We might not have a home this Christmas due to the major renovations, haven’t erected our own tree and are haemorrhaging money left right and centre on project “build a house big enough to hold all our kids” (must come up with a better code/project name). But these aren’t the reasons we’re not “doing” presents this year. I get it, it sounds bloody harsh, with 5 kids to suddenly announce that no-one, not even that cute doe eyed toddler, will be receiving so much as a satsuma in their stockings this Christmas, so let me explain.
Last year, after months of planning, nights lost to wrapping, getting close to re-mortgaging and copious amounts of stress, by 10am on Christmas morning, Mr Only Girl and I felt used! The boys had spent the first 24 days of December working themselves into such a frenzy about what they might receive, what they wanted to receive and whether it was the latest/bestest/shiniest version; they had become a horrid, semi-domesticated pack of present-preying hyenas, stalking the base of the Christmas tree like a rancid carcass waiting to be torn apart. I could’ve swallowed this gargantuan, first-world pill, had it not been for the fact that by 10:02 the arguments had started again, the whining had resumed and they were chomping at the bit to get out the door to the next relative’s house (read: unsuspecting enabler) all in the pursuit of present paradise. In short, it pissed all over the very meaning of Christmas (and not even the christian one) – family, time together and love.
Breakfast was rushed for stocking opening, lunch was ignored as they already had withdrawal symptoms from the ribbon adorned boxes and bedtime had come-down on par with the morning after Brexit. Their insatiable appetite for materialistic goods and gadgets had become out of hand. It didn’t matter if we’d gifted them everything on their lists – the sense of anti-climax and realisation that they still didn’t feel fulfilled, although perhaps a bit deep for a bunch of 7-13 year olds, was real.
It was on the 28th of December, after feeling sick to the stomach of the Veruca Salt antics and reading all books on how to be Danishly happy (very on trend Christmas 2015), discovering the idea that experiences give a deeper, prolonged sense of happiness than objects ever can, that the idea came to me like a flash of Santa’s sleigh in the night sky. We’d sack off presents and go away. Dual purpose: we’d be freeing the kids from the torment of the gifting gauntlet, whilst filling the Christmas Gooch (26-31st December) where indoor play areas, cinemas etc become the very expensive but essential hang-out for parents who’s kids have become rabid with cabin fever.
So, this December we’ll be heading off for 3 nights to Woburn Forest (no Centre Parcs ad here, promise!), for three nights and four days of fresh air, family bonding and water park galore. We’ll merrily sit in front of a “heat log” fire, playing mouth guard games and shooting down water slides til we’re giddy with glee. Optimistic perhaps!
Admittedly, when we first broke my epiphany to the kids last January it was met with some resistance, we nearly had a revolt on our hands – but with 11.5 months to get used to the idea, cushioned by the fact they still go to their “other” parents’ and get some pressies, they seem to actually be looking forward to it. As for us grown-ups, it’s been liberating. There’s been no panic buying, no deep-dark nights of wrapping and no “I’m getting this!” “No, I’m getting that!” “Mine’s going to be better than yours!” from five clued up, Youtube watching Amazon hunting boys. We’ve spent any extra cash from not buying presents/our trip on experiences – Ice Skating, trips to see the reindeer and a myriad of fan-dangled board games.
Now, I just need to the convince everyone that next year they’ll be no presents or trip – we’ll donate it all to charity! Maybe a step too far for my crew just yet!