Maybe some of us didn’t grow in healthy homes or with families who celebrated holidays in ways we want to continue with our own children.
I grew up an only child and I felt so much pressure to make birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day special since I had no one to share it with.
I feel pretty whiny about writing this, but it seems like it needs to be said.
I spent my own money that my grandma sent to buy thoughtful presents for my parents. They were seldom appreciative. I remember my father demanding I buy my mother flowers for their anniversary one year when I was a teenager and I bristled at that chore since I felt it was not my responsibility. I remember many birthdays and Mother’s Day when she unwrapped perfumes and whatnot that my father purchased and said were from me. We usually went out to dinner for steak on birthdays.
My mother always wants more and loves shopping as entertainment. I don’t share that hobby. It stresses me out.
I remember most of my birthdays were when my father was out of town on business trips. My mother invited her family and my school mates and neighborhood friends. I realized when I got older that my father didn’t like gatherings.
Christmases were always pretty stressful when I was young. My mom is the youngest child of six and everyone getting together on Christmas Eve was bound to end in negativity on someone’s part. I was mostly too young to notice, but I knew my parents fought about it before and afterwards. Most years, my dad stayed at home while I accompanied my mother to the Christmas Eve party. My grandmother passed when I was 16, and it all deteriorated after that.
My parents usually send me a check, not divisible by 6, so I wonder every year who they don’t like. They’ve started wrapping and packaging weird handmedowns for my kids and it’s always a confusion when the kids ask me about their presents. Sometimes, I don’t know what to say. And apparently my mother thinks I need and use an inordinate amount of kitchen towels.
My parents possess three SUVs, pay a $850 mortgage for a 3500+ sq ft house, receive 3 retirement checks each month, and yet do not buy me or the kids anything for holidays. They constantly complain that they don’t have enough money.
It’s hard for me when my parents ask what I want for my birthday or Christmas and I tell them an item I really want, but they say, “oh, no, not that; what else do you want?” So I usually just say: “I don’t really need anything, thanks.”
As a mom of four, I am dealing with my own issues and trauma. I don’t want my kids to feel pressure. If they don’t want to celebrate my birthday or Mother’s Day per society convention, that should be ok.
I want my kids to realize that some people might have gift giving/receiving as their love language. It’s important to show people we love them in ways they can understand. I know my grandparents had this love language, but it might be only because I saw my grandma a few times a year and she felt a need to make up for a shallow relationship with things.
I am trying to work out my own hurt feelings when my birthday passes by with nothing. It seems that something or other always tries to ruin the day. I try to look at where I failed and how I can live better and model a better reaction to anger or fear and we can still celebrate more appropriately, perhaps without pressure or presents but still a rather cheerful greeting or hug.
I’ve tried to model celebrating with my kids’ birthdays, serving special meals, homemade cake, and presents. I ask their preferences which vary year to year as they get older. I hope I’ve done well. We’ve done away with flashy parties since we have no one to invite and we’re never invited anywhere. Perhaps they’re resentful but the younger three kids surely have little memory of the time before when I stressed over keeping up with others in that way.
I wanted a Pinterest-perfect holiday season before there was even social media. I wanted it to look like something out of style magazines on my husband’s lieutenant budget. Every year without fail, I cried over a failed expectation or the wine spilled or the pork roast was still raw in the middle.
I used to make myself physically ill planning events and holidays. Surely it wasn’t worth it. I don’t think anyone really noticed except that I was very upset if things weren’t living to my impossible level of perfection.
I needed to calm down and reflect on what was most important: relationships.
What memories do I want my family to have of holidays?
There were some recent Christmases when we traveled and minimally decorated and didn’t do presents, but the kids are too young to trade that and asked if we could do it more traditional from now on.
My husband has never shown interest in birthdays or holidays and all the work falls to me and I feel resentful. Years go by and things get forgotten until they roll around on the calendar again. Yet he bragged when we were dating what a thoughtful unique gift giver he was.
The stress of all the past years are like a tidal wave of trauma.
I don’t like knick knacks or presents that will just sit around and collect dust. I’ve purged and minimized so much over the years with all our military moves. I’ve streamlined and curated our possessions. While I have some regrets of items we had to sell or donate, I’m pretty content and I don’t just need more “stuff.”
