|My grandfather and moi, fishing. I didn't know enough when I was 12 to hate my body, although I knew I was a chubby kid, so I wore halter tops and flaunted that Milwaukee Roll.|
I have a question for you guys: What is your family strategy on Christmas gifts? (If you do, indeed, celebrate Christmas. If you do not, please substitute the gift-giving holiday of your choice and know that I am not deliberately trying to exclude you, but I do celebrate Christmas and come from a Catholic/Lutheran background, so this is my only experience. I cannot speak to anyone else's experience, just mine.)
Back to the question: When I married SH, I acquired four wonderful nieces and nephews and an awesome sister in law (and her dad!) who are just the nicest people you would ever want to meet. But SH and I have not been in the habit of buying gifts for the siblings in law and the nieces and nephews.
I also acquired two wonderful step-step daughters, their husbands, and their three wee little boys, all of whom have this lush, silky, strokable black hair that I covet with a fierce passion. Plus I love their fat little cheeks and their fat little hands and their fat little feet.
But we do not give gifts to them - nor they to us - during the holidays. Yes, wedding and baby gifts for the steps. Yes, high school graduation gifts for SH's side. But not birthday or Christmas gifts.
Perhaps it is because I come from a big family. I didn't used to think it was that big - doesn't everyone have 26 first cousins? It is a normal-sized family for where my parents are from. Actually, it is a small family for northern Wisconsin. My dad's father had 11 siblings and each of those siblings had at least six children. My dad's cousin Greg came from a family of eight. Greg's dad died before he was 40, leaving a widow with eight children - who remarried a man 15 years younger than she was. She must have been some hottie. My dad's dad and mom - Al and Sylvia, had only three, so they were not holding up the family duties.
But even when I was a kid, family presents were not Done. I don't know if it was a money thing - probably - or because we were rarely together during the holidays - because of my dad's career, we were all over the world. But we did not exchange cousin to cousin gifts or aunts and uncles to nieces and nephew gifts at Christmas. So that's how my expectations were set. And that's how I have acted.
My sister was married last week. She acquired an instant family: a 4 year old stepson, a teenage stepdaughter, and an adult stepson whom I have yet to meet. He didn't attend the wedding. No I do not know why. I want to know. I intend to find out.
And of course I acquired new nephews and a niece.Which is wonderful. The niece knows all the words to "Bust a move," which I may have mentioned or will be mentioning in my post about the wedding, and can dance like a rock star. The nephew is a sweetie - good natured and loving. He loves my sister, he loves my mother. My mother is so happy to have some grandchildren that she can hardly stand it.
At the rehearsal lunch, some of the guests were talking about wedding to Mark, the stepson, and telling him that I was his new auntie. "You know what that means, don't you?" one of them asked. "More presents at Christmas!" Then she looked at me expectantly.
I froze. I am not a good spontaneous liar - I really have to think about a lie and craft it and practice it so I can deliver it with confidence. But caught on the spot, I blurt out the truth unless I can keep my mouth shut, which is not my wont.
So I just shook my head, laughed, and said, "Nope. Not in this family."
Which was not the most politic thing to say. But it was the truth. Not that the truth should always be said out loud. Like if your best friend in the world asks, "Does this dress look good on me?" and it's way too short and totally mutton/lamb, you might not say, "It makes you look like a hot mess." Instead, you remember this is your friend and you love her and try to adhere to these guidelines:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?
Then you say, "You know, I think there are other dresses that flatter your beautiful (arms/ankles/neck) more. Let me see if I can find something." You have told the truth but not in a hurtful way.
So I have two issues here:
1. I was too blunt, although really, it's not like a four year old would notice, especially a four year old who was already so rattled by the whole experience of flying to Colorado and meeting two dozen new people, including 12 new great-aunts and uncles.
2. Do I get Christmas presents for the four year old? I don't get them for the steps, who are all under three. So I can't use age as a cutoff.
I wouldn't want to say, "But these kids are my sisters. They count more." I don't want to make those distinctions: SH's steps and his nieces and nephews are my family as much as my sister's family. We are all one. Indeed, my uncle's daughter from his first marriage (this uncle is married to my mom's sister) commented to me that my grandmother - her stepgrandmother, never treated her as any less than a full grandchild. Laurie told me how grateful she was for that as a kid.
And another aunt, who had a small child when she married my mom's brother (her first marraige), told me she had been so worried how my grandmother, a devout Catholic, would treat her when she joined the family. "She loved me and she loved my kid," my aunt said. My grandmother was not one to condemn others - all she did was love, which I think is a far more Christian way to live than to tell other people they are doing it wrong. I am not a big fan of proselytizing - people come to the faith far better by watching someone like my grandmother than by being told, "Do this!" by someone who is not conducting a loving, exemplary life.
But I digress. I am not talking about preaching or anything. I am talking about Christmas presents for nieces, nephews, and grandkids. What do you guys do? Does it depend on the number of people? Do you have different rules for different statuses? (Stati? Or is it a Greek word that doesn't take the "us" to "i" conversion for plural? The plural of octopus is not "octupi." It's a Greek word.)
Man I am long winded. I haven't written in a while. There's a lot going on.
Anyhow. Tell me what you do about gifts in your family.