I was listening to some radio show where they asked a little girl what she wanted for Christmas. She said, “A stuffed animal.” She said Santa could choose what kind. When asked if she wanted anything else, she added, “Chapstick.”
With all the ads and shopping frenzy it occurred to me that it’s easy to ignore the actual requests of children — and adults. Despite the elaborate Barbie houses and race car sets and “i” everything and “e” readers and bright lights and touch screens, sometimes it’s the simple things that matter. Now I’m not perfect. There have been times when I’ve over indulged my children and there have been times when my children were sorely disappointed, but here’s a list of some of the simple things that brought joy:
1. Goggles. One year when my daughter was little all she asked for was goggles. I guess Santa went to Home Depot, because a $2 pair of plastic work goggles appeared on Christmas morning and the girl was ecstatic.
2. Stuffed Animal. My kid was just like the girl on the radio, except she was older, maybe eleven years old, right on the edge of the electronic appetite. But she has always loved to cuddle with soft stuffed things. Still does, even in her advancing teen years. The stuffed bunny she received that year “lives” in her room and she takes it with her on sleepovers and visits with her dad.
3. Nothing. Babies are simple creatures. They like to look at bright lights. When they are older they play with boxes. Except for maybe purchasing something they may have needed anyway (a new teether or sleepers), babies don’t need anything for Christmas except someone to show them the pretty lights and sing to them. Sometimes I would ball up pieces of wrapping paper and toss it to the babies (under supervision of course, can’t let the little angels eat paper) and the babies would be occupied trying to pick up the strange, shiny ball.
4. Etch-a-Sketch. Low-tech. Gender-neutral. Hours of fun. Needs no insurance. When it breaks (and it will) it will have served its purpose and you can replace it, or not.
5. Coupon for Playing a Video Game with My Son. Okay, so this one hurt a bit. But it cost me nothing, except for maybe a couple of Tylenol. I’m not a gamer. I do a lot of activities with my kids, but gaming, at least the warfare type, has never been my cup of tea. But one Christmas I gave him a coupon promising an hour of video game time with me. I broke it up in two segments. It was horrible. I’m horrible. I tried to do my best, but I shot at the ground, repeatedly. He took great joy in this. But bonus? He doesn’t ask me to play anymore. On occasion I’ll him ask if I can play and I get the response,
“No, Mom, no.”
6. A lock box. This wasn’t for my kids, it was for another relative. He was twenty something and had mentioned in passing that he always wanted a safe. I think he was recently out of college at the time and literally had nothing of value to protect, but I guess he had some personal items, because when he opened that fireproof lockbox safe ($19.99) he laughed broadly and exclaimed,
“I always wanted one of these!” At six feet five inches tall, he was like a big little kid.
“Thank you!” He continued to smile as he examined his box with the same look of joy and amazement he used to have when opening a new Lego set.
I don’t want to know what he keeps in that box.
Just Me With . . . thoughts on keeping it simple.
There have been others, but I’m trying to keep this simple, and short.
Other holiday related posts:
Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.
Time Management, Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving — Some things will take exactly as much time as you allot to them.
The Annual Christmas Party — At Least I Wasn’t Insulted This Year — Unfortunate comment.
All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.
A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise — You never know the impact people have on each other.
My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind Of — Thanksgiving my my house, without my kids.
Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.
The Hallmark Holiday of Mother’s Day is fast approaching. The advertisements for flowers and candy, and brunches and jewelry, are popping up more quickly than the weeds in my yard. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against honoring motherhood, sisterhood, and female nurturing. It’s all good. But I have long maintained that it works best for the mothers of adult children (preferably child-free) who are in the position to do things for their mom that their mom might actually want and in this way show appreciation for everything their mother has done over the years — the kind of appreciation you usually only understand after you’ve grown up. Before my kids came, and back when I had disposable income (sigh), I used to take my Mom to a fancy brunch in the city. It was nice.
At the other end of the spectrum of motherhood, mothers of babies and small kids usually love the home- and school-made cards and trinkets and hand prints of the little ones. I know I did. These new moms usually also hope their husband or significant other will give them “a day off” of mothering. A little ironic. Moms of intact families often want to hear this from their men:
“I’ll take the kids, I got this. You do nothing, I mean NOTHING — no cleaning, no meals, no laundry. We will bring you food.“
That’s a beautiful thing, if someone can do that for a mom. Of course, those newer mothers, if they are lucky enough to still have their mother alive and close by, have to go to the mother thing for her, so it is not a day to stay in bed all day watching trash TV and surfing the net.
Single mothers of course, have a whole different thing going on. They might have to haggle to even see their own children on Mother’s Day, depending on the calendar, the court order and the relationship with the Ex. And, unless the kids are grown, any celebration must be engineered, paid for, and cleaned up after — by her. A single mom might want a day off, too, but having the kids celebrate Mother’s Day elsewhere . . . well, that’s not quite right, either. And like the married mom, if the single mom has a mother, she has to do for her, too. Conclusion? Different situations call for different celebrations.
But let me take you back to a time when I had a husband and either one or three babies. Can’t remember. I think just one, but it wasn’t my first Mother’s Day. My then husband (kinda like the sound of that . . . but I digress) went out and got me a card. Kids weren’t old enough to do it on their own. It was nice of him. He didn’t always know how to do things like this. He was brought up without a father so he had no role model in the home for how a husband should treat the mother of his children. I don’t give him a pass because of this, it’s just a fact. It’s a fact easily remedied by reading, looking at TV, or copying what he sees good husbands do. It’s not that hard.
Another fact? Attention to detail was never his strong suit.
Like I said, different situations, different celebrations . . . even different cards.
Clearly my husband shopped in the wrong section of the Hallmark Cards display.
He got me a card that said,
“Happy Mother’s Day!
Our family is so much better . . . now that you’re in it.”
Yep, that’s right folks, he got his wife, the mother of his children, a card for a Stepmother.
Alrighty then. I mean, damn, I think I was still nursing somebody at the time . . . and I got a Stepmother’s Mother’s Day Card. And no, he didn’t accidentally mix up the card he bought for his own stepmother. He had no stepmother.
He bought that card for me.
I read it. I read it again. I read it TO him. He gave me one of those embarrassed laughs and apologized, but not profusely. I kept that card for a time, but of course, did not display it. I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, damn. I was a new mom, and it kinda hurt. I do give him credit for getting me a card. I know there are some guys who don’t do that for their wives. I probably would have been mad if he’d done nothing. But there are plenty of men who do the right thing — with precision. So many things would have been better. Flowers, a single flower, even those nasty flowers that are sold on the highway — would have been better. No words, no careless mistakes.
He took the time to get me a card.
Didn’t take the time to read it, though.
It was long ago . . . but it still smarts a little bit.
Just Me With . . . The Worst Mother’s Day Card . . . Ever.
Postscript: I thought this was the most insensitive thing he could have done on Mother’s Day. I was wrong. See “How I Found Out That My Ex-Husband Was Getting Married”