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Too Many Christmas Gifts

Last Christmas, somewhere in the 5 a.m. hour, I tried to suck down an entire cup of coffee in one gulp as I watched my two kids wading out into the magic.

The gifts were spread out far and wide, most of them wrapped in Rite Aid wrapping paper: fat Santa Clauses winking from behind a decorated tree (why was he hiding over there?) and silvery snowmen with weirdo guilty looks in their coal hunk eyes (what did you do now, Frosty?). A few of the gifts were too big for the whole paper thing though, and so strewn here and there were the push bike I had assembled for 3-year-old Violet and the big wheel for 1-year-old Henry. The ridiculously cheap kid’s purple-and-pink play tent I’d picked up in a place that mostly sells kitchen gear (red flag, I missed it) was tucked over in the corner.

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The whole scene was just overwhelming, really. Don’t get me wrong: That night it had been pretty cool to drag all this crap downstairs from the attic and wrap it up with a glass of wine following me around. And setting it up under the tree after our kids had hit the hay, that was always something that I look forward to every year now. Who wouldn’t, you know?

Then though, standing here on Christmas morning, I could tell that I’d screwed the whole thing up. I’d taken the holiday, my favorite by far, and somehow managed to mess it up in a way I never even dreamed possible.

See, there was just too much stuff, too many presents under the tree for two tiny kids who didn’t even know where to begin, really. Of course, they were flipping out; it looked like Santa had pretty much spent the entire month of July making presents just for them. But it was all too much, and I knew it the moment my two kids rumbled down the morning steps and flung themselves into the living room.

My wife and me, we’re not really the materialistic kind, so it wasn’t that, really. To be honest, I think I have to take most of the blame for all the gifts. I wanted to feel like I left no stone unturned when it came to the well-rounded 3 or 4 acres of freaking presents I ended up getting the kids.

I got caught up in the consumer tide and, in the process, I ended up getting way too much.

Books, plastic dinosaurs, educational beeping button-y things, stuffed animals, bicycles to ride, more books, balls for all the sports neither one of my children had ever shown any interest in whatsoever, fake fruit, foam swords, tubes of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, tubes of Hershey Kisses, Play-Doh, Silly Putty, Silly Dough, Dough Putty or whatever. I tried to load the underside of the tree up like it was friggin’ Noah's Ark or something, with two of everything under the parenting sun, just because.

The end result was the opposite of what I had dreamed in my stupid little selfish Christmas dream.

My kids unwrapped gifts with a dead-eyed violence, thrashing at the wrapping paper and tossing the bows aside without even a glance—as if they were just leaves covering the kill they’d hidden. Then they’d take one look at whatever was in there, maybe poke at it once or twice, hit a button, make a beep, giggle, and then just drop it on the ground in a desperate attempt to get to the next present.

It wasn’t their fault at all, either, if that’s what you’ve got the dinosaur balls to think.

It wasn’t their fault in any way/shape/form; it was all mine. I’d started shopping for them "early" this year, as in late September, so I was able to buy a few things here and there across a pretty long period of time. The whole shopping thing had become for me, like it does for a lot of parents, I suspect, something I did because it made me feel good for whatever twisted 21st century reason you want to sling at me. I got caught up in the consumer tide and, in the process, I ended up getting way too much.

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Still, what goes around comes around, and by 9 a.m. on Christmas morning, the important players had figured it all out for themselves. By that time everything from mom and dad and Santa and the grandparents and the uncles and aunts had been opened, but Violet and Henry were huddled together in the playroom playing with a castle and a dragon and that’s it.

Everything else had been forgotten by the time that wrapping paper had even hit the floor.

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