When we first married, he bought himself a DVD player and surround sound system but wrote my name on the wrapped presents under the tree. I was maybe more upset by memories of my first husband only buying items for himself. I don’t care anything about electronics. If it weren’t for him and the kids, I wouldn’t own a TV.
He tried to buy me jewelry a couple times. The jade pearl necklace and bracelet set was obviously on sale because it’s missing some beads, but surely he didn’t know or look closely enough. He once bought me a children’s pearl necklace set that I returned to the store and he got very upset.
I told my husband just not to buy me presents anymore and he didn’t. He hasn’t.
Fifteen years have gone by.
He bought me caramel chocolates for our anniversary when he was last deployed. Everyone who has ever known me knows I loathe caramel.
My husband never showed appreciation for the presents the kids made him or that I purchased “from” them. I guess he didn’t have a good model for that. He doesn’t much remember what his family did on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays. Christmas was a huge affair, focused on the kids. I stopped buying anything for my husband on holidays. We were strapped for money for many years anyway and I convinced myself this was best.
I mentioned last year that maybe it’s not healthy for the kids to see us not give each other presents on holidays. The kids asked me about it and I didn’t have a good answer for them.
I need us to model for the kids a healthy relationship, healthy holidays, healthy celebrations. We need to do better.
He bought me a hoodie for Christmas and kept asking all.day.long did I like it; did he do good? It became exhausting.
We have no relationship with my husband’s family so I felt so inauthentic and impersonal sending them gift cards for every birthday and Christmas. They probably misinterpreted my desire and reason to end that practice but I found it almost impossible to find gift cards for them when we lived in Germany and we never found a replacement tradition. I want more than a gift card relationship. I’m not sure what kind of holidays he had with his two sisters and parents while growing up. I know Christmases were huge affairs with piles of presents. I can’t and won’t recreate that.
My parents are not generous with their time, affection, money, or things and it makes holidays difficult when I am torn between being their daughter and also a wife and mom to my own family.
My daughter works part time and I would never ask her or expect her to spend her own money on presents for me or her siblings, but she doesn’t have to brazenly announce that we are not worth her time, effort, or money. She needs to learn to express her frustration in healthier ways.
It is exhausting and painful for me to try to please everyone all the time.
Perhaps I should practice more what I preach: say what I mean and mean what I say. Precision of language.
Most people can’t really handle bluntness or boldness. They need things sugar coated because they’re used to word and mind games.
Children know what they want and aren’t shy about asking for it.
I collect presents for my children all year round for Christmas and birthdays. I pay attention to what they say they like and want.
I focus on food during holidays because those are good memories for me. My aunt always had a gorgeous spread on Christmas Eve, Easter, Independence Day. I learned a lot about decorating and cooking from her.
And my daughter criticized me for cooking too well that holidays aren’t even that special. What a backwards compliment.
Should I speak up and ask specifically for what I want on my birthday and Mother’s Day? It seems selfish and greedy. I’m not one to spend money on myself often.
It feels like a “Mommie Dearest” kind of a moment to sit them down and demand that that my kids do something for me.
But they all miss the point: The true gift any mother wants is not to do anything.Lyz Lenz
I’m often overlooked and I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that’s how to treat people, especially their own future in-laws. I want them to have healthier families than mine was and is, what I’m trying to teach them even with my mistakes.
It’s up to me to end abusive or traumatic cycles and this includes making holidays and celebrations a cheerful, not stressful time. I want my kids to have good memories. I don’t my kids remembering their mom sulking every Christmas because the cinnamon rolls overbaked a tiny bit and complaining about not getting anything for her birthday again this year.
Maybe my family doesn’t really know or remember my preferences, likes, dislikes so they just don’t do anything. Maybe they really are thoughtless and don’t even want to put forth the effort. But maybe my family just wants a bulleted list or PowerPoint presentation about what to get Mom on Mother’s Day, Christmas, my birthday.
Yes, I realize we are privileged. We don’t struggle financially or medically. We have nothing but time and effort to improve our relationships with each other.
How I like to celebrate holidays:
Breakfast: spinach onion Parmesan omelet or veggie frittata
Dinner: seafood. I especially love salmon and scallops.
Presents: Always welcome are books from my wish list, bird feeders, experiences, gardening items.
I like to keep things simple.