Social Question

Petticoatbetty's avatar

Have you ever had a 'lean' Christmas?

Asked by Petticoatbetty (285points) December 5th, 2014

I was somewhat spoiled around Christmas time, as a child. My kids, unfortunately, have never been that lucky. Last year was rough, like barely a tree and string of lights and one present each, but good food. This year I’m trying to make some gifts, but it’s likely to be not that impressive either. For those that celebrate Christmas, or similar holidays, what was it like for you when it wasn’t that great?
*Also any ideas would be appreciated.

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27 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

Make good for one hug coupons. Good for one freedom from time out. ect…

Petticoatbetty's avatar

I am crocheting some amigurumi toys for the smaller kids. I made an apron and am working on a chef’s hat for my daughter. My oldest son is the hardest to deal with because my ex husband gets him game systems usually, which I don’t approve of, but can’t do anything about it.

anniereborn's avatar

It’s been like that for me for a good ten years. I only buy for my husband and mom anymore. And those presents aren’t much.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I haven’t had a great Christmas since I was a kid. My husband and I don’t decorate or buy gifts for anyone, and everyone we know is too broke to buy gifts for anyone but kids, so it’s an anticlimactic holiday at best. Once we have kids, we’ll put more effort into it. For now, it just seems like a waste of money.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

Growing up all my Christmases were “lean” with four sisters and one brother money was tight.
My own children never had a lean Christmas since I made up for what I didn’t have. My grandchildren have no clue whatsoever what a lean Christmas is. I go so over board with them at Christmas that it is ridiculous.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m Jewish. There weren’t many gifts when I was very little. My mom says they did the eight day gift thing a couple of years, but some days it was just candy or something very inexpensive. Just something to open. I don’t remember getting a gift every night at all. That isn’t really what is done on Chanukah, it’s just what developed to compete with Christmas.

My parents hadn’t bought the gift for each night, it was their gifts and other relatives. As I got older we were given money, which is actually more of the tradition of Chanukah.

I don’t know how old your kids are, but the “magic” of Santa is part of the deal for young kids, and I think just one gift magically appearing is thrilling for them.

Also, as an adult I don’t go through the disappointment and blues I hear so many adults talk about during Christmas, because I don’t have an outlandish expectation of what the holidays are supposed to be. I never feel like I need to go into hock, because society decided gifts should be given on certain days.

And, what about Jesus? I don’t know if you are religious, but why is the commercialism of Christmas more important than the reason for the holiday? I’m not assuming anything about you in particular when it comes to the holiday or your religious beliefs, I’m only saying the holidays, holy days, are there in my opinion representing our religion, our people, tradition, and a time to reflect. That’s how I look at it anyway.

Are your gifts Santa gifts or you give them directly to the kids?

Blondesjon's avatar

If you all have good food and good fun then that’s all Christmas needs to be.

funkdaddy's avatar

We had really “lean” Christmases when I was young. I didn’t know any different and my parents never made it about what we were lacking, so it was always my favorite holiday.

As an example, one year we ran out of propane to heat our trailer on Christmas morning, so we all wore our coats and pajamas with a lantern for a little heat. Everyone crawled into my parent’s bed and we’d run out, grab one present, bring it back, and watch whoever open it. I didn’t know it was anything but fun until later.

So I think for your small kids, just love them and do what you can. Go through your family’s traditions and make sure they know where they come from. It’s really not about the gifts anyway, the “impressive” part is having everyone together and focused on each other without anything else for that morning. I know it sounds corny. But honestly I don’t remember what I got the Christmas I mention above.

I understand how it can be harder to pull that off for your older son, it sounds like he has something he’ll be comparing Christmas at your house to, maybe? What if you involved him in doing something for his younger siblings? You’d know if it would work out or not, and if he’d feel grown up or burdened, but if he was in on planning something for them it might make the day special in another way. My dad usually involved my brother and I in his gift for my mom, and now I remember those plans more than whatever toy I got on a specific year. Something like beds or a carrier for the animals, or a printed out cook book of family recipes for the chef could get him involved.

Handmade gifts are some of the most special and memorable. It sounds like you’ve got some really good plans, your young kids will pick up on whether you are feeling disappointed or not, so I’d just say have fun with it and feel great about what you’re able to do.

ibstubro's avatar

@funkdaddy is the man on this one.

Christmas is what you make it.

“your young kids will pick up on whether you are feeling disappointed or not, so I’d just say have fun with it and feel great about what you’re able to do.”

kritiper's avatar

A lean Christmas?? In my family there were 8 kids. One particular lean year we only had one string of lights on the tree and only 4 bulbs on that string worked!

longgone's avatar

The gifts for the young ones sound great, I’m sure they’ll be fine.

For your oldest, could you create some kind of adventure? There are things children long for which don’t cost a dime. For one birthday, I gave my sister a box full of adventures: A snowball fight, a campfire with bread-on-a-stick, a night under the stars…things like allowing him to make the decisions for a whole day would work too. Is there anything you guys fight about frequently? Give him the gift of backing off there, if possible. Is he stressed at times? Give him the gift of a day free from chores and schoolwork. Are there any rules he hates? Give him a day of freedom from those. Does school get exhausting? Give him a day off from school no-one needs to know!

For some kids, just writing them a letter is a wonderful present. My dad did that for me, and I loved it. I write letters to my sister now, telling her why I’m proud of her and what she’s achieved – great memories later, and a self-esteem boost now.

