Traditions Transition

December 3, 2006

This will be my first Christmas not spent with my parents and siblings. We will be with my in-laws. My parents got us for Christmas last year, so it’s only fair. The thought of my first Christmas away from “home” is making me re-evaluate how I think about the holiday; so is PJ.

My parents are well-to-do, but not wealthy, and they have made it a tradition to go all out on Christmas presents for us four kids. I know they’ve worked up to spending so much, as they couldn’t do as much when we were younger and they made less. It’s been interesting to watch as the gifts have gotten more extravagant over the years and our tastes have grown more expensive as well. We haven’t been privy to the specifics of the family finances, but taking inventory of the gifts on Christmas morning is a great gauge of how well my parents are doing.

When we all started getting married, my parents adopted all our spouses as their own–they’re good about that. My parents now buy for eight kids, not just four. And that’s how they treat it. They don’t buy for four kids and four in-laws, making a differentiation with how much they spend. I love my parents for that.

Unfortunately, that habit gets quite expensive very quickly.

We are now all adults with spouses and our own lives. PJ is the first grandchild, and with his presence, the tradition of gift-giving in my family is forced to transition. There will be many more grandkids to come, and how can my parents afford to continue giving presents to their grandkids like they have to their kids? That is our responsibility, after all, as the parents. My parents have already recognized that fact and will tone down their spending for PJ this year.

But they’re still buying for all eight of us like we’re children still. I wonder when this transition will take place. It seems awkward to have a family tradition where Grandma and Grandpa buy Mommy and Daddy lots and lots of gifts but the grandkids get token gifts. There will come a point when Daddy buys Mommy all the big gifts, and Mommy does the same for Daddy, and the gifts from the grandparents are more simple.

I like getting stuff as much as the next person, so in a way, I’m not looking forward to that future. I know it is inevitable, however. I’m forced to wonder what my parents will do at that point. They obviously love giving so much, and with that much less opportunity to buy awesome gifts, where will that generosity go? I hope at that point they can find as much joy in buying Christmas presents for their grandchildren as they have for us all these years.