Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas Shaming

Am I the only one who was noticed the current trend of Christmas Shaming?

It seems to be the done thing now to splash your opinions around on how many gifts is "too many", how much money spent is "too much" and exactly what percentage of those gifts should come from Santa (if any at all)...And frankly, I'm pretty sick of it.

For the last few weeks now I have seen endless memes and statuses shared on Facebook all about how wrong, selfish, spoiled, and inconsiderate it is for children to be told that ALL of their Christmas gifts come from Santa.

I've also seen endless memes about how wrong, selfish, spoiled, and inconsiderate it is to "spoil" your kids at Christmas.

Here's the thing - I do both of these of things.

But before you judge me, as these thoughtless Facebook statuses and memes so often do, let me assure you that NOTHING I do with my children is done without a great deal of consideration and thought beforehand...and I find it quite offensive to read so many statuses condemning those of us that do these things as thoughtless when actually, I have given a LOT of thought to it and decided that this is what I feel is the right thing for us.

What bugs me most about these things is that people like to assume that A)They KNOW the reasons why people do both of these things and they are thoughtless, materialistic reasons and B) That THEIR own way of doing things is the ONLY way that's right.

So let me explain why I do these things and why I have arrived at the decision I have....To me, Christmas to me is all about tradition - I grew up in the 80s which was not exactly a time of financial prosperity, even less so in Liverpool where I was raised - but my parents saved, bargain hunted and worked really hard and every Christmas without fail we had gifts to wake up to, and we were also told that every single one of those gifts came from Father Christmas...our parents didnt give us a single gift from "them", they all came from him. (I did question this when I was around 8, and was told that although Santa delivers the presents...my parents had to pay him for them, so really the gifts were from them AND Santa. Sounded plausible to me!)

I realised when I became an adult that this isn't what all families do - that some families only give stocking fillers from Santa, or some give one main gift from him....but this is what mine did...and so, when I had my own children, I wanted to carry on that family tradition.

Because to me that is what Christmas is...if I was to change how we do Christmas then it wouldn't feel like Christmas to me because its not what I remember from my own childhood.

People insist that I'm so very in the wrong for carrying on my family tradition because other children may feel that they did something wrong if they got less from Santa than mine did...and so I should be giving my kids just one gift from Santa and the rest should be from me...In Fact I even saw a Facebook account this week named "Santa Claus" berating those of us that dare to give more than one gift from Santa...(Apparently "Santa" himself is another one of those self-righteous arseholes who thinks that his way of doing things is the only possible way....who knew!) but here's the thing...

I don't agree that the right thing to do is to change what my children receive in order to spare the feelings of other children....not because I don't care about the other children, very much the opposite of that....but rather because I don't feel that it benefits anyone or teaches my children a single damn thing. It will not stop those children from not receiving anything from Santa....

And, more to the point, it will not teach my children a single thing about how to relate to others or how to conduct themselves socially.

Surely there are also children who receive NOTHING from Santa...in which case, even the ONE present that your child received will make them feel bad - so we should all give nothing from Santa to potentially spare the feelings of all children?

And while we're on that subject, there are also millions of children who won't eat a hot meal on Christmas day...or any meal at all...so perhaps we should all starve our children too?

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the sentiment and the concern...I care deeply about those children who will receive nothing much from Santa but I don't think that telling my children that not all of their gifts came from Santa will do a single thing to help...there are other ways I can help which will have more effect on their lives, and there are other things I can do to ensure my own children do not make others feel bad than simply changing how their gifts are given to them.

To be honest, I feel like this is the lazy way out...let's just remove the potential problem instead of giving our kids the tools to deal with social situations like these, which they will face again and again throughout their lives...When my kids grow up and their neighbour buys a new car that they can't afford, When they come into a bit of a windfall ... they need to understand how to relate to their peers in all situations, they need to understand what is acceptable when it comes to social conduct with those who have more or less than us. They need to learn not to brag about what they have or what they receive, or complain about what they don't. And they will never learn how to do that if, throughout their childhoods, everything always has to be completely equal.

It's the same with non-competitive sports days and the like, it may spare their feelings in the short term but it does nothing to teach them about how to conduct themselves as empathetic adults in the future.

Instead what I feel I should be concentrating on is teaching my children compassion, and instilling an understanding in them that bragging or gloating is never ok. And I need to teach them about the different circumstances that other people may live in.

Because let's face it - throughout their lives there will always be people who are less fortunate than them, and there will always be people who are more fortunate than them - avoiding this forever is simply not an option, instead teaching them how to respectfully deal with that is.

We do PLENTY of things to encourage gratitude, empathy and charity in the kids throughout the year, and we ramp them up during the festive season - we pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and discuss how Christmas doesn't happen at all for some children and that everything inside these boxes is everything they will receive, and how some children aren't even fortunate enough to get one of those boxes.

 We donate to food banks and we're currently doing the Re-Advent scheme with Co-Op -  we discuss the plight of the homeless, and what we can do to help.

We donate our toys to children's homes, underprivileged childrens appeals and childrens hospitals and we discuss how Christmas will be for those children and, again, how we can help and...more importantly...WHY we should help.

We have a child that we sponsor on an ongoing basis who we send letters and things to, who we talk about a lot...talking about how different his life is in Romania.

 And on Christmas Eve every year we make up care packages for the homeless in our own area which we drive around to distribute.

