Few things make me happier than Christmas shopping. In fact, I shop for the holidays all year round. Call me crazy, but I swear that I get better deals, I'm not battling crowds, and when November arrives, I am practically finished and can just sit back and enjoy the season. I buy for everyone: my husband, kids, parents, siblings, friends' kids, and dog, and I even stockpile for charity. But when it comes to my husband's family, he's on his own.
For years, we would alternate where we spent the holidays: one year with my family, the next with his. But no matter where we spent them, I would handle all of the shopping for both of our families. I took the time to find what I thought were the perfect presents and sent them to those we would be seeing for the holiday and those we wouldn't. I did this, happily, year after year. Then we had children of our own and quickly learned that his family takes an out of sight, out of mind approach to the holidays.
If someone had taken five minutes to make a phone call and wish our children a Merry Christmas, I would have sent a gift. Plus, if my husband wants to buy something for someone in his family, he can do it himself.
We spent our daughter's first Christmas with my husband's family. We were met with surprise by a few family members who didn't realize we were coming and had "forgotten" our daughter's gift at home. They apologized and promised to mail whatever it was they had supposedly forgotten (they didn't). At the time, we were so elated to be celebrating our daughter's first Christmas that it didn't matter who gave her a present. Besides, Santa had been more than generous to our then-8-month-old, and the last thing we needed was more stuff. We didn't sweat it. The following year, we spent Christmas with my family and, as usual, sent gifts to his side. Not a single person acknowledged receiving a gift from us, nor did anyone send anything to our daughter. And that's the year I decided I would no longer shop for or send gifts to my husband's family.
That was also the year we stopped traveling for the holidays because we both agreed it would mean more to have our children wake up on Christmas morning in their own home. After that, I remained steadfast in my decision to not shop for my husband's family. He was on the fence about it, but we ultimately agreed to wait and see if anyone acknowledged our children. If someone sent them a card or a gift, then we would send one in return. Hell, if someone had taken five minutes to make a phone call and wish our children a Merry Christmas, I would have sent a gift. Plus, if my husband wants to buy something for someone in his family, he can do it himself.
After a few weeks of waiting, guilt got the better of him and he went out at the last minute, purchased a stack of gift cards, and gave them to his mother to dole out on Christmas. Once again, no one sent so much as a text to say thank you. And no one acknowledged our children (our daughter had become a big sister since the last time we spent Christmas with my husband's family). Most of them have not even met our other children. I'm not sure what he'll do this year, but I do know I'll have no part in whatever it is.
Christmas isn't about presents. I just happen to love shopping, and I enjoy giving gifts. I don't expect anything in return, and I'm working hard to impart that same attitude to my children. They don't need more gifts, and not receiving anything from relatives they hardly know certainly isn't ruining anyone's holiday. It's knowing my husband and our children aren't even an afterthought for his family that breaks my heart. And it's watching them profess the importance of family all over social media that actually makes my blood boil. But maybe it's all for the best. The past few years have taught my husband some harsh lessons about his family, but they've also taught him that the people who put you first are the ones who matter the most.