parental guilt

There seems to be a small-scale epidemic (well, I guess by definition, that wouldn’t be much of an epidemic)… or at least a pattern… of parents of twenty-something children feeling guilty this Christmas. And from what I’ve heard from the small, unscientific sample of twenty-somethings, there is no need for these parents to feel that way.

I know my blogging isn’t going to change the way parents approach Christmas. But for the parents of people around my age (25), give or take a few years, there seems to be a distinct need to celebrate Christmas the same way we did in the 80’s. When we were kids, there was always an emphasis on a big pile of presents, quantity over quality, consumption rather than camraderie. I think it came partially from the prosperity and materialism of the 80’s, something that us twenty-somethings grew up with and came to accept as the norm.

Now that we’re older, I think a lot of us are changing the way we look at Christmas (if not life in general) as less of a celebration of consumerism and spendiness, but more of a return to a family atmosphere. I know, for instance, that Ryan’s mom has been saying for several weeks now that she wants to do Christmas like she did when Ryan and his sister were little, and she still emphasizes big, grand gestures of gifts. But Ryan and I were excited to spend last night together, exchanging our relatively small gifts, opening presents from my parents and grandparents one at a time, reveling in the meaning behind them (most of them seemed to emphasize Ryan as a new part of the family, such as “The Lutheran Handbook” from my parents, and a Montana stoneware mug from my grandparents, who live in Montana). And I know that I was just excited that Ryan’s mom put up a stocking in her home with my name on it, which tells me that she really wants me as a part of her family, too. The gesture was present enough for me!!

I had gone back and re-read Trish’s entry about the company encouraging people to take money out of their mortgages to buy Christmas presents, and I think this is something that wouldn’t have happened before the 80’s. Now, we’re all indoctrinated with this notion that we have to spend, spend, spend (see “Black Friday”) and throw ourselves into debt in order to prove to the people we love that we care about them. But proving this isn’t something that happens at Christmas. It’s something that we should be doing every day for one another. It’s something that God does every day for us, and this is something that should be remembered every day rather than just at Christmas. (Believe me, I’m as guilty as anyone else about NOT remembering this daily.)

I hope that next year, some of us twenty-somethings can convince our parents that we know that they love us, and that just being together (even in spirit!) means more than any pile of presents ever could. (Not that I didn’t love my Lite-Brite when I was little… but I still have Mom and Dad, and that Lite-Brite is long gone…)

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