Christmas morning is supposed to be a magical time. Your kids are so excited to get new presents, there's peace and harmony all around, and no on, I mean no one, is complaining about the gifts you just gave them. (read more)
I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about my kids. They’re good kids, and I'm not just saying that because I birthed them and therefore am contractually obligated to say they’re wonderful.
Mostly, they’re just like every other child. They get along sometimes; they fight often, they give me grief about school work, and they don’t appreciate the stuff I do for them as much as I think they should.
But, at the end of the day, I still let them hang out and watch Netflix with me past their bedtimes because I cannot resist the calm that seems to happen when I am with them one-on-one, snuggling together under a warm comforter and laughing at the horrendous things happening on Nailed It.
So, yeah, for the most part they’re good kids, and if not “good”, then at least par for the course based on other kids I’ve met.
Which brings me to the next part of this story.
Travel back, if you will, all the way to 1980 something. I lived in Mississippi near Keesler AFB (I’m a military brat) and it was my 10th or 11th birthday. I can’t remember which, but I know it was around that time, so let’s say 11.
My dad had a brand new VHS recorder, and he was using it to video a game we were playing at my birthday party.
Hot Potato. Remember that game?
We had something, I don’t think it was a potato, but it may have been. There were 4 little girls standing in a circle tossing the “potato” to each other while music played in the background.
The music stopped, I was holding the potato.
And I melted right the heck down, at my own birthday party.
“I wasn’t holding it! I wasn’t the one holding it! I wasn’t the one holding it!” You can hear me screeching this over and over...and over on tape.
I haven’t seen the video in a while, but I was most definitely the one holding it, and I’m sure my parents planned it that way so it wasn’t the birthday girl getting the prize. After all, I’d gotten plenty of prizes, also known as presents.
On this particular birthday, I had just one wish. I wanted an RC car. It would be the best RC car ever, silver with stickers on the sides, a spoiler, low to the ground, and so fast, I would zoom it all over the neighborhood!
I’d begged my mom for it well in advance, and when I got it on the big day, I was over the moon.
I plugged the battery into the charger, waited the required four hours for the maximum charge, then ran out of the house, ready to drive my super awesome car down the street.
It was perfect.
For about 15 minutes.
Then the battery ran out.
“rrrrr...rrrrrr...rrrrr”, I could hear the engine slowing down. No matter how hard I squeezed the trigger, it wouldn’t speed up. The battery had died, and I was sad.
Only, 11-year-old me didn’t recognize it as sad. 11-year-old me was angry, frustrated, and furious. My glorious present didn’t do what I thought it would do. I had built it up in my head so much that there was no way it would be good enough.
Back home I went, fuming the whole way. I stomped into the dining room where my mom was taking care of the party cleanup.
“Hey! How was the car? Was it fun?” She smiled at me, her face so open and happy, full of joy that she’d nailed the gift and made her kid’s birthday a hit.
“It’s a piece of junk!” I yelled, “The battery doesn’t work right! It won’t even run anymore!”
11-year-old me was a jerk.
My mom’s face fell, and she got quiet. Then I’m pretty sure she socked me in the arm and sent me to my room after laying into me about being more appreciative.
I’m also pretty sure that lesson didn’t take until I'd had kids of my own.
Anyhow, when I was little, if there was a special occasion, I would probably act like a jerk. I would build it up in my head so much that nothing on earth could make it a reality, which means I would suffer disappointment on every major holiday and gathering, no matter what.
Birthday - Jerk
Christmas - Jerk
Sibling Birthday - Jerk
Easter, Thanksgiving, family vacation, etc.
My parents love to tell me a wonderful story about us taking a vacation to Disney World when I was six. My sister was eight and ended up very sick with a bug of some sort.
"You yelled and screamed and went on and on about how we just needed to go to the parks, that she was ruining everything. And the whole time, she's puking her guts out in the hotel room."
If it was a special day, I would manage to put my worst foot forward.
Expectations are frustrating things when you're small.
The first time my kids did this to me it really hurt my feelings. But, I’m not so old I can’t remember doing it myself, so I tried my best to take it in stride.
I remember my then 6-year-old freaking out when we got him a little dirt bike for his birthday. He acted like a maniac, cried, and refused to ride it, all in front of a crowd of our family who’d come over to celebrate.
Why he flipped out, I'll never know. The next day he loved the bike, and it's been ridden for miles over the years.
I’m sure there were other times, but that’s not important. What’s important is that I changed how I felt about it, and changed how I reacted, but didn’t really put the hammer down until Christmas last year.
My oldest son had a long list of Christmas gifts he wanted, and he dutifully wrote all of them down. At the top of the list was this little dog/plow looking robot thing called Cozmo. He was so excited about it!
“Mom, it interacts with you, you can play games with it, and it learns!”
I’m pretty sure that’s why I had a second kid, but whatever. I mean I guess you can’t turn your brother off, so there’s the difference.
So, I got that Cozmo, shelled out my $150 and patted myself on the back.
I also did it with Skylanders Imaginators, Assassins Creed Black Flag, and probably some other gifts I can’t remember.
He opened them on Christmas morning and was just so excited; it was awesome! The video games didn’t even get taken out of the box, he put them on the shelf and immediately opened Cozmo. He played with that thing for hours the first day, running it all over the house, playing its games, advancing it through some sort of leveling up situation, etc.
The day after Christmas he played with it for a bit, maybe an hour, and then it went back on its charger and he went back to his iPad. The video games still hadn’t been touched, even though I asked if he would play them, after all, I wanted to see what they were all about.
I also asked him about Cozmo, since he'd been sitting in a corner of the room all day.
"It just didn't do what I thought it would do," he said, referencing Cozmo.
When I asked him about the games, the answer was similar. He was very nice about it (way nicer than I was to my own mom), but the gist was that he thought he wanted them, and he "might" eventually play them, but for now, they weren't as cool as he was thinking they would be.
On day 3, Cozmo never left the charger, the games stayed on the shelf, and my inner mom voice went, “You know what, that’s like $300 worth of stuff, This is ridiculous.”
So, I packed them all up and sent them back to Amazon.
It’s true. I didn’t even feel bad about it, not one bit!
Here’s the best part:
My then 10-year-old didn’t even notice.
I mean, he noticed eventually, like two weeks after I sent them back he asked, “Mom, where’s my Cozmo?”
“I sent it back. I also sent back Skylanders and Assassins Creed.”
Then I went on about my day.
Was he mad?
Did I care?
This year, on October 1st, when a notification popped up on my reminders that said, “Don’t get the kids a lot for Christmas, they won’t use it,” I listened, and I toned it down.
I also let him open all of his presents on Christmas, gave him a couple of hours, then went in there and made sure they were what he was thinking they would be.
In a perfect world my kids would appreciate everything I do for them, but in the real world I'm just glad I can get my money back if they don't.
Merry After Christmas! I hope your kids loved everything you worked so hard to give them this year!