I was resistant. I made excuses. I told Guy that because we seldom get things for the kids during the year, Christmas was my opportunity to pamper them. I argued that at Christmas we gave them many needed items. I swear I have the only kids on the planet that love getting new underwear as a present. I had lots of reasons that we couldn't change the way we did things, even though a part of me knew we should. The bottom line was, I was afraid to disappoint them.
I overheard Guy talking to his sister on the phone in November. He told her he would like to do things very differently in the gift-giving department, but he didn't exactly have wifely support. When I heard him say it, I knew it was time to change.