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Parenting Imperfect

December 10, 2011

The Christmas crunch is getting to be way too much

There are two reasons that I would like to be Canadian.

The first reason is easy access to poutine, which is french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy _ and is the best thing you can eat when the temperature is below freezing and you've lost all feeling below your knees.

The second reason is Thanksgiving in October.

It makes more sense to celebrate this holiday earlier in the year, especially when you live in northern climes. Thanksgiving is about harvests, both spiritual and actual.

By late October, the bulk of our crops are in. Heck, it's usually snowed at least once by then.

But that is merely an intellectual justification for why I truly, deeply in my heart of hearts really want; I deeply desire a few more weeks between the turkey and the Christmas tree.

Rest assured that this column isn't yet another rant about all of the green and red merchandise that hits the shelves just after the black and orange merch is shoved into the clearance bins. Yes, it ticks me off, too, to hear "Jingle Bells" the day after "Monster Mash."

That fight has already been lost. You may as well fight the tide with a teacup.

No, I want to move Thanksgiving so that I have more time to really think about what I should get my kids for Christmas.

If it were up to them, they'd get every single piece of plastic junk that shows up in the commercials wedged between shows on Nick, the Discovery Channel and the Cartoon Network.

While I have no qualms about letting the Diva and the Boy watch television, I have buckets of qualm about them watching the endless ads, if only because they then ask for the latest iteration of Mario or Polly.

In the long run, I know that the commercials are good for them because they will learn that nothing is ever as wonderful as it is made to seem by those who are selling it.

Capitalism requires educated (and jaded) consumers.

In the short run, the kids are driving me crazy pointing out all of the gifts that they'd like.

When the Diva was younger, we made a deal.

Rather than tell me whenever she saw something she wanted Santa to bring her, she only tell me when she saw something that she most definitely did not want. I'd simply take it as a given that she wanted everything her eyes fell on unless informed otherwise.

This worked until her brother was old enough to want things, too.

She realized that there was no way I could keep both sets of demands straight unless I was reminded who wanted what every 10 minutes.

The Diva is nothing if not persistent.

My kids don't actually need more stuff.

They have plenty to play with, most of which winds up on their respective bedroom floors because neither can be bothered to put anything away, which is another column for another day.

And also is about as effective as the aforementioned battle with the tide.

They have so much stuff that I frequently have to cull the toys that are outgrown or unloved to find a home for the new toys, which is a truly First World problem and one that we are blessed to have.

In a perfect world, I'd only give my kids new experiences for Christmas. We'd spend a full year on mini-trips to wherever the urge takes us.

Which is not a practical plan, nor can it be wrapped.

Still, given a choice, I would only buy the gifts that they really want, rather than the ones that they ask for out of habit because they've just seen a flashy commercial.

The only way to figure out which gifts those are is to listen to them for more than a few weeks to see what keeps coming up.

Listening is hard, however, in the short weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we all try to bake the cookies/do the shopping/deck the halls/grade the finals.

There's not a whole lot of time leftover to sit and talk to each other, which is a crying shame.

Right now the kids are simply primed to respond to every last toy targeted at them because the holiday is breathing hotly down their necks, too. They are just as wound up as the grown-ups are.

While this level of excitement can be sustained for three weeks, I don't think it could be sustained for six, which would mean the two weeks before Christmas would be relaxed and quiet.

The easiest answer would be to simply start my holiday prep earlier, no matter what the calendar might say.

But it's hard to think about Christmas until Thanksgiving has passed, just like it's hard to eat a dish of poutine in July.

Or so I believe.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest." Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.

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