Hum Bawbag

23 Dec

I don’t think my kids are particularly spoilt possession wise. We don’t have a big house, they don’t have a bedroom each, we don’t have the space to accommodate an awful lot of stuff. Not really. The two bedrooms I squeeze my three children into are littered with books, paper, pens, pencils, paint, Lego and board games. Alongside stuffed toys and Hot Wheels you’ll find the usual teenage totems, iPods, make-up, jewelry, straighteners, dryers, curlers…. you get the picture. The iPods are Nanos, their phones are the cheapest contract available, we fling them hand-me-down digital cameras and the boys only have the PS2 as we bought a PS3 for the main TV since it was half the price of a BluRay player.

Our one extravagance is that they all have their own laptop.

Overall I don’t think we go daft.

And for most of the year, when I see what their friends at school have, I know for a fact we don’t go daft.

Until Christmas when I really start to doubt myself.

I’ve been flitting around online communities since my first forays into AOL in 1997. As well as AOL I’ve tinkered with Usenet, Yahoo and Google groups, Skynet (nah just kidding!), joined several EZBoard communities and made some long lasting friendships through fansites and message boards along the way. Through The Open University I have encountered some of the whackiest and most diverse forums I’ve found anywhere. I’ve had this blog for a couple of years now and I’ve been reading others for considerably longer. In all those 12 years I’ve yet to stumble on a parent who will admit to spending much more than £50 on their child at Christmas.

It’s actually quite competitive and one of those perennial discussions that usually starts around October. Wherever parents gather together someone, at some point, will ask… “So how much do you budget for Christmas?”.

The first time I encountered this discussion I watched from the sidelines as parent after parent told tale of stockings filled with wooden toys and fruit and one large toy, the lot costing no more than £50.

I just bit my tongue knowing full well I couldn’t do the stockings, wrapping paper and sweets for much less than that, never mind anything else.

Over the years the drive to be seen to be spending less has forged on, £30, £20…. (OK we are getting silly now yes?)… until in 2009 we have finally reached £0.

This competitive anti-consumerism seems to occur predominantly in the middle-class, or at least with those who think they are middle-class. I have a rather Marxist view of of class structure and so long as I don’t own the means of production I will always consider myself working class. The poor patsy who starts the discussion usually ends up portrayed as some decadent wastrel who compensates their lack of parenting skills and/ or education by showering their child with meaningless, vulgar, expensive trinkets. Presumably down to that £150 bike Santa’s bringing. They are often cut down by a barrage of parents vying to proclaim that they can create a better, nay worthier Christmas experience on tuppence-ha’penny and a bag of nuts.

This practice has now peaked with the arrival of the “Totally Homemade No Added Shop Crap Christmas”. Conveniently ignoring the cost of materials (I am not fooled, I know it costs at least 5 times more to KNIT a cardigan for my daughter than it does to just buy one) parents the length and breadth of t’internet are eschewing Toys’R’Us and proclaiming (with bells on) that they are making all their Christmas gifts this year. I imagine this is because they love their family and I, by definition, think mine are a bunch of twats. It’s the impression I sometimes get.

Now this could be down to the fact that I myself am pretty pants at making things. I remember as a child spending much time and effort making all sorts of decorated cardboard things to hold other things in and painting and gluing and glittering a whole mess of stuff for my parents. They still have some of them. They are meaningful, they are cherished. I know this and would love to regain that utter oblivion in the face of imperfection that only a child can enjoy. But the stuff I make now (much like the stuff I made then if I am honest) is pretty shit. Except my knitting. I knit good, but wool is expensive. I think home-made gifts are wonderful, I’m in awe of anyone who has the talent and time to home-make anything. I’m pure dead jealous and you all make me puke OK?

In some of the communities I frequent I know that the desire to not come out and say that you spend £2,000 at Christmas is a direct result of knowing that there are members of the community who are not in a financial position to spend that sort of money on frivolities.

