Lost in the Baby Section at Christmas

I did something crazy yesterday. I let the checker at Fred Meyer think I had a close connection to the baby for whom I was buying a Christmas present, a piece of clothing I hope his foster mother, my niece, will like. And please God let it fit. We joked about how he was too young to be “running around” in it, and he wouldn’t be able to speak his objections because he doesn’t talk yet. Ha, ha. Happy grandma me, right? The checker doesn’t know me. I could be a loving grandmother happily buying gifts for my little guy.

As if. I am so lost in the baby section. I don’t know what sizes to get, what’s easy to put on and what’s not, what will last and what will fall apart or be outgrown in a month. I bought some books for my great-niece because my sister-in-law says she’s a big reader, but I don’t know what books she already has. I don’t know what books are appropriate for a two-year-old. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’m about as comfortable in the baby department as I am at the hardware store. In both places, I’m sure somebody’s going to figure out I don’t belong and chase me away.

Baby stuff is cute. All those tiny outfits and all those clever toys. I was charmed by a big rabbit with buttons all over. When you push each one, it says something different: “Ouch, my ear.” “Rub my tummy. Etc.” I was sure the baby would love that, but he might already have one or somebody closer might already be buying him one. Plus it was expensive.

In past years with other babies, I have given books, crocheted animals, cuddly toys, rattles, little outfits . . . I have never been the one at Christmas or at baby showers to give the “big gifts,” the strollers, high chairs, christening outfits, stuff like that. No, that goes to the moms, grandmas, and godparents Nor do I give the useful gifts that only moms seem to know about, that lifesaving cream or the only toy that stopped their baby from crying.

Once, back in the hippie days, I made this wild-colored onesie thing out of granny squares that the child, who’s about 50 now, probably never wore. It was probably terribly uncomfortable, and it probably never fit. One spit-up, and it would be ruined. I didn’t know. I saw a crochet pattern and went for it. I’m like the character in “Gone with the Wind” who shrieks, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout babies!”

A lot of you probably do know babies from babysitting jobs, taking care of siblings, or helping with the babies of friends and family, but somehow I never spent much time around babies once I stopped being one myself. So now here I am about to start collecting Social Security and I’m still clueless about little ones. All my references are from my own childhood.

Even if you do know about babies, how do you negotiate the gifts for other people’s kids without buying something the parents will hate, something the child already has, or something that is totally inappropriate? Is it okay to just send money and let somebody else pick out the gift?

Let’s talk about this in the comments. Share your experiences and suggestions for dealing with the Christmas gift dilemma.

I await your comments.

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Christmas and a new year still childless

Another year is ending. Time to look at where we have been and where we are going. I’m going to repeat some of my words from last year because they still apply. I’ll just change the date. If we didn’t do it in 2016, 2017 offers another chance.

Let’s make 2017 the year we don’t waste a minute with what ifs, the year we live each precious moment consciously and with gratitude for the gifts we have right now, whether it be a person, a pet, a job, a home, or coffee and donuts.

I’m excited about a new year. I hope you are, too. I ask two things of you all in 2017. First, if you have been dithering for years about the whole baby-partner thing, resolve it this coming year. Talk about it, pray about, think about it, make a decision and move on. Might you change your mind later? Of course. But for now, stop torturing yourself. Either accept your situation or make the leap to a new one.

Second, tell us what happened. We get so many comments here from people who are in crisis, who don’t know what to do, who are considering leaving their partners, who feel like they can’t bear their grief, but we rarely hear the rest of the story. Please, if you have commented before, send us a follow-up. We want to know how things turned out. If you would like, I can offer you the whole blog space to tell your story.

That’s what I said last year. Of course saying and doing are two different things. I also promised myself that this Christmas I would not get depressed, I would not get myself worked up over not getting presents, I would not weep over the family I don’t have. Well, I’ll try again in 2017. I spent most of Christmas feeling ridiculously sorry for myself. There were some good reasons: the pellet stove that heats my house died on Dec. 22 and is still sitting there like a cold lump of metal, awaiting parts; my financial situation is not great; my aunt sent fruitcake when I was hoping for a real present, and my brother’s present got lost in the mail; as choir director, I had to sing the Christmas Day Mass alone because my singers were off with their kids and grandkids; and I got a flat tire on Christmas Day. Dead husband, disowned by the stepkids, far from my birth family celebrating together in California. I stared at my pitiful little fake tree and sobbed. Poor me.

But with a little perspective, I can see that I spent most of the weekend with friends at church or at their home, I got some nice gifts from my church buddies (and a boatload of chocolate), my Christmas tree is cute, and I’m better off than a lot of people I know. I do not have cancer. I have a good house, plenty of food, steady income, work I love, and a fabulous dog who adores me. I also have all of you.

