Here are some of my feelings about surviving Christmas as a parent: 1) Kids should be told that Santa’s fake, and that his round belly, indicative of low testosterone and possible blood sugar issues, makes it highly unlikely that he would have the stamina to fly around the world and squeeze his big ass down a chimney. 2) My ideal Christmas would be spent in a country where Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, preferably a place with sparse internet service so I could avoid news and fake outrage over the semantics of “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.” (I prefer “Happy Holidays” because it covers a longer period of time and negates the need to reply to mass holiday texts twice in one week.) 3) December 25th is a pretty bad choice of day to celebrate Christmas. For one, Jesus was not really born that day, and since Christmas is largely about buying stuff for kids and making the rich richer–let’s not pretend otherwise–have it sometime in February when many parents have tax refunds in hand. Genius!
But of course, with three little ones and a wife, it ain’t really about my feelings. So each holiday season I hang in there and and try not to show my true colors as DeScrooge Gibson. And man, it was a struggle this year.
I kicked off the holiday season by spending Black Friday at Walmart. Not to buy gifts, just to see the spectacle up close. I lasted about seven minutes. It felt like I was in a crowded nightclub, with a fight brewing over liquor spilled on a new shoe, or, in this case, the last Fingerlings baby monkey. There was no “excuse me” from customers, no “Can I help you find something?” from employees, just a bunch of rude shoppers and fed up workers. It was stereotypical America: loud, excessive, unworried of debt, and obsessing over stuff-stuff-and-more-stuff.
By the start of December my wife was asking how much should we spend on Christmas. I avoided giving a direct answer for like 10 days, subconsciously hoping the holiday would be canceled due to some extreme circumstance. (Thanks for nothing, North Korea.) More time passed and she started to get upset, “Some of the things I have in my Amazon account won’t even make it here by Christmas! We’re waiting too late to buy!” Inside I’m thinking, “Hell yeah!” but I gave in and was like, “Just get what you need to get.” My goal was for us to not spend more than $1,000. But! That $1,000 included gifts, Christmas lights, Christmas dinner, gas money to see family, Christmas cards, and income lost due to decreased productivity…add all that shit up!
Christmas was about a week away and we were still a bit below my $1,000 limit. My sister texted and asked if I was getting our younger brother a Christmas present. I wrote, “Nope! He’s almost 30!” But see, she was really asking if I was getting her a present, which is a more realistic form of the so-called Christmas spirit: People generally get gifts for people who buy gifts for them. My answer was still “Nope!” But the three of us did combine our money to get our parents a hotel stay and dinner in one of America’s most underrated but hippest cities: Columbus, Ohio.
And then tragedy struck. The kids cracked the screen of our newish TV, which was actually the second TV they had cracked in about a week. The first screen broke after being hit by a flying remote control that was thrown during a fight between our two youngest kids. The second, an LED TV with 4k resolution, was intentionally broken by our middle child, who wanted it to look like “a TV in a haunted house.” Man, that boy has an imagination.
Much respect to his creativity, but I had a fit and accidentally gave up the truth about Santa: “I’m taking all your Christmas gifts back to the store so I can buy a new TV!” Oops. Luckily the kids didn’t catch on, or maybe they figured I would sell the toys to the store. Who knows what in the hell goes on in their little complex minds. See, it wasn’t really the cost of the TVs (both were relatively inexpensive “open box” purchases from Best Buy), it was what the TVs meant to us. Binge watching Netflix and Hulu on a high-resolution TV while getting drunk is an important part of our marriage and sex life.
Anyhow, Amber said it wouldn’t be fair to take back their toys, especially for our oldest, who was uninvolved in the crimes. I calmed down and agreed. Christmas would go on as reluctantly planned.
Christmas morning arrived and the kids were going crazy, but in a good way this time. They yelled and ran in place with excitement as they opened toys, even little toys like Pez dispensers, which might as well have been a Playstation to them. And of course they went insane when they saw their big gift, an indoor bounce house designed to keep them occupied and away from us grown folks. As Amber said throughout the holiday season, “It’s magical.” I wouldn’t go that far, but my Scrooge level did decrease while seeing them elated.
Our Christmas ended with a trip up to Cleveland to see my parents and nephews and siblings, minus my older brother who doesn’t like or talk to us anymore. But big bro was there in spirit, as we got some jokes off at his expense. From Dad: “What kind of nigga don’t even call his MOM!” (To be a Gibson is to know that there is no subject that cannot be laughed about.)
Anyhow, my parents got a kick out of having five grandkids under age 7 around for the holidays. I actually enjoyed this Christmas, too, though I still feel the stress in my stomach when I think of the weeks leading up to it.
Also, I bought a new TV the day after Christmas, which I hung to the wall while giving a “Don’t even think about EVER touching it” lecture to the kids. Of course it pushed us way past our holiday budget. But I guess that’s the Christmas spirit.