I spent the first eight months of my pregnancy with Ruby convinced that she was going to die at any second. Midway through my final month, with her insistently head-butting me and kicking my bladder (she was breech) ‘round the clock, it finally started to dawn on me that not only was I going to have a baby, but I was going to have a Christmas baby.
And so in the final few weeks before she was born, I took a break from researching Down syndrome (she had several soft markers) and stillbirth statistics (I am insane) and started combing the Internet for ways on how to make a Christmas birthday less crappy.
I’m now five years in, and it seems to be working pretty well. The main things I try to do are:
- Give her separate presents for each occasion – no “Happy birthday and merry Christmas!” combo gifts.
- Never wrap a birthday present in Christmas paper.
- Hold off on decorating for Christmas until her birthday is over.
The best part is that I would totally do No. 3 anyway (I suck at decorating) but now I get to act like I’m doing it because I’m a good, thoughtful mom, not because I’m a procrastinator.
The main thing I struggle with is something that one of my favorite writers posted on Facebook the other day: The simultaneous feelings that you’re spending way too much money on your kids and yet you don’t have enough presents for them. It’s even more acute for me because I definitely feel that conflict – I think back to Little House on the Prairie, where Laura got a stick of candy and a tin cup and a penny and thought it was the most extravagant Christmas ever, and I feel ashamed of all the plastic junk I’m emptying my bank account to give my daughter – but I also feel like she’s being simultaneously shortchanged by having a birthday four days before Christmas and yet getting so many presents that she can’t even stop to appreciate them.
She had her birthday party on Sunday, and we divided her presents between her dad’s house and mine so that she opened half on Sunday after the party and half at my house on Monday, and that helped with the present fatigue to some extent. I opted not to give her a present at her party and told my parents to hold off, as well, so she got some more presents on her actual birthday on Wednesday night. And then, of course, she’ll get more presents from everyone on Christmas Day, followed by still more presents when she does Christmas with her dad’s family in St. Louis on Dec. 28.
It just seems like too much – I have Disney princesses and My Little Ponies sharing a split-level Playskool dollhouse in my living room, and Barbie and Tinkerbell share a Dream House in her bedroom. Strawberry Shortcake and Olivia are stored in a shoebox next to a plastic pumpkin full of Happy Meal toys, and then there are her bins of art supplies and “beauty products” and her shelves of books and the trunk full of puzzles and the laundry basket full of dress-up clothes and the empty Sucre macaron box full of Squinkies and the closet full of board games. And then, of course, the bath toys. My house is fairly orderly, but Ruby’s room looks like an episode of Hoarders.
And still I feel not only the need to buy her more presents for Christmas but also to consider celebrating her half-birthday so that her special day doesn’t get lost in the holiday shuffle.
How can I back away from this level of holiday consumption? Any thoughts from parents who’ve been there – with Christmas babies or even without?