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Sunday, November 27, 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

32 comments:

Liz said...

I saw that article! It's funny how people see things - I suspect that there are a few people on my list who think that my home-made gifts are unsuitable - they're probably the same people who give me things that they know I never use (thinking here mostly of toiletries).

Anke said...

I guess I'm different, too. :-) I make gifts for people every year (even knitted ones, gasp) and adore getting handmade gifts in return.

Heather Woollove said...

Love your post...love you!! Keep up the good fight and you will be vindicated in the end. I breastfed each of my four daughters (including twins) well into toddlerhood and heard lots of rude remarks about our attachment parenting style/family bed, etc.
Now I have grown and nearly grown daughters who are capable, successful, intelligent, and the envy of most of my friends. Be strong and carry on, baby!! :)

Frugal Down Under said...

What a wonderful post. I never really gave home made but always enjoyed receiving home made gifts. Now I try and give second hand or home made gifts and feel satisfaction and pride as I take responsability in my own consumerism.

My gift giving is now personal and a political act. All of us "different" people are becoming a bigger and bigger group.

Proud Mama said...

Well, I am so definitely different. Sometimes I tell my husband that life would be so easy if I were a sheeple following along with the masses. Instead we make purposeful choices including handmade gifts - the horror.

K'sKronicles said...

I give homemade gifts every year..gasp;/ This year is homemade applesauce and applebutter with a loaf or two of homemade bread. Some cookies and candy and homemade crafted snowmen. I love making and receiving homemade gifts! It's the heart and soul of gift giving..! Happy Holidays...!

Pamela said...

Good thing no one ever told my family that. One of my all time favorite gifts is the knitted blanket my daughter made me. And every year all 5 girls get a pair of handmade pajama pants. (Tried store bought one year and was told that they were not as good as the ones I make!) And my friends love the tote bags I made them, too.

becky3086 said...

Wow, didn't see that article. I live in a place where people still appreciate "homemade" so I guess I have nothing to worry about.

notherethenwhere said...

I never really cared much for trying to fit in - my mom has a whole host of stories about that that she pulls out on occasion - but that's not to say that being different isn't hard sometime. Even once I hit grad school, with people who were more like me than anyone I'd met before, I was still often the odd one out because of environmental, budget, and food choices. I don't mind most of the time, but sometimes it's difficult, although I am grateful for a small number of good friends who feel largely the same for when I'm having difficult days.

Funnily enough, I used to find it amusing that all my mom ever wanted for Christmas was kitchen gear, the odd cookbook, or maybe a pair pf pajamas in an odd year. I couldn't believe that anyone would want things that were so useful. Now, my wish list (if I had one) would include socks and kitchen things, and some handmade things would be lovely. How things change...

Jenny said...

Well, I did tell everyone in the family that no one is getting a sweater this year, and they are all mighty relieved. They WILL be getting dishcloths, made with love, and the odd lump or two won't be so heinous.
Homemade, something you can use and use up, can't beat it.

Frogdancer said...

I've requested a garlic press ( because I've grown garlic for the first time and have nothing to process it with), pyjama pants, a 2012 weekly diary to use as a record for my veggie garden and my Dad is giving me gravel for the worm farm we're making from an old freezer.
Useful presents rock!

Linda Woodrow said...

You've got it wrong way round. We're normal, and she's exceedingly odd!

Tania said...

I've always felt different to the norm too. Just as you did as a teenager, I really tried to fit in, but in the end I've just accepted that different is good :) There is nothing wrong with going against the herd mentality that is dictated by corporations. I too give homemade gifts and I have seen them valued and used often by the recipients. But then they are family members and not into the consumerist thing either.

dixiebelle said...

Awesome post! I love handmade for Christmas, and a lot of the gifts we are giving this year are handmade (by someone else) or they are Fair Trade. I am so proud of myself this year that I stuck to my beliefs when buying presents, rather than worrying so much that the recipient may *or may not* like what they get. I think the nieces/ nephews/ kids that we buy for will love what they get anyways! Hoping to make my own handmade gifts next year too...

I embrace my differences, and the benefits of this 'weird' life we've chosen to lead, but I wonder how it will affect my kids as they grow up. I wrote about that here:
http://eatatdixiebelles.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-am-weird-are-you.html

Rose said...

Handmade for Christmas is right up my alley so I'm different along with you.

I read a couple of weeks ago that giving a goat or chicken or well via Oxfam and other charities is unsuitable too.

That makes my entire handmade goaty Christmas gift list unsuitable. :)

Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land said...

Yes, being different is good. A crocheted baby blanket is the only baby gift we still use, 10 years later.

Adventures in Thrift Land said...

I should also add, I've begun to give used gifts to people outside my immediate family (I've done it for my family for years). For a 1st birthday party, I gave a $100 gift that cost me $5, and the recipient was extremely pleased. It was the nicest gift given at the party.

melania said...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts. As I read your words I realised that I'm in love with this way of life too!!

