|Christmas Beast, copyright, Teece Aronin|
But the good news? Every Christmas you have the next 364 days to do it - if you start right away. It's like a pinball game automatically resetting and demanding $700 from you for the privilege of losing again.
Then there's online shopping which is great in a lot of ways, but not so great in others. For instance, it's still surprisingly hard work. Nothing tightens up those shoulder muscles like opening an email from Amazon alerting you to the fact that your order of 47 items was cancelled because your "payment method" has expired, and you try to straighten things out on a glitchy cell phone while waiting in line at UPS and pushing two 40-pound boxes along with your feet.
I don't think this is how Christ would want us to celebrate his birth.
Another thing I doubt is that he'd want us giving children hundreds of dollars worth of presents they'll be too polite to say they hate, but you can tell they do anyway. This sad circumstance sets us up to discover vast Christmas gift graveyards that sprawl under kids' beds and bone piles of unwanted toys that lie heaped in their closets. What a waste.
As my kids got older (my son is 17 and my daughter 19), it all changed, but not for the better. Instead of telling me what they wanted, or handing me a list, they would text me links to things, mostly tech products with purposes I didn't understand, things that Oppenheimer would've asked his mother for if he'd been a Millennial. And I don't blame my kids; it was a natural outgrowth of what we'd come to as they got older and more tech-savvy and I shopped more often online. Having them do that actually made my shopping a lot easier. Easier, but somehow colder.
Today I'm pledging to kill the Christmas beast by refusing to feed it. I'm not alone, by the way. Lots of people are cutting way back on the amounts of gifts they buy - even for their kids. And some people have stopped buying their kids any gifts. If an article I read recently is true, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher are two of them. Many parents now opt for gifts requiring more time and imagination than money, like buying a kid art supplies and then committing an afternoon to making art with said kid.
Also according to that article, some kids, and even some adults, have gotten pretty testy during the adjustment/withdrawal phase, but a lot of families feel their lives are on a healthier track now that they're doing things differently.
When I told my son what I was thinking, he said he could really get behind it. When I mentioned it to my daughter, she said, "I think that's a good idea, but can I think about it?"
I said, "Nope, you're already handling it a lot better than some people, so I'm taking your answer as a yes."
Besides, it's not as though I plan to go all Kutcher-Kunis on them. What I'm thinking is $100 each in presents plus treats and surprises spread throughout the year, like an afternoon playing my son's computer games with him then dinner at his favorite restaurant.
The idea is to give more from your heart than from your wallet and to give your kid a memory because those can't get lost under a bed.
Then again, if you saw my kids' rooms . . .