Bah Humbug

I'm The Grinch Mom. Come At Me.

Every holiday season there's one source of tension between my husband and me: gift giving.

Emma Chao/Scary Mommy; Getty Images

We all know the guy: wrinkled forehead, the weird tuft of hair, green skin. My husband likes to compare me to him, the Grinch. I don’t think it’s fair because I have a much better complexion, but I do have to admit that I think he got a couple things right.

Every year the holidays roll around, and there is one source of tension between my husband and me. Our typically harmonious marriage becomes ever so slightly on edge each wintry season because of one issue, and that issue is presents.

I grew up in a non-religious household. My parents, immigrants from Sri Lanka, celebrated the Christian holidays for commercial purposes as any good Buddhist should. We had Easter egg hunts, for instance, and Christmas celebrations centered on gift giving and great music. My parents didn’t have much money but tried their best to adhere to our ever-growing wish lists.

Our Christmas Day was: wake up and open presents and then go about the day. We didn’t have a special tradition per se. Some years we celebrated with other Sri Lankan families, gathering for dinner, all the kids singing Christmas carols. Some years it was just the four of us at home. Christmas dinner would be the usual rice and curry combination as any other day.

My husband, however, grew up in a household that revered Christmas. His father was a bishop in the Episcopal Church, so they attended services then ate Chinese on Christmas Eve, followed by watching Die Hard. They strung up popcorn and cranberries and had a real live Christmas tree they decorated together each year. Christmas was a magical event comprised of many days. And the gifts under the tree were numerous. My husband reminisces fondly about spending the entire day opening a present one at a time with his parents and two siblings. His family’s traditions were rich and plentiful. In contrast, mine were simple and short-lived.

Fast forward to the two of us trying to blend these two sets of traditions. I love all the customs my husband’s family had, and I wanted to incorporate those into our lives. We try our best to watch Die Hard after the kids are asleep, and when they are old enough, they will join us. We order Chinese food for Christmas Eve dinner.

We’ve also started some new traditions. Every year we go to the Hallmark Store, each picking out a new ornament for our tree. I make homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast every year. We open presents on Christmas morning just the four of us and let the kids play before we meet up with anyone else that day. We have ham and sides for dinner.

But the one thing my dear spouse and I can’t ever see eye-to-eye on is the gift-giving situation. My husband is the most generous and loving soul on the planet. He wants to shower every one of us with everything our hearts desire. And I do love that about him. But I am so overly practical that I can’t help but point out to him that our children will only play with half of what they receive and eventually lose the small parts of some of the gifts and interest in the others.

My dear husband feels that the bottom few layers of the tree should be covered in beautifully glistening packages by Christmas morning. I admit, there is excitement walking into the room in the wee hours of the morning with eager and excited children seeing a mountain of gifts that weren’t there the night before. The joy of the children rifling through the packages searching for their names is palpable. The laughter as they rip open the paper is contagious.

Eventually, they’ll find their favorites of the bunch, and the others get left behind. I have given in and tried to get more in the Christmas spirit. Having our own family traditions has helped me find meaning at this time of year. My husband has also tried to curb his spending. I have told him I would also like to buy the children a gift or two. But eventually, he will come up the stairs with one or two more things he “forgot” he ordered. But it’s always “something small.”

I can’t complain about his shopping though. He does most of the gift buying for the children. He loves doing it, and the burden isn’t on me. But I still can’t help but wrestle internally with what is more important — to give my children the joy of the holidays that I barely had or to prevent them from putting too much value on material things?

I think we are slowly learning from each other. I am becoming more like the Grinch at the end of the story, who returns Christmas to Whoville, and, well, he is still buying them a million presents, but it keeps the magic of the holidays alive. Our children are only young for so long, and I want them to have as many happy memories as possible. We are fortunate enough to provide that for them, and I know thanks to their father and his traditions and the new ones we are building together, they won’t be short on that.

CJ Kelsey is a wife and mother two and she had her family live in the metro Detroit area. She works in healthcare and in her spare time enjoys reading, baking and writing in her blog mommingonfumes.com.