Dec 23, 201105:00 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

Christmas Overload

Ruby gets ready to come home from the hospital

I spent the first eight months of my pregnancy with Ruby convinced that she was going to die at any second. Midway through my final month, with her insistently head-butting me and kicking my bladder (she was breech) ‘round the clock, it finally started to dawn on me that not only was I going to have a baby, but I was going to have a Christmas baby.

And so in the final few weeks before she was born, I took a break from researching Down syndrome (she had several soft markers) and stillbirth statistics (I am insane) and started combing the Internet for ways on how to make a Christmas birthday less crappy.

I’m now five years in, and it seems to be working pretty well. The main things I try to do are:

  1. Give her separate presents for each occasion – no “Happy birthday and merry Christmas!” combo gifts.
  2. Never wrap a birthday present in Christmas paper.
  3. Hold off on decorating for Christmas until her birthday is over.

The best part is that I would totally do No. 3 anyway (I suck at decorating) but now I get to act like I’m doing it because I’m a good, thoughtful mom, not because I’m a procrastinator.

The main thing I struggle with is something that one of my favorite writers posted on Facebook the other day: The simultaneous feelings that you’re spending way too much money on your kids and yet you don’t have enough presents for them. It’s even more acute for me because I definitely feel that conflict – I think back to Little House on the Prairie, where Laura got a stick of candy and a tin cup and a penny and thought it was the most extravagant Christmas ever, and I feel ashamed of all the plastic junk I’m emptying my bank account to give my daughter – but I also feel like she’s being simultaneously shortchanged by having a birthday four days before Christmas and yet getting so many presents that she can’t even stop to appreciate them.

She had her birthday party on Sunday, and we divided her presents between her dad’s house and mine so that she opened half on Sunday after the party and half at my house on Monday, and that helped with the present fatigue to some extent. I opted not to give her a present at her party and told my parents to hold off, as well, so she got some more presents on her actual birthday on Wednesday night. And then, of course, she’ll get more presents from everyone on Christmas Day, followed by still more presents when she does Christmas with her dad’s family in St. Louis on Dec. 28.

It just seems like too much – I have Disney princesses and My Little Ponies sharing a split-level Playskool dollhouse in my living room, and Barbie and Tinkerbell share a Dream House in her bedroom. Strawberry Shortcake and Olivia are stored in a shoebox next to a plastic pumpkin full of Happy Meal toys, and then there are her bins of art supplies and “beauty products” and her shelves of books and the trunk full of puzzles and the laundry basket full of dress-up clothes and the empty Sucre macaron box full of Squinkies and the closet full of board games. And then, of course, the bath toys. My house is fairly orderly, but Ruby’s room looks like an episode of Hoarders.

And still I feel not only the need to buy her more presents for Christmas but also to consider celebrating her half-birthday so that her special day doesn’t get lost in the holiday shuffle.

How can I back away from this level of holiday consumption? Any thoughts from parents who’ve been there – with Christmas babies or even without?

Reader Comments:
Dec 23, 2011 09:20 am
 Posted by  Cooleigho

My son, Justin was born on December 26th....(could it get any worse)......We celebrated his birthday in July his 1/2 birthday!! It worked until he was around 10 and said I want my birthday on my real birthday...So we went back to December 26th...July made for much better summertime parties and spread his gifts out for the year! It worked for us! He is turning 28 and I still make sure his gifts are wrapped in birthday paper and are seperate from his Christmas gifts!! Good Luck
Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Ruby!!!

Dec 23, 2011 09:24 am
 Posted by  pucci27

I truly don't believe you can love your child too much! If buying her presents makes you happy she will immediately pick up on that alone and she will be happy with you. Don't pick on yourself for giving. Teaching her that giving is more fun than getting is a wonderful lesson. My only suggestion to you which you can toss out the window if you like is to give of yourself along with the wrapped presents. Special time like go to a play or make a gingerbread house (or cookies) or the promise of an outing somewhere different (let her pick) just the two of you all day. She will have that promise to look forward to after the holiday/birthday is over and will remember that long after the ribbons have been tossed.

Merry Christmas!

Dec 23, 2011 12:14 pm
 Posted by  LuredToNola

Let Ruby pick out one or more things she has had from previous birthdays, take her to a local charity, school or other location that collects toys for children who might not otherwise have or receive any. Even better, find a child who isn't so lucky and hasn't the room crowded with Disney Princesses.

Watching Ruby hold out her hand with a Strawberry Shortcake or even a Squinkie to another child will be as good or better than your memory of her expression on receiving the gift herself.

And if you're really lucky you'll catch an expression on Ruby's face of a guiding life lesson learned, an indelible shared rememberance for both of you for a lifetime - a gift of giving.

And it helps with clutter at a hoarder's house...

Dec 27, 2011 08:34 am
 Posted by  lovesnola

Our daughter [now 40] was born December 13. We too followed the three "rules" you set out [with the exception of her 18th. That year we bought her a car, she did NOT feel cheated]. When she was young we offered up the half birthday in June idea but she elected to stick with her actual birthday. Then when she got to college we began the tradition of giving her one really nice Christmas ornament for her B-day as a kind of segue. It also served as a beginning for her ornament collection. She still gets one each year and still hangs them on the tree along with all the handmade ones from her kids.

Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Jan 5, 2012 12:36 am
 Posted by  mlcy96

My Mom always celebrated my half birthday. Nothing huge. A small gift and a something like a special dinner. But I always thought it was nice that she at least respected that my birthday was so close to Christmas. I grew up very proud of that tradition.

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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