It’s beginning to… not look a lot like Christmas.
I was at CVS this morning when I realized it. The candy was suddenly buy one, get one half-off. Gold tinsel sprawled limply on the floor. The Christmas toys looked about as fed up with 2016 as I am. And frankly, I’m shopped out. For the past few weeks, like the rest of America, I’ve been in a consumption whirlwind, trying to find more stuff that will make the people I love happy. Even though I know that, after about five minutes, my kids will start fighting over who stole the gold ribbon, break the new train set, and move on to asking what they’re doing for New Year’s. It’s not that they’re not grateful. It’s just that, despite my eating up the marketing like a 2-for-1 special on candy canes, my kids don’t care all that much about having the biggest, best stuff.
Of course, this applies to many of the things in their lives. There are many other things that I care about “for their sake” that mean absolutely nothing to them. Here are just five examples.
1. The size of our home. This year we finally moved out of our apartment and into a nice new house with — gasp! — more than one bathroom. We thought the kids would be delighted with the extra space and frolic-ready backyard. But really, they were just fine finding tiny crevices in which to hide at the old space, or delighting the neighbors with their hyena-like shrieking in the shared backyard. It turns out we were the ones craving more space and uninterrupted time on the toilet. Kids have a way of happily filling any space you give them, which is good to know in case we ever need to move our entire family into a walk-in closet (a.k.a., a Manhattan studio).
2. That a toy promotes STEM skills. I am determined not to let my 7-year-old daughter be one of the many girls who lose interest in STEM subjects at a certain age. Unfortunately, whenever I say, “Look, a science toy!” I get the eye-rolls-of-doom, as she goes back to creating felt dresses for her Barbies. My daughter alternately likes to climb trees and design clothing (sometimes at the same time, hence a lot of ripped dresses). It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy the science toys. But if she were to create a line graph showing the inverse proportion of her interest in science toys and Mommy’s insistence on buying them… ooh, that’s a good idea for a STEM activity…
3. That a toy received five stars on Amazon. Here are some more fun ideas for charts: the amount of time Mommy spends reading customer reviews on Amazon versus the amount time before my kids break said toy. Or, even better: the amount of time Mommy spends poring through reviews for a high-tech educational toy, compared to the amount of time my kids spend playing with a cheap plastic calculator that came with a fund-raising mailer. Yeah, I can tell you who the winner is there.
4. Our home furnishings. Here’s what I see. A beautiful new couch that tastefully matches our decor and which our family will have for years to come (or at least the number of years of the extended warranty we reluctantly paid for). Here’s what the kids see: pillows for making a fort while running along the couch’s edge drinking contraband grape juice. They’re just trying to make sure we get full use of that warranty, I suppose.
5. Clean, correctly sized clothes. My 4-year-old is still wearing the Batman pajamas (with cape!) that he wouldn’t take off two years ago. Except now, with his midriff hanging out, he looks like he’s auditioning for the preschool version of a Brittney Spears video. As much as I try to drag them to Target for attire they weren’t wearing when still in diapers, my kids don’t understand why I’m so annoyed by the year-old spaghetti-sauce stains or stretched-out necklines on their favorite duds. Of course, to be fair, I still have a closet filled with clothes I wore ten pounds and twenty years ago, that still smell like cab rides and cigarette smoke. But that’s nostalgic.
Yes, as I sit around eating the remains of my kids’ chocolate Santas and building robots from their new science kits, I’ll keep telling myself it’s all about the children. Only 12 more months to read more reviews and start shopping for Christmas 2017!
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