Wellness Pearls

10 December 2018

My Father’s Toy Store Created a Pile of Unchecked Expectations

When I was growing up, I was one of six kids and my father owned a toy store in Hackensack, New Jersey. What I learned as a teenager, was that his leftover inventory became our Christmas presents. While I slept, the delivery truck from his store would back up the driveway late Christmas Eve. What I remember most was the volume of presents, each of the six of us would have a huge mound of gifts. Mostly oddball toys, that were often bad ideas: stilts, minibikes and Barbie mathematician, to name a few. My father would have worked for 30 straight days and when the Christmas shopping season was over, he would be around and far more relaxed. So, emotionally I fused Christmas with a huge pile of presents and a relaxed father. I realize now that what I valued most was having the adults in the house relaxed along with traditions that I could count on.
Sadly, I took all of this into my own kids experience by mindlessly making sure they too had a huge “pile” on Christmas morning. It is hard to break away from the expectation of a “pile”. Reflecting on the holidays, and if I could give advice to myself as a young mother, this is what it would be:

  • Radically simplify, which requires asking what we want from the holiday season. What makes sense and what makes us crazy? Is what I am doing also what I value or I am setting myself up for frustration, crazymaking and/or resentment?
  • Create white space: Traditions must be flexible, or they begin to suffocate when we remain too rigid. I would consider the holidays a time to STOP and have free time, go hiking or connect with friends we rarely get to see.
  • The 3 gifts: I would have started from the very beginning getting each child three gifts that showed I put thought into what makes them feel loved. A need, a want, and a book. Since I created the expectation of the “pile” it is fraught as I try to de-escalate. To mix a metaphor, the road to hell is paved with expectations.

Happy Holidays to You and Yours.
If you are one of the millions of people who may be feeling lonely or grief-filled, my wish is that you notice the chorus of kind people all around this harsh world and to remember that despair is universal and not everlasting.

3 Responses

  1. Kris Brust

    I absolutely love reading your blog. It’s a priority I greatly enjoy when they come through. Thank you for sharing — and this one on Christmas was especially pertinent. :)

  2. Dave Mittman, PA,

    You can only know what you have been taught. And what our parents teach us is mixed with emotion and love, however they were given. That’s why traditions are so hard to change.
    Thanks for the reminders on slowing down and giving people what they would want. Quality, not quantity.
    Have a great Christmas.

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