@funkdaddy A thousand GAs!

JLeslie's avatar

I just read the gifts you are making and they sound wonderful. I don’t even think your kids will feel like it is a lean year. Those really will look like they are from Santa’s workshop made by special hands.

ucme's avatar

I watched The Bridge on the River Kwai one xmas eve, Ryan’s Daughter too, not sure if that counts.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

My parents weren’t rich. They weren’t desperately poor but money was in short supply. We always had good food on the table and presents under the tree, but presents might be some nice smelling shampoo or toothpaste with maybe one or two ‘real’ presents. I never felt disadvantaged or that I went without. Which is great credit to my parents because they really weren’t rolling in cash.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Spent many lean Christmases with my children. They would get new socks in their stockings! But we had plenty of candy and stuff because we got food stamps. It was the only time of year that I let them have junk cereal. I’d wrap those up to put under the tree so we’d have something under there. I did what I could, which wasn’t much, only had maybe $20 to spend on each kid (and that was a hardship!) and really depended on my parents to make it good for them.

JLeslie's avatar

Nothing wrong with the grandparents helping out. I never cared where my gifts were coming from when I was a kid.

ibstubro's avatar

I was spoiled rotten simply because I was the kid (of 3) that never wanted anything. When I expressed an interest in something, my parents were so relieved I got exactly what I wanted.

My sister was the opposite. She wanted everything (middle child), so she was always disappointed.

I always dreaded gifts from my mom’s mom. She could screw anything up. Example:
She worked at a jewelry store. I had always wanted a tiger eye ring. She got me one, but it was the newest thing! “Lightening Tiger Eye”. Bore about as much resemblance to tiger eye as chip board does to oak. All I could see was lines, like someone had made a roast out of Philly beef. The mounting was thin enough that if you hit something, it would slice you to the bone. And, of course, I was now ineligible for a real tiger eye.

Yeah, I’m rambling down memory lane. It’s a social question. :-P
Truly, Christmas does bring out the worst in my family.

Petticoatbetty's avatar

@Dutchess_III We can’t even apply for foodstamps because the judge lowered the child support my ex is suppose to pay. He doesn’t and he’s on foodstamps.

@JLeslie my kids don’t really believe in Santa. It’s more my ex goes to extremes to get them stuff and rolls it in religion. Whereas my SO and I are not religious and the kids are kind of snobby about getting presents.

@funkdaddy Yeah it’s toughest for the oldest, mostly because of his father and his gaming addiction. I’m making him a Mario hat and trying to figure out a pattern for something Minecraft. He likes handmade things.

Overall, thanks everyone!
I think it is just stress setting me to worry about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t understand this comment: “We can’t even apply for foodstamps because the judge lowered the child support my ex is suppose to pay. He doesn’t and he’s on foodstamps.” @Petticoatbetty.

It’s tough, but the kids can really learn some good lessons because of it.

Petticoatbetty's avatar

@Dutchess_III In our custody case, the judge lowered the legal amount he is required to pay for child support and told me I couldn’t apply for state benefits without it tampering with her order. Basically, if we got foodstamps, the agency that collects child support would increase the amount he’s suppose to pay. He doesn’t pay anything, he doesn’t use his visitation, and he’s collecting state benefits. Meanwhile, the kids and I are barely getting by.
The food I put on the table is paid for out of pocket, which I don’t mind, but it means the kids get skimpy birthday and Christmas gifts. It would be nice to have a good year for them.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That makes no sense at all. I was never told that my meager child support could be affected by getting food stamps. I’m going to shoot a note to my attorney and ask about this. May I ask what state you are in?

However, I’ve been in your shoes and I feel for you. Hubs just up and took off one day, moved 2000 miles away, started a new family, and barely looked back. Devastated the kids.

Petticoatbetty's avatar

In Alaska. Mine threw me out in the middle of winter before moving in his new girlfriend and taking up a drug problem. For a little over a year I barely saw or spoke to my kids. He tried to make a case for child abandonment on my part, but I had the evidence to state otherwise. Against his lawyer on my own, I got full custody.
Your child support wouldn’t be affected because it was probably set at the legal required amount. Mine wasn’t, the judge lowered it so he could use it for visitation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Visitation and child support are two completely separate entities. Your judge sounds incompetent.

If you are in a position to represent yourself, why can’t you go back to the judge and explain all of this the way you’re explaining it to us?

Petticoatbetty's avatar

I believe the judge made an intelligent move. She set it up to see what we would do. To see if I was vindictive and after money, like my ex claimed, she made it financially hard for me. To see if he actually cared for the kids, she gave him opportunity. When I do go back, and I am planning on it, I want it be clear that he has no care for anyone other than himself.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Please let me know how it turns out.

JLeslie's avatar

@petticoatbetty I feel for you. All I can say is if they don’t appreciate your gifts now, I know they will when they are older. They will be adults longer than they are kids and they still do get those over the top gifts from their dad, so when comparing with friends they will easily keep up with the Jones’. I think just be excited for them about their expensive toys.

When I was little I wanted the sheet cake with the white icing and pink roses for my birthday like the other kids, but now I really appreciate the chocolate cakes my mom made from scratch.

I wanted the store bought Halloween costumes, but now I proudly post on Facebook the photos of myself when I was a little girl in the costumes my mom sewed by hand and glued.

I could go on and on. Your children will too.

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