Christmas is at Granny’s house this year. Yesterday at the beach house, it was a morning of “where are we going to hide the…” as we began the process of packing the van to head to Renmark. G and I moved like ninjas as we transported unmarked bags to and from the back of the van. Our Christmas plans have been contingent on catheter removal, which meant no pre-planning or online shopping until we knew exactly where were going to be. It was now operation ninja, wrap pack and stack.

Christmas shopping for four children is an exercise in fiscal fairness. My balance sheet moves between dollar values, versus presents to open; I continually confuse myself on who has what, where and when, and how it will all equate.

It’s hideous. I am not a shopper and, well, enough said really. I am not a shopper. I revisited my list a few days ago and realized I’d confused myself, one child had more than the others. In a state of consumer stupidity combined with irrational mother’s guilt, I decided to buy a few more things to “even it out”. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

I stood in a retail comatose state, scanning the toy aisle of Big W yesterday morning. As I perused items that my children did not need, I noticed a mother and her two girls next to me. The eldest girl who was maybe eleven, was explaining to her little sister how the shopping was going to work.

“You can have one cheap thing now, or you can wait until Mum gets paid and have something better next week.”

I cast my eyes straight ahead, trying to do my best at pretending I hadn’t eavesdropped, that I was too preoccupied in my own world. I could feel the mother looking at me.

“Maybe you could have this one, you love this!” said the older girl pointing towards something pink and plastic.

The mother quickly jumped in with a concerned “that’s $55, I can’t do that this week OR next week”.

I put everything I had back on the shelves. We had too much. I needed to be taking things away, not adding. I felt like a fool.

As I made my way through the suburban shopping mall and back to the car, I looked at the faces of the weary. Irate, stressed parents. Couples getting itchy about standing in a busy mall on a Saturday morning, trying to decide on what to buy the brother in law. There was a conversation about Aunty Dot who was driving down from Rocky, who always had something for the kids “we can’t bloody not get her anything” shouted a woman to her husband who had voiced concern that they’d already spent enough.

After three Christmases in Doha I’d forgotten about this. The ads that tell you how many shopping days you have left. The rush and the panic. The way people talk about how good it’s going to be when its over. “After Christmas we’re heading down the coast”.

The little travellers and I need to have a chat. We’ve lost the meaning of Christmas. It’s somehow become a day of presents rather than presence. We’ve been lucky this year, when we got sick we had healthcare. When we got sad, we were able to work it out. When we were faced with a hurdle, we had friends to support us over the bumps. We are all still together, we are stronger, smarter, and maybe a little tougher. On Christmas Day I want them to realize just how lucky we are to have each other.

I love so much of what happens in an Aussie Christmas. Red ribbons tied on trees, Christmas drinks out on the front lawn with neighbours, peeling prawns with old friends, and teaching the kids how to slice a mango. Shorts and t-shirts are worn to the pub for a quick “coldy”. And random displays on the drive home to make you smile.

 I don’t know who you are Mr or Mrs Farmer, but we pulled over on the side of the road to look at your “beary Merry Christmas” and I was unsure of what to take a picture of first, the children’s smiles or your gorgeous bear.

“Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more….”
― Dr. SeussHow the Grinch Stole Christmas

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  1. I was stuck with similar thoughts today while shopping as well.

  2. I was stuck with similar thoughts today while shopping as well.

  3. I was stuck with similar thoughts today while shopping as well.

  4. Love this post, Kirsty. I’ve outgrinched Scrooge this year, quite deliberately. For a few years now though, no presents, just presence as you say, has been the theme. So much better. Easy to do when one’s kids get older. And they do still get a bit of cash to help out. Lucky kids.

    Glad you’re better.

    Happy Festivus.

  5. Thank you Kirsty. A timely reminder to really think about what we are going to do in this Christmas Season…not just react.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this a lot….still got largely sucked in this time, but now I have a year prepare everyone a different and simpler festival next year.

  7. I am temporarily working in retail for the first time this year, and the urge to purchase anything is well and truly non-existent after seeing such waste and excess. Unexpectedly this big retail chain cut many of our hours the weeks before and after Christmas as they weren’t making the revenue they expected. I am a low income earner anyway, so this well and truly thew a spanner in the works where gift giving is concerned this year. Thankfully my teens seem to be taking it in their stride. I look forward to being able to spoil them a little next year, but gee I wish I had enough money to have actually bought that $55 toy for the lady in the shop. That would have made my day.

    • I have gone back and forth about the $55. I too would have loved to have handed it over but at the time I was so embarrassed to have listened in on the whole thing and wondered if she would have been mortified by the gesture. What I’ve chosen to do instead, is to donate the few extra things that I’d bought. The whole situation makes me feel ill, it shouldn’t be about the gifts. Have a fantastic Christmas, thank you so much for popping by with all of your gorgeous comments this year. xx

  8. A wonderful post Kirsty. This year I have cut back as well and no one seems to mind. Have a Happy Christmas with your family!

  9. Our first bub is almost 6 months so a little too young to understand what the fuss is all about. I like the 4 present rule – 1 thing they want, 1 they need, 1 book and something to wear. As she grows I will add one to donate so she learns the art of giving. Have a wonderful (catheter-free) holidays 🙂

  10. I love that people go to so much trouble to bring a smile to perfect strangers’ faces … And your column wasn’t bad either! Beary Christmas rocks. Have a good one.

  11. Well said, thanks for sharing the bears. I think I need to find some big red ribbons for our trees 🙂

  12. Kind of shameful that we all have so much of what we need that we have to rack our brains to think of something that we want.
    A few years ago, all the adults in our families chose names and agreed to donate gift money to charity in the name of someone else. Everyone enjoyed the challenge of looking for an interesting and worthwhile charity that would have meaning for the recipient. No stress, lots of fun, and left you with a warm feeling in your heart instead of worrying whether or not they’d like it or if they already had one.

  13. So good to hear that you are feeling so much better, Kirsty. May your holiday overflow with joy and laughter.

  14. I hope you Christmas is full of joy – and surely your being with their mum is the best present your little travellers could have.

  15. we’ve been moving over in to the experience type of gifts – 2 concert tickets for all this year… miss 7 is disney on ice, mr 14 is billy talent, miss 17 is lady gaga and hubby is blue rodeo (big R&B band in Canada). they might be one time events but the memories will last!

  16. We got a bit panic stricken about a week before Christmas wondering if we had got “enough” for our three kids for Christmas. I had to talk Byron out of buying “just one more…” gift per child for under the tree. We had given gifts, groceries and money to our favourite local charities. I suggested we might spend that extra money on a family ticket to a show. It was a wonderful night and one we will talk about long into the future. Better than just another thing that they don’t really need…

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