I feel that doing all of these things is doing FAR more to teach my children about the unfairness in life, the way others live and how to relate to them as well as why we should be grateful for what we receive than simply telling my children that only one of their gifts came from Santa will do.

I want to raise children who understand how to be good people regardless of their circumstance - so that in the future they know how to interact with and relate to others - whether they grow to be paupers or princes. So that they know that bragging and gloating are not acceptable,and that the amount of things you have means nothing about who you are as a person.

If I ever catch any of my children bragging about what they received for Christmas to anybody, I would be the first to pull them aside and teach them why that is not what we do.

I don't have all the money in the world, there are thousands of kids who will recieve much more than mine do this Christmas but I would never expect them to go without or their parents to change their family traditions  because of that - instead I would rather they simply taught their children not to gloat, and not to compare.

Another thing that bothers me is how the phrase "presence not presents" is bandied about with these things - as though anyone who dares to buy their child a "lot" of presents simply MUST be doing this because they don't spend time with them, don't do anything nice with them and would rather palm them off with gifts - I'm sorry, but where exactly do you people get off throwing your judgement around like that?!

I spend every single day with my children, I ensure that we do activities together every day because I'm in the fortunate position to be able to do that, we enjoy a lot of quality time together and have a fantastic relationship - just because I work hard and save hard to buy them gifts because I enjoy doing so does not A) mean that I am overcompensating for a lack of the important things in life or B) that I am open-season for all of your judgement.

What constitutes a "lot" of presents is a matter of opinion and circumstance anyway - what is a lot to some people, would be small change to others (and I probably spend less on my "lot" than many spend on their few, as I am savvy bargain hunter, receive a lot of gifted items which are put away for Christmas, and recieve a lot of gift cards from companies which are used to purchase them - the boys Christmas gifts this year have probably cost me less than £100 of actual money for all 3 of them, the RRP of what they receiveis never anything close to what I have paid) - and of course I don't agree that children should ever be encouraged to be greedy. We were always allowed to ask Santa for one "main" present (usually a particular doll or sometimes a bike) and were then told to write "And a few surprises please" at the end...and again, I continue this tradition...encouraging my son (the only one yet old enough to understand) to think hard about what he really wants and to put that item on his list...I would not allow them to list endless items that they desire....but the point is, nobody has ANY right to judge how much a family chooses to buy.

You may remember the picture above from a couple of Christmases ago, the mother who posted this received so many abusive messages (even death threats) that she ended up appearing a lot on TV to discuss it -  what baffles me is that the people who are calling her out for being "a bad mother" or "Overcompensating" because she bought this many gifts seem to think that they are on some sort of moral high ground because they know "what's right", yet seem to have no qualms about the amount of judgement and vitriol they pour onto others.

As it turned out, this pile of gifts were presents for her entire family of five and the photo was taken from the floor which of course makes the pile of gifts appear higher than it actually is - but regardless of that, even if this had been a gigantic mountain of presents for one child - so fucking what.

Would this picture tell you ANYTHING about this family? Would it tell you whether or not they donate an enormous amount of gifts, money or time to charities or less fortunate people too? Would it tell you what efforts they make to encourage an understanding of the value of "things" and the importance of love and the true meaning of Christmas to their child?

No,it wouldn't.

It also wouldn't tell you how much they spent - every one of these gifts could have contained a handmade item or a gift from the Pound shop for all we know - so how dare anyone see fit to pass judgement and scorn onto somebody based only on a photo.

And of course, in response to this people say that posting any photos at all of your childrens gifts on Facebook is a terrible and disgusting act that none of us should do - it's only bragging and showing off after all! Well actually...think again...I too choose to post pictures of my childrens gifts, I am not posting it for any sort of approval, I don't give one solitary shit about what anybody thinks of how much they get...
I am posting it because I am not fortunate enough to live close enough to my family to see them at Christmas - and so instead we all post our Christmases onto social media so that we can all keep with each others days, and feel that little bit closer than we are.

Every Christmas eve, when my own kids gifts are wrapped, I log on excitedly to see what the scenes in the living rooms of my cousins and friends back home are like...and in fact last year my own parents were back home waiting for my "He's Been!" photos as, due my poor mum breaking her hip just before the big day, they wouldn't be travelling to join us for the first time in our lives. Which was hard for all of us, but social media helped to ease the physical distance somewhat and helped them to still feel a part of it.

But apparently I should feel bad for doing these things to feel closer to my distant family...because it's not "what Christmas is about"...well I'm sorry, but family is EXACTLY what Christmas about...but not everybody's families live right down the street.

So this Christmas Eve, after we have been to Church like we do every year to remember and respect the reason for the season, and after we've dropped off our care packages to the homeless about town like we do every year, and after we've had the discussions about fortune and misfortune, how fickle it can be and why gratitude for what we receive tomorrow and understanding that it's not what truly matters in life have been given...I will pack the excited kiddies off to bed and spend the night wrapping and arranging their gifts, and in the morning I will listen to their excited shouts of "He's been!" and I will sit and watch them open their gifts, with no thanks for me as they all came from Santa, and we will all enjoy our day - sparing a thought for those who are less fortunate than us and spending plenty of quality time together.

And those of you who insist that I'm wrong for doing that can suck my baubles.

I hope Santa brings you some new underwear for Christmas so you can all take off your judgy pants.

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