The pressure of official celebrations

I enjoy a good family celebration. Since my children stopped asking for big birthday parties and started telling me precisely what they wanted as regards presents, I have found organising their special day to be a pleasure. With just the five of us involved it is fun and relaxed. We do what the birthday child has asked for in terms of activity, food and cake; and can all share in the excitement and pleasure of the gift giving.

I find my husband’s birthday a little trickier as he rarely needs anything and cannot always think of a gift he would want that he is happy for me or our children to choose. Some years he is given very little, which seems a bit mean, but he prefers that to being bought stuff he neither wants nor needs. We usually go out for a meal which he enjoys so the occasion is marked. Likewise for our wedding anniversary, a special meal out will generally suffice.

We take pleasure from these occasions; there is no pressure to conform to anyone else’s ideal. The same cannot be said for officially sanctioned celebrations. I am not good at these as my natural inclination is to ignore them. I do not wish to be forced by the media or commercial marketing into declaring my love for anyone on a certain day. Those I love do, I hope, know that I care throughout the year.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day represent occasions when I must decide whether I capitulate to the demands of the card and gift manufacturers or follow my instincts. I have no wish to offend those I love, but I do object to being harassed into behaving in a certain way.

Yesterday I left it up to my children to choose if they wished to do anything for their dad. As far as I am aware, no mention was made of it being Father’s Day by anyone, including my husband who was out for much of the day anyway. We did go out for a meal the night before, but that was because it suited us to do so for other reasons. I much prefer spending time enjoying each other’s company when we wish to rather than when some marketing campaign demands.

Within our little family this suits us well; we lay no great store by these commercial events. Knowing how to deal with the wider family is a trickier situation. My mother has expressed displeasure at my lack of acknowledgement of certain occasions so I always try to remember to send her a gift,  flowers or a card on particular days. For me, the regular letters that I write to keep her updated with what we are doing as a family express my love more sincerely, but I have no wish for her to feel neglected.

If my father were on line then a quick message could have been sent yesterday, but I don’t believe he would feel the need for a card. Neither of us talks comfortably on the telephone and I had written a lengthy letter just the week before so had no news to pass on. The day came and went with no acknowledgement; we love each other just the same.

I do try hard to remember to send birthday cards to close friends and wider family. Children will be given a small contribution to funds but I rarely buy gifts for adults; I have no idea what they may want or like. If an occasion is to be marked then I wish it to be done freely and joyfully, not under pressure to provide a token that the recipient is unlikely to need. I am not good at buying presents for anyone other than those I am really close to.

Does this attitude make me miserly or neglectful? I suspect that there are those who would think so, but they probably have a low opinion of me anyway. I have come to accept that there are some people I will never be able to please.

There are as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate. I would never berate anyone for opting to mark a day, whether official or not, in whatever way suits them. Plenty of fathers will have enjoyed spending time with their children yesterday and this is good. What I object to is being pressurised into acting in a certain way; being made to feel guilty for not conforming to some ideal standard. When others try to impose their wishes and values, discomfort ensues; a celebration is not joyful when participation is forced.

I love my family very much and I show that throughout the year in the way I treat them and the time I spend with them. They show that their love for me is genuine and freely given when they help and support me, not by giving me a card on a stipulated Sunday in March.

The biggest, most ostentatious occasions have the dubious reputation of being times of heightened stress and subsequent bad feeling. I prefer my celebrations to be small and relaxed, spent only with those I am closest to, at times and for reasons that suit us.

There are many who enjoy big parties and get togethers, or gatherings to mark a particular day. They should be free to enjoy and celebrate as they choose, without criticism. I would appreciate being granted the same consideration.



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