Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Spin Cycle- Christmas letters

No, not the ones to Santa. The ones you get from relatives and friends who haven't bothered to pick up a phone all year (and don't realize that you didn't either) but think you need to have a recap. This weeks Spin Cycle is all about those holiday letters, the ones that may or may not include a picture. Read on, and then go visit the other spinners.

This weeks spin topic has brought out a lot of holiday angst in people. I was actually surprised at how much emotion people have about those lovely letters that someone composed in late November to tell friends and relatives all about their year. I was kind of surprised at my own thoughts on those (ok, I was surprised that I even had thoughts on them).

It has once again made me realize that maybe some things shouldn't go in writing. Because you can't hear the "speaker" and you have no idea how it would come out of their mouth. Let's face it, when you read all about how some one's kids are wonderful, and they took fabulous trips you can't help but hear a bragging voice. And I'm hoping (get into the giving Christmas spirit here) that's not actually the case.

Take an old family friend of mine. Every year we got a letter from them regaling all the wonders of the year. Which kid got into Yale, and which one spent the summer sailing up the coast from the Keys to Maine. A picture of the new puppy, and a little about the community service project they did as a family. And every year we groaned. Because we were never quite as good as they were.

But there is a catch. The kid who sailed the coast? Hated it. He would later tell us about how it was long tiring days, and little pay. The kid who went to Yale? Had really wanted to get into Harvard. The puppy chewed the baseboards. But you can't write that in your Christmas letter, can you?

So here's the Catch 22. You want to do more than send the obligatory card with an angel or a tree on it so that people know you are thinking of them. But the other option is letting them know way too much, when the probably don't care. Am I making sense here?

You could always take a good look at your Christmas card list and say, "Do I really need to send something to someone I didn't care enough about to pick up a phone for?" Pare down to just a few friends and family. Maybe the Aunt you see once in a while, but not too often. The friends you don't buy a present for, but want to wish a Merry Christmas. The ones you really would pick up a phone for if you could squeeze another hour into your day. But that feels bad. It's hard to admit that you've lost touch, sometimes.

For us, the picture card is the perfect half way point. It shows you how the kids are progressing (no adult should ever be on the Christmas card, sorry) without all the fluff. When the kids get too old, maybe put the puppy on the card. Let the picture speak for itself. People can see how cute your toddler is, or that your tween has reached the awkward stage. They'll notice that Jr is wearing a Yale sweatshirt. And if they want more info? They'll call.

But that's not the point of this blog. Let's get back on topic, here, MB.

This year I'm going to try to read those letters in a new light. I'll put on my jammies, and pour the eggnog. I'll try to think about the fact that someone cares enough about me to write out my address and put a stamp on the envelope. I'll try to be happy for all of their accomplishments. I'll send them my picture card with the boys on it to let them know I "care" too. Then I'll toss the letter into the fire and forget about them for another year.
Sigh, sorry if this blog post is less than smooth. Today I've been dealing with our holiday schedule, and I'm frustrated. I only have so many baby sitting favors I can call in, so I have to prioritize. Then there are the events where the kids could come, but really aren't wanted (oh, and if that's the case, just say so. Don't hem and haw until the last second when I can't find a sitter, please). Then there are the events that no one wants to attend, but we sort of have to (yes, PB, we have to). I swear, I'll sit down on the couch with my husband and get to talk to him sometime before Christmas. Just not until the 24th, from the looks of it...
Have a good weekend, folks.


Jan said...

You know, I hadn't thought about that - all the bragging having a bit of a seedier side to it all.

As for the last bit of your post, YES - if kids are not welcome at the holiday party, say so. We give two parties a year for our employees; a summer picnic where the entire family is welcome and a "for grown ups only" holiday party. The people with children are usually pretty grateful that we're upfront about it so, like you said, they can find a sitter if they need to.

Sprite's Keeper said...

Thank you! I can't stand those invites that didn't say anything about children or if they're welcome or not, so I just come right out and ask when I call back. I'm not going to jump through hoops to get to your party when it comes to babysitting.
As for the Christmas letters? I have an aunt and uncle who like to gloss over their kids' accomplishments while neglecting to tell everyone that Junior made the goal by completely tripping up another player and got disqualified. (I watched it happen.)
You're linked!

Erin@TheLocalsLoveIt said...

We do the photo cards but we adults are in it too. Oh well.

Mrsbear said...

I'd never even heard of Christmas letters until just a few years ago, we just don't do them in our family. I've never gotten one at least. They seem simultaneously entertaining and annoying, but you're right, reading an update probably leaves more room for interpretation.

Hope you get the sitter sorted out. We never get invited anywhere so it's not a big issue. :P

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Too bad you don't live closer. I have these 2 daughters that are GREAT with kids and would just Love to help you out...
I hope you find a sitter and get some time alone with your hubby.
And I loved reading this post. I must be more charitable in my view of these letters. You're right; people are just trying to be proud and share their lives.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I loved your thoughtful take on all this holiday news stuff. I have a friend who writes the BEST newsltter, she makes it so real, mixing the fallen down Christmas tree and the best intentions with the most human experiences. Yet, still, with a dose of humility, letting us know the highlights of their year.

VandyJ said...

Every up has it's down but no one wants to admit to the down. Balance is so lacking today. Thanks for the reminder that all the good news comes with some not so good news.