So why do the “Well we’re certainly not spending any more than £10 on each child” brigade piss me off so much? Is it because I know they have more than £10? Is it because I know there are families out there who would give anything to have that much to spend on each of their children this Christmas? Is it because I suspect, strongly, that they will spend more than £10 and are just blowing a lot of hot air?

Probably that last one.

So Hum Bawbag to the competitive minimalisation of Christmas.

Normal service will be resumed in 2010, which at long last is being referred to as “Twenty-Ten” rather than the mouthful of syllables we’ve  had to rattle our teeth round for the last nine years – this makes me smile.

Always end with a smile.

xmassmile

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8 Responses to “Hum Bawbag”

  1. kelli December 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    I have to admit that I haven’t encountered that kind of anti-consumerism. But I’m with you. That whole ‘blowing hot air’ would be my take on it, too. I just have a hard time believe anyone can spend NOTHING on Christmas. I mean, come on.

    As for that pic, I LOVE IT! What great smiles! 🙂 I wish for you and yours a merry and blessed Christmas! So glad you visited my place so that I was able to discover yours! 🙂

  2. Kelly December 23, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    No competitive minimalism here. I do have a friend who persists in pretending that her family doesn’t make a “big deal” about Xmas (because they would rather make a big deal about the births of ACTUAL people, she says), but I know she is a liar and I’m pretty sure she knows I know. I am a blatant spoiler of my child and have never set a budget. Of course, I don’t have to worry about spreading the wealth amongst siblings. This year I will downplay the volume of loot to certain family, because they really need to believe we are desperately poor. It makes them feel better for some strange reason.

    Great Christmas photo, by the way. Andrew’s fringe may be a bit sacrilegious tho. I’ll be praying for him to see again in the New Year 😉

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Dan December 23, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

    We say we will spend £100 on each child, but end up spending a little more than that. We don’t spend much on food and stuff because we go to various parents and eat all theirs 🙂

  4. Erin @ Fierce Beagle December 23, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    Thanks for this. Now I feel like I have permission to not consider myself a total ass for failing to bake organic, gluten-free treats for all my neighbors and hand-whittle toys of found birchwood for my son.

  5. cartside December 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm #

    great post, oh I have so much to add to this, I won’t take over your comment box but try and write a blog post about it – if I can manage between all the hand making (only joking).

  6. Slugs on the Refrigerator December 24, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    This post really made me chuckle. I remember when I first started blogging and reading in the simple/green parenting blogs (which I also firmly am!!) about all of the beautiful things people made with beautiful fabric and yarn. One day, I exclaimed to DH that I couldn’t understand what I’d been doing wrong. They all had such lovely materials whilst I had to scrimp and save to buy a metre of fabric or make do with charity shop junk. He pointed out that the spent a lot of money on it…oh and they didn’t work and had lots of family help so the pesky children weren’t in the way. It was def a lightbulb moment for me who thought they were all as broke as we are.

  7. George's Mum December 24, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    I agree with a lot of what you said however, I really am broke and I have made everything- my total Christmas gift supply spend is £55 for everyone because it’s mainly food gifts. There were a lot of other things that I wanted to make so much but I just couldn’t afford the fabric/supplies for, so I know exactly what you mean about the cost- there are people making stuff but spending fortunes on supplies so it would have been more economic to just buy gifts.

    It’s weird how it gets turned into a big competition- you should be able to do whatever the hell you want whether that be spending £1 per head or £1000 per head!!! It’s your money and family!! (If I could afford a £1000 per head I probably wouldn’t have bothered covering my house in PVA glue and caster sugar!!!)

  8. Marylin December 26, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    Well, I remember the last few years I really couldn’t afford to buy the boys more than about £50 worth of toys, and that was both of em together!
    This year though I think I spent about £350ish. For me that’s a lot. If I had more cash though? I’d be spending it! 😉

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