I can see that I need to work a little harder on bringing people into my life and including them in mine. I tend to be a workaholic hermit, but that’s not healthy. When people have spouses, children and grandchildren, they have a built-in family and community with which to share their lives. But when we’re on our own, we need to build our own communities or get used to the solitude.

Having children is no guarantee of Christmas cheer anyway. My closest friend’s kids were not available for the holidays and one didn’t send a card or gift and was not answering his phone. My physical therapist who just moved here from Utah was on her own because she’s divorced and her kids were with their dad. She said she valued having time to herself, which doesn’t happen very often. Another friend was snowed in with his dog, couldn’t get to his family.

You make the best of what you’ve got. And if you have to cry a little bit, that’s okay.

So how did you make out this Christmas? And what are your plans for the new year? Let’s talk.

 

 

Antidotes to the Childless Christmas Blues

So, we’re drowning in Christmas. Even if you’re not Christian, it’s pretty hard to avoid the deluge of holiday music, TV specials, ads telling you to shop, shop, shop, and kids lining up in front of Santa to make their demands. The month is full of obligations. Send out cards; decorate; buy, wrap and send gifts; bake goodies for parties, gift exchanges, and bazaars; and do it all while the weather outside is just as frightful as it says in the song. Here in western Oregon, we’re underwater and getting battered by high winds, but the clock keeps ticking toward Dec. 25 anyway. I don’t know about you, but I just want to be teleported to another planet where it’s sunny and warm, and nobody gives a fig about Christmas.

What does all this have to do with being childless? I don’t know. Maybe that there’s no magic in the season without children, for whom all of this is new and exciting. Instead of a burden, it’s the most magical time of the year. Maybe Christmas shopping would be more fun if you were doing it for a child who will be ecstatic over his gift instead of aging adults who already have all the trinkets they can handle. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Yes, I have the Christmas blues. Too many rejections of my writing. Too many dark windy days with nothing to look forward to but a break in the rain to go outside to clean my gutters and pick up fallen branches. A sister-in-law who wants to stop exchanging gifts between me and her family. A step-great-granddaughter shown on Facebook praying to Santa, folded hands, amen and all, as if Santa were God. I can’t do anything to help her understand that there’s a real God and He isn’t Santa Claus because I have never met the child and probably never will. A wacko new priest who cancelled my singing with the kids at church tonight. The outside Christmas lights I was so proud of putting up not working now and I can’t figure out why. Daily pictures of my cousin with his wife and kids on a sunny beach in Mexico.

Maybe you feel the same way, but we have to find the light somewhere.  There’s this. My church, like many, puts out a holiday giving tree with tags for gifts desired by children and senior citizens who might not otherwise get any Christmas presents. Setting aside the whiny thought that my name should be on that tree because I may not get any presents, I perused the tags and chose an old lady named Gladys. I enjoyed shopping for Gladys yesterday. I avoided the kid tags because I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to buy. But next year, I think I should pick up a handful of them and adopt myself a family of poor children to shower with gifts the way I would my own if I had them. I’m not exactly overflowing with money, but if these children were mine, I would find the funds to make sure they had something good under the Christmas tree.

You can do that, too. Somebody somewhere is seeking gifts for poor families.

I think about my “Gramma” Rachel, who was actually my dad’s stepmother. His real mother died when I was a baby, so I don’t remember her. Rachel, who never had children of her own, was the only Fagalde grandmother I knew. She sent her seven step-grandchildren and four nieces and nephews packages of crazy gifts she had accumulated over the year: a sea shell, a book, a hair ornament, a coin purse, a cassette tape, a newspaper clipping with her favorite passages underlined. Not one thing advertised on TV or sold at Toys R Us, but all chosen with love and very little money. I loved these boxes, and I loved the fact that when she and Grandpa came for dinner on Christmas, Rachel went straight to us kids to see all our presents and talk about what was new in our lives. Mind you, our parents thought she was annoying and a little nuts, but we kids loved her, and I credit her with inspiring a lot of my writing and music today.

Rachel was married three times, but she never gave birth. I don’t know why. I never asked. By the time she married my grandfather, she was probably too old. But I didn’t think much about it because she was my grandma. I didn’t care about anything else.

Of course Rachel didn’t have to compete with a living mother and grandmother. She took over where Grandma Clara left off when she died at 58 of heart disease. But maybe somehow, some way, whether it’s through helping underprivileged people or showering young family members and stepchildren with special gifts, we can make this holiday season easier for them and for us.

There’s a way to make this time of year easier, if we look hard enough.

Okay, I feel better. Maybe I can make a wreath out of those fallen branches. After all, my home is surrounded by real Christmas trees.

How are you faring this holiday season? Please share in the comments.