The Therapist Takes Her Own Advice: Confessions of a Grinchy Mom

It’s that time of year again. Time to trim the trees, light the menorahs and buy gifts for the holidays.

I have a confession to make. Though I love the holiday season, I’ve become increasingly anxious about gift giving and receiving. It’s true. You might say that makes me a Grinch, but the whole idea of buying gifts that people neither want nor need frustrates me. The idea of receiving gifts I neither want nor need frustrates me more.

I think this anxiety harkens back to my childhood when Christmas morning was ruined by a gift that went horribly wrong. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say don’t give your partner a donation to their school for their primary gift unless you know that is what they really want. To be fair, the receiver of this gift could have helped her cause by telling the giver what she might like for Christmas in the first place.

So now when people don’t tell me what they want, I get annoyed. I’m terrible at just choosing something. I do not need the pressure of trying to guess what someone else wants for the holidays.

But what am I going to do? I’ve tried suggesting that we only give gifts to the kids. That backfired when everyone else showed up with “just a little something” for everyone when I didn’t get them anything. I felt horrible.

Don’t even get me started on the children. It seems every year my kids get very excited about some hot new toy. Every year in my quest to insure they have a happy holiday, I get said toy, and inevitably it is tossed aside almost immediately.

This year, I thought it would be nice if we give the kids experiential gifts (acting classes, show tickets, etc.). But the moment I mentioned this idea, my kids and my husband looked at me like my heart was 3 sizes too small.

I’m not trying to steal Christmas, I’m just trying to be reasonable. I want to lessen the notorious holiday stress that everyone talks about. Plus, I don’t want my kids to think the holidays are all about presents. At the same time, I don’t want to be a Grinch.

The fact is I’m not alone, so many people get stressed out during the holidays for whatever reason. I just want this season to be about spending time together and less about the gifts. Still, I don’t want to be a humbug. I want my kids to have fun.

So this year I will compromise. The kids will get a combination of presents under the tree and experiential gifts. The adults have agreed to do Secret Santa so I only have to worry about guessing for one person…yay! And I will find things to do as a family to celebrate the holidays that don’t involve presents.

Everyday I will remind myself of how excited I got as a child during December. I loved the decorations, the smells and the sounds. I also loved the process of exchanging gifts. If we all are mindful of the holiday wonder we experienced as a children, maybe we can recapture some as an adult. Here are some holiday stress busting tips to that may help, too.

Deep down I know that gift giving is done in the spirit of love and generosity, and without any malice whatsoever. My young sons still believe in the magic of the holidays, and I don’t want my Grinchiness to ruin that for them.