For the last couple of weeks I have seen the same photo buzz around the internet. The same sentiment about not spoiling your children this Christmas. 4 presents, and 4 presents only. I believe it started from the American blogger Dandee Designs in 2009 and so many since have shared this very respectful motto.
I've seen it shared and liked countless times but I can't bring myself to like it. Because that would be a complete lie. I guess I fall into the spoiling camp and I am here jumping in with both feet. It can be a dirty word on social media to admit you are going to spoil your children rotten this Christmas. I have bags full of presents up in the loft, some of which I bought at nearly new sales 4 years ago!
Every time I see a photo of a fireplace filled with birthday balloons and piles of presents I click the like button. It resonates so much with me that you want to create that magical moment, those photos in front of a stack of goodies, a toothy grin with no real interest with what's inside. Just at that moment, they feel so special. And it's not really the number of presents behind them, I know that, it's the effort and attention and adoration.
Just because my children will walk into a room with a stocking bursting with presents, doesn't necessarily mean I've spent a fortune. I am and have always been a bargain hunter. And I value time just as much as something plastic you can unwrap that makes their eyes pop out of their sockets with glee and breaks after 5 minutes. I scour charity shops, and car boot sales, I've been lucky to have opportunities through my blog and I've worked silly hours this year to earn every penny I can. There are holidays or toys that lots of children could only dream of that have become almost normal to our boys through this blog. But I don't see that as a bad thing. I see that as an opportunity to teach them to be more appreciative, more grateful, and realise how lucky they are.
The boys have no clue whether something is new to them or brand new. And they simply don't care. I know this won't last forever, that I'm sure we will have peer pressure at school to contend with in the coming years, when presents seem to get smaller but simultaneously get more expensive.
But spoiling comes in lots of forms. Our boys eat at restaurants with us, they have nice clothes, nice toys and I know full well there are people less fortunate and more fortunate than we are. We periodically clear out their bookcase and toy baskets, deciding which can go to the charity shop for other children to enjoy.
I am very aware we have a jam packed Christmas, with friends and family starting tomorrow.
The school Christmas Fayre.
Ah if you haven't been to one be prepared. I adore them, I love the build up, the excitement of the children - like it's THE big social event in their little calendars. The helping, the donating, the browsing and the buying. The boy's school will have a number of local businesses selling their wares - shop local has never been so prominent in our daily social media existence and I for one will be armed with pennies to support those who have taken the time to prepare their stalls, who will spend a day of their precious time loading their boots, unpacking and dressing their stands and smiling nicely at everyone who just passes by without making eye contact. Well hopefully not but you know what I mean!
We have weekend treats with best pals coming up. Our annual Christmas treat with Samy's sweetheart and a new year weekend away with our best chums from Weston. All of which will cost money, but money we have worked so hard to earn this year.
Everything is relative. And when you are immersed in the world of social media all those lines are blurred. What is expensive to one is a drop in the ocean to another. And neither is right or wrong.
All week I have been completely touched with the photos and this post which I read this evening. When I started the Surprise Project I didn't want it to be about money. I wanted it to quite purposely be about thoughtfulness and kindness. A guide of £5 compared to the three/four and more times the budgets of other parcel swaps around the world.
Spoiling someone doesn't have to be about money.
I am counting down the days until the 1st December, I have bought two (rather extravagant as advent calendars go) Lego calendars for my Lego obsessed boys. I don't want to feel like I can't share a photo of their happy faces on social media, to my friends and family on my Facebook page.
I know it's not something they need, it's not even something they want, it's something I want to give them.
Not because they've asked, or written it on a list, (incidentally, their list comprises one thing - The Uggly Pet Shop series which features the rather charming surprise poo, which we should not get confused with the Surprise Project) but because I want to give it to them. They deserve it and have helped me earn the money to pay for it. They have smiled and made all sorts of craft projects, they have climbed trees in the background during photo shoots - not such a hard task but still!
I think the real motto of this Christmas, and any Christmas is that we do what is right for our children, our family unit. What's right for one won't be a blueprint for another, and whether you wrap 4 or 40 presents this year, make sure you take a mental note of that moment when they feel like the luckiest child in the world. Beaming back at you.
I love finding little things, collecting ideas through the year. My sister does the same, rather than buying it all at once in December. For me I get as much pleasure buying as I do seeing them open it!
I relish the simple things, I make time for them to literally stop and smell the roses in the garden. I love pottering, watching them make potions in buckets with mud and leaves, treasuring simple pleasures. But I also want to indulge them.
Because these days are so short, maybe I should work less, use after school club less, every day I could wrangle with parental guilt! I'm just trying to do my best, we all are. My house is more often than not upside down, I've well and truly commandeered the light filled conservatory as a photo studio instead of the playroom that I promised it to be. But if Christmas isn't the excuse to go a little over board then when is it?!
ps. this might just be the first non photo post in a very long time. Normal service will resume tomorrow!