Anonymous said...

My family and friends ASK for knitted and patchwork items as gifts. I am more than happy to comply. Pleasure for me in making them and for them in receiving.

Carolemc said...

That did make me laugh. I try to make some hand made gifts every year. As a thank you to friends who let us use their holiday cottage I made a gift bag of Spicy apple chutney/Beetroot chutney/Tomato & Chilli jam - all home made. Plus a bag of home made Oat Crunchy biscuits.

For family I've made in the past hand-knitted dishcloths and soap...and this year it is selections of chutney.

I love home made things. One of my favourite presents was some home made jelly a friend gave me.

I am very happy to be different and have no wish to fit in any longer.

Devonmama said...

Oh my, I think I read a similar list last year! I would much rather receive a gift someone had put thought and time into, than something picked up off a shelf just for the sake of giftgiving...yey for being different (and a bit odd) :)

Kristy said...

"All of us "different" people are becoming a bigger and bigger group."

yep. completely agree :)

Lorraine Butler said...

Being different is the only way to be!

sl.tudor said...

I love not fitting in..i like being me..i love my family for being them..i love making gifts and recieving homemade ones too...some folks think we are weird for not following the latest trends with toys or general carp that comes out..but i really truly don#t care..we are happy and thats all that i care about..obviously the person that wrote that article has never been short of money or even given a thought as to what someone would truly love to recieve as a gift..something plastic and shiny or something made with care and love..i know what i would rather have..
sara

magicalmusings said...

I don't fit in either and I sometimes forget that until I hear or read something like you did. :) I love to get handmade gifts and give a few too and don't ever worry about what other people are doing.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that in some of my teen years I wasn't that wild about homemade gifts. But, from late teens on I loved homemade, and when I was little Mom made me a small suitcase full of Barbie clothes that I absolutley adored. She sewed for us and that was always way better than store clothes. Obviously, I was just messed up for a little spell as an early teen.


Your little ones are lucky - different is good.

brenda from arkansas

Ann C. said...

Cheers to being different! (clink) When my husband asked me for ideas of what I would like for Christmas, I gave him this suggestion - an interchangeable knitting needles set. All the better to knit handmade gifts!

Also, one day I praised my then 9-yr-old son for his healthy food choices, noting that a lot of kids wouldn't eat many of the things that he does. His response, "Yeah, normal kids... you people made THIS kid weird." If "weird" means thoughtful and compassionate, I'm fine with that!

Anonymous said...

We love home made gifts too! And my kids, growing up in our family, with a similar culture, have become quite lovely teens who are thoughtful and aware of more than their self interest (not that they aren't obnoxious on occasion--they are human adolescents, afterall) but such a joy to spend time with.

kerrydi@pacbell.net

Bel said...

We love 'different'! Thank you for sharing. x

Suzanne with Laughing Wallet said...

I guess I must be different and "inappropriate" too then, because I, like the rest of the commenters, happen to like homemade gifts - both giving and receiving! I even have a whole article on my website of homemade gift ideas! Some of my favorite gifts are a scarf and a funny cross stitch made and given to me by a good friend. And you really can't miss by giving my husband and I a food gift - especially if it involves chocolate! So, bah on the spoiled article writer - good thing she's not on this Santa's list!

Rachel said...

It's great to be different! Who wants to be like everyone else?! No thanks. As for the homemade gifts?! Some of the best gifts in the world are homemade. Case in point - yesterday I went to a baby shower of a friend. Half way into opening her gifts my friend opened her grandmothers gift (who couldn't travel to be there) - a handmade quilt. It was so beautiful. The mum-to-be cried. Her mum cried. And then the rest of us nearly started! It was incredible and you don't get those kind of reactions from something you just pick up from the store!

Laura Jeanne said...

I agree heartily with the sentiments of this post and all the comments as well. In my view handmade gifts are absolutely the best--my husband and I try to make handmade things for each of our children every Christmas.

However--I am the odd ball in my family, and they don't share my sentiments. I was rather disappointed this year, when my sister came right out and told me that she didn't want to exchange gifts with me "because, you know, it's hard to know what to get, and YOU always make something handmade..." We didn't discuss it at length but I got the impression she feels like I am trying to show off by hand making gifts, and she doesn't want to have to compete with me.

This kind of hurt my feelings because I have put a great deal of love and effort into hand made gifts in the past, and it's not nice to know that it actually made my sister upset. Personally, I would be thrilled if anyone ever made me a gift--but no one ever has. My family and I are miles apart in so many ways, and this is just one more.

I share this to say, while handmade gifts are delightful to many, many other people truly don't appreciate them. So we crafters shouldn't waste our time making things for people who would rather get a new iPhone.