The Christmas Rule

A favorite podcast of mine (Manager Tools) has something they call The Christmas Rule:  If you do it rarely, and it’s important, you’re likely to underperform.

Granted, they typically apply the rule to situations at work such as interviewing, presentations, performance review, etc. and while those activities surely are noteworthy, important and performed rarely, they do not compare to the anxiety I feel at Christmas when receiving gifts.

Or rather, Gifts. With a Capital G.

Actually, the whole phrase should properly be called Receiving Bundles of Expectations that Require a Proper Exclamation and Has Been Cleverly Disguised as Gifts.

Because no matter what I get or who gives it, I manage to screw it up.  A simple thank you when I should have gushed.  A gushing monologue about the gift’s perfection when it should have been a simple thank you.  Extreme underwhelmment (when I get something completely in appropriate like lotion that I’m actually allergic to from someone who really should have known.  I won’t name names.)  Extreme overwhelmment (when I’ve given them something that was more in line with a white elephant gift and they provided something incredibly thoughtful.)

The very worst one?  The gift from the Husband.Christmas-present

Several years ago I managed to completely avoid the situation because a gift to each other seemed, well, silly.  Finance resources are shared and while subterfuge is possible, it just felt odd to go to those extremes.  Especially when all of the above screws-up were experienced with him (it wasn’t lotion, but flowers.  Yes, we are that couple.)

Fast forward a couple of years and the kids start to ask questions like these:

  • “But Mom, where’s your present?”
  • “Dad, was Mom naughty?  Why didn’t Santa bring her something?”
  • “But aren’t you supposed to get her something then?”
  • “I should have gotten her something then.  Dad, can I borrow some money?  And can you drive me to the store?”
  • “But Dad, where’s your present?”


Last year, gifts crept back into the mix.  It was a small-ish gift that really was a token to appease the miniature critics disguised as children that live with us.  I was fine with it and reacted (hopefully) appropriately.

This year, I went the same route.  I even consulted the kids, and they came up with a pretty splendid gift (however, it’s rather inside baseball and I’ll forego explaining it here.)

Then The Box showed up.

The extra box that was delivered to the right address according to the label.  The extra box that is too large to be a token gift that I can react appropriately to.

The token box that has me practicing how to graciously receive a gift.

This is ridiculous.  I know that.  And I’m positive that whatever is in The Box, it was thoughtfully chosen, specifically picked-up, and much care was put into the selection.

Or not.  It could equally be something that I mentioned in passing that I want and completely forgot about.

So, going into the Christmas week, if I don’t post, you’ll know what did me in:  Receiving Bundles of Expectations that Require a Proper Exclamation and Has Been Cleverly Disguised as Gifts.

And practice The Christmas Rule at Christmas.


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