How do you say “let’s not exchange this year?”
A little while ago, Lynn & I discussed not exchanging gifts for Christmas amongst the adults. She and I are capable of buying anything we need and want, and we just can’t swallow buying gifts for a compulsive hoarder anymore. There are budgets to consider, and we thought this might be best for everyone. But then Mom learned of this, and thus began the guilt.
I know I’ve written a lot about gifts on notjustclutter.com already, but this is an ongoing issue in my family. Mom firmly believes that Christmas and other family traditions are deeply routed in gift giving and receiving. I would rather our traditions be experiential, and memory-forming. For instance, I love that we sit as a family and decorate gingerbread men and houses on Boxing Day. We chat, we share, we praise each others creativity despite clumsy icing bags, and it’s good fun for the kids. I remember that more than what I unwrapped, or even what I gave to others. I don’t want to see the art of gift giving turn into obligation. I don’t want to see anyone feel left out around the tree on Christmas morning, either, while the kids tear into their brightly wrapped boxes.
The truth is that if Mom wasn’t a compulsive hoarder, I would want to guy her gifts. I like to put thought into presents and she has so many interests, I usually had a good time looking for something to suit her. But she is a hoarder, and has so much stuff that anything I give gets lost in the mountain. Like a large canvas family portrait I gave her a few years ago…did that actually make it up on the wall? Don’t think so. How about the new computer desk chair she asked for and Lynn gave her? It’s still at Lynn’s, in the box, 3 years later. And that Kobo we bought her for Mother’s Day 2 years ago? She tells us she’s still working her way through the books we loaded on it for her, and sometimes she still just loves a paperback. But she’d admitted to another friend that she lost it, and now I know my own Mother lies to me.
After Lynn told her what she and I had decided about exchanging, Mom called ME to vent. She’s unhappy we want to just give up that tradition, and she’s mad she wasn’t included in the decision making. She wasn’t included mainly because when we DO try to discuss it with her, she shuts down and gets defensive…like she is now. I’m a peace maker, and always end up trying to please everyone. I empathize with both Lynn and Mom, but I’m the one who tries the hardest to compromise. I hate seeing Mom upset, even when I can logically tell this is a guilt trip. I try suggesting we draw names so we’re just buying for one adult and still respecting budgets, etc. She didn’t like that idea either. Essentially, she claimed:
“You and Lynn have already decided on this, so fine, have it your way. But just know that it won’t feel like Christmas to me.”
Well, that’s great, Mom. Thanks for announcing so far in advance that you plan on being a lead balloon during our family togetherness time. You stomp your foot and cross your arms with a pout, and the rest of us will decorate gingerbread men.
Is there a solution?
If there is a way to better deal with gifts and guilt with hoarders, I’d love to hear it. I’m at my wits end. I want to be glad I have my loved ones around me, and we’re all healthy and happy. That’s what I really want for Christmas. Forget the stuff. Forget the wrapping, ribbons, and bows. Forget the generic greeting cards, and the over-packaged plastic toys, batteries not included. I’m asking Santa for family unity.