I just hung up the phone with a very dear friend who did not have the merriest of Christmases. She was not suffering from over-inflated expectations (more on that in a minute), but it sounds as if there were some unpleasantries exchanged in her family. Exchanging unpleasantries is much different than exchanging gifts and not nearly as joyous. While every situation is different, I know that, for myself, I am usually worn to a frazzle by the time we get to the big day. Over tired, over stressed, over extended. It's a shame, isn't it? We work so hard to make the holidays wonderful for everyone else, that I think we forget about ourselves!
In the expectation department, we have my son, Eric. After my daughter's first Christmas, lo these many years ago (okay, 14), I made a conscious decision to scale down! What I've done is this: each child gets three presents on Christmas morning. One from Mom, one from Dad, and one from Santa. It has really worked well for me for many years. Especially when we've had dips or rises in our income. Fat gifts in fat years, lean gifts in lean years, but always three. Regardless of that plan, I think Eric would always have an immediate letdown. It is his personality. He is not ungrateful, which is what most people would view his meltdown/letdown moment as. He is experiencing a moment of intellectual dichotomy. His expectations are so built up by the time he opens his gifts, that nothing can fulfill those expectations. I always feel sorry for him because for about thirty minutes he is so miserable. It usually hits him after all the gifts are open and the rest of the family heads off to play with their new toys. Everytime this happens, I just try to listen to him and let him get it out so he can past it. I've never tried to "guilt" him out of it, but sometimes it's hard. The thing is, he guilts himself. He's miserable, he's not sure why he is so miserable, and he feels very guilty for not being infused with love and gratitude! We talk about expectations and about how bad it feels to get so worked up that nothing is going to meet the expectation, but it still happens every year. Once he's got it out of his system, he really begins to enjoy his gifts and it isn't long before I'm hearing the heartfelt "thank yous" and getting the hugs. I just wish we could skip the part in the middle!
Eric has always had the more "difficult" temperment. Slow to warm up to people, easily overstimulated, hypersensitive, self-concious. I understand him, because I've been that way myself. It wasn't until high school that I began to be more outgoing. Somewhere along the way I figured out that most people are too busy focusing on themselves to be paying too much attention to you. Once I understood that, it became much easier for me to approach people or jump into class discussions. And what I've found is that people are usually pretty glad that someone took that first step and then they begin to relax. And expectations, Please! I've been the queen of unreasonable expectations! Motherhood does have a way of teaching a person to let them go! Thank goodness! Much better to not live in the future. That way, when you get there, you may be very pleasantly suprised!