“We aren’t getting the kids gifts this year.”
I’m on the phone with my mother-in-law, and she is silent.
Now that I say it, it sounds kind of heartless so I go on, “You know because they get so many presents from everyone else.”
Now I’m in a hole. Does she think I’m saying relatives should buy all the gifts so my husband and I can spend more on Christmas mimosas? Uh oh.
I only meant the kids have more than enough.
No matter how often we tell our relatives we’d prefer secondhand gifts or experiences or no gifts at all. No matter how much I explain I’m a minimalist and our house is small or that plastic is going to kill us.
No matter what, Christmas morning is inevitably filled with plastic wrap, batteries, and shiny new toys.
I can’t change it, I can only adjust my involvement accordingly, so my involvement is now zero.
My husband says to his mom, “We’ll probably get one present from us and put ‘From Santa’ on it.”
“No, we will not,” I say.
There is silence.
I hope she doesn’t think we’re entering an existential discussion on the meaning of Santa right now.
I didn’t realize this was such a big issue. I didn’t realize I felt so strongly.
I love the magic, but I don’t push the magic.
The kids love Santa. My son asks questions constantly.
“How old is Santa, Mom?”
“How old do you think he is, babes?”
“That sounds right.”
“Does Santa die, Mom?”
“What do you think?”
I love the story on social media about how to tell the kids there’s no Santa when they’re older. It says to tell them Santa is in all of us—he’s our generosity, our surprise, the magic we share with our community. Instead of zero Santa, we teach our kids there’s exponential Santa. I like the math.
My mother-in-law continues, “So how do you want to do it, do you put presents out before Christmas or all on Christmas morning?”
“Oh, we’ll just put the presents my mom sent under the tree Christmas morning and say Santa delivered them for the kids. Like the USPS overnight from Pittsburgh!”
The kids will be surprised, delighted, and they won’t care which one is from who.
They won’t see gifts exchanged between adults because my husband already got me the skincare supplies I ordered last week and I got him a round of golf for our vacation later this year. Our love language is time, not things.
I tell my mother-in-law how I feel: Christmas day is about playing Skip-Bo and ice skating. It’s about driving around to look at lights while listening to Christmas music and eating candy canes. It’s family walks and funny cocktails. It’s about laughing with each other, getting annoyed with each other, and loving each other.
Christmas is not about gifts and I want my kids to know that early and firmly.
Santa is the USPS and I’m sticking to it.