Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spoiled -- by Laura Houston

We managed to get through Christmas without acquiring too much stuff for the boys. In fact, I wasn’t going to shop for them at all, but then the week before Christmas my husband was out of town, and I couldn’t sleep. I got up, took a half an ambien, drank a glass of wine (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to mix the two, but I was desperate for sleep, so no lectures), and sat down with my computer. By midnight neither elixir was working. Not even Facebook could lull me into that stupefied sense of boredom that usually brings on REM. Then my email alert let out a happy little bling. I opened it. Hooray! An email with a shopping offer for forty percent off if I bought anything on the toy web site in the next 12 hours.

So I did. And by the time I had filled, sorted and reduced my shopping cart my ambien and wine had kicked in. I hit “purchase,” and fell into a deep, satisfied sleep. The next day my spree was forgotten after changing an endless stream of poopy diapers, timing naps, and getting my crazy toddlers to eat…anything…for God’s sake just eat something! The receipt had found its way into my junk mail folder. Occasionally I thought to myself, huh, I should have taken advantage of that offer.

Four days later a big box showed up. Ah. Yes. It all came back to me as the doorman lugged it out of the package closet and had a porter bring it up to my apartment. I decided to not open it until Christmas so I could be just as surprised as my boys.

“What did you get them?” My husband asked when I rolled the big box into our bedroom.

“I forgot,” I said.

He stopped, thought to ask, and wisely decided against it.

My husband and I don’t exchange gifts. I tell him it’s because we have everything we need, and we are privileged, and we should give the money to a charity, but it’s actually a selfish thing on my part. I hate shopping. I do. And whereas I want my husband to take an extra long lunch break to thoughtfully peruse the jewelry counter at an artistic French boutique in SoHo for the perfect gift for me, I don’t want to as much set foot in a Brooks Brothers or hardware store where I will drive myself insane trying to find just the right present that says to the man in my life, “Gee, honey, you’re swell. Thanks for putting up with my PMS, my insomnia, my experimental cooking, my workout sprees where I make myself so sore I can’t sit up for four days, my fat days, my book hording, my crazy friends who laugh too loudly and drink all of your booze, and my strange sense of humor that you don’t understand but pretend to anyway.”

So no gifts for me on Christmas. But I could at least be surprised. And I was. I had gotten the boys a magnetic erector set, a trampoline, a lady bug tent, and a fairy tale tub toy that was for obviously girls, but it was on sale so what the hell. And I got it all for less than $100. That was the best surprise.

All of the gifts the boys got were great. Bean bags from Grandma. Mobility Assisting Devices (also knows as doll strollers but not in front of my husband, please) from Aunt Julie. Building blocks from my friend Laura. And the big box of stuff I got them.

My husband put it all together and decided that the ladybug tent was too lady like. So he cut holes into a myriad of boxes to create better, longer, cooler tunnels for the boys to crawl through when going in and out of the ladybug. My husband is an engineer, and he can’t leave well enough alone. As it turns out, the tunnels he spent two hours building were too dark and scary for the boys. So he put together the trampoline, which Wyatt would not get off of for an hour, and the boys had a big hair pulling and biting match over who got to sit on it.

Then Lyle learned he could put the beanbag chair in front of the baby gate, climb up on it, and flip himself over the gate, which he did. Of course crying and panic ensued. We pinched his chubby little thighs good and hard to make sure he hadn’t broken his neck and wasn’t paralyzed. He wasn’t, so we gave him some of Aunt Donna’s sugar cookies, and he ran around in circles for two hours while I cooked dinner, which didn’t turn out because I forgot to drain the marinade, so the meat was more boiled than seared.

That night, when our little lumps of joy finally fell asleep, we pulled all of their old toys out of the living room and hid them in the hall closet where they will stay until we can get them to a donation station. The boys have enough. We have enough. If you think about it, we all have enough. And we hope these toys go to some child somewhere who needs them. And when that child and sees the Flying Elmo Plane or the Disney Train or the myriad of balls and toys that make noises that drive mothers all over America crazy, it is my greatest hope they feel loved, they feel cared for, and they feel spoiled. Very spoiled.

Here’s to motherhood, health, and happiness in 2011 for all of us.


Blogger Jackie Shannon Hollis said...


I can totally picture this, all of it. Funny and wonderful and full of the love and chaos of being a mom....

I also have a VERY short tolerance for shopping and was so happy when Bill and I met and immediately agreed we wouldn't exchange b-day or Christmas gifts. Whew. But I do have that French botique fantacy.

11:17 AM  
Blogger TRISTA said...

HA!!! Did they like the fairy tale tub? I love that you recognize that you have a lot, you embrace your "spoils," but you also see how you can extend your "loot" to others (or your boys' loot). No guilt or apology. Lovely story.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Cara Meyers said...

Every year for my son's summer birthday, I "respectfully request" that no gifts be brought to his birthday parties because the "presence of his friends and family" is all he really needs. And every year, well-meaning family and close friends overload my son with gifts. I often hide those gifts I know my son just will not like and load them up the first week in December and bring them to a Toys for Tots drop-off center. I've even tried to have guests bring inexpensive dog toys and treats for my son's birthday a couple years ago, and donated them to the shelter where we adopted one of our dogs. Guests still brought gifts. For dogs and my son.

This year, I kept a few gifts from his birthday that I knew he would enjoy, but saved them to have "Santa" bring them for Christmas! That and a few internet purchases, such as yours, filled the gaps! And all of the toys he had outgrown went to the neighbor across the street who has 2 younger kids but not a lot of money.

As for the Ambien and alcohol...don't sweat it. I've combined worse ;) !!

5:05 PM  

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