I know Halloween has hardly been laid to rest and you south of the border have Thanksgiving to stress over but bare with me while I reminisce about the days when Christmas was about the boxes the gifts came in and the wrapping paper. It was about the shiny lights on the tree and going to the small town Santa Claus parade where the best float was the a flatbed truck with a couple of hay bales thrown on for Mary & Joseph to sit. Back when we had to stay up far too late Christmas Eve assembling the all wooden, Waldorf School-approved barn. When Christmas morning last hours because of all the dollar store animals I hid in the tree and the boys had to find. Now, my boys have never been ones for sleeping in but there was a time, not so long ago that we had to wake them up to open their stockings. (Actually it was their grandfather who had slept over and had been awake since 4am waiting for them to come and get him.)
Back in the good old days the gifts were plentiful but inexpensive, some blocks, a toy car or two and a Thomas the Tank Engine video (Yes, a video. For a VCR. I told you this was a while back). Then we moved up the gift scale to dinosaur books and figures, stuffed animals and stockings were filled with more dollar store items like plastic tools and Christmas socks and although the Thomas Brio trains weren't cheap, they were made of wood and I have kept every piece.
Then we entered the LEGO era which while more costly at least kept them busy for hours, days and even years later they still play with it making even better ships than the 10 pages of instructions resulted in. Star Wars became the default gift for Christmas and birthdays replacing everything Bat and Spider Men. Videos were replaced by DVD's and the first Game Boy weaseled it's way into our house thanks to a seven year old's broken leg in January.
It's been all down hill since then. And the Inversion Equation of Gifts has begun to apply. The formula applied to all items means that they are getting smaller while costing more and the next generation of Nano or DS or Xbox is out before they even figure out how to work the damn thing. What is wrong with this picture? I got my first clock radio when I was sixteen and I "borrowed" the old cassette player from my Dad's workshop to take to university.
And to add insult to injury last Christmas Eve our eldest, at age 10 (turning 11 a week later) caught us in the act. Yes, The Act. Wrapping presents and signing you-know-who's name on the tags. We thought everyone was asleep, I even went up stairs to listen for irregular breathing. It was the proverbial (literarial?) "not a creature was stirring" hour. So we set to it, got out the separate wrapping paper for the presents from you-know-who and got busy. Not long after I had poured my third glass of Bailey's on the rocks (our traditional Christmas Eve beverage) I heard stirring, then whimpering, then full on wailing and it wasn't carollers outside. It was Number One Son in full melt down.
He really had no idea. This was his 11th Christmas and he still believed. I don't know who was more upset him or me? At first I though, "Aw, come on, you had no idea? No one had said anything at school? No hints or whispers in the playground?" If there were he didn't hear them. We were officially The Worst Parents Ever. It took him an hour to calm down and we gave him the spiel about being Santa's helpers and the spirit of Christmas being the giving not Santa and that he could stay up next year and help (but no Baileys for him) and most importantly that if he ever wanted to get another gift ever again he was, under no uncertain circumstances, to tell his little brothers. Ten months later and so far so good. Which leads me back to my conundrum. And sorry if this post is starting to look like a page from the Future Shop catalogue, I like to illustrate my rants.
What the hell do I get them for Christmas? Number One says he doesn't know what he wants. He lost his iPod which he had bought with his own money (he never loses anything) so do we replace it? And if it was a Nano do we get him the same one? Which, of course isn't the same because in the span of six months Apple has spawned two or three new generations of the damn things (kind of like the Star Trek Tribbles) which now cost almost the same as a iPod Touch.
Of course getting one of those would cause problem for Number Two who has my old iPod Classic and would flip if his brother got a Touch. And then Number Three would lose it because he is the only one who doesn't have one but he is seven for god's sake and doesn't even listen to music.
Now Number Two wants a PSP even though he already has a DS (I apologize for all the acronyms but I'll be damned if I am going to spell out all the brand names, so bear with me) and Number Three wants an xBox so he can play Halo?! Halo is one of those sniper shooting war games that I swore would never enter my house even if we are "the only ones who don't have it!"
We do have a Wii which I love because it doesn't have war games unless you count archery in Mario & Sonic go to the Olympics or the shooting in the Biathlon in the Winter Olympics. We also, I am ashamed to admit, have a Play Station 2 which is as old as the hills but came with Sing Star which is a karaoke game and we all love it. So needless to say our electronics quota is full and other than getting the new Winter Olympics game for the Wii there isn't much else I am willing to buy. Any thoughts other than unplugging everything and everyone and getting Monopoly 2.0? But you don't want to get me started on the so-called upgrading of classic board games.
Maybe I'll bust out the Thomas train tracks and set them up around the Christmas tree and see how that goes over?