While working in a PR agency in Dublin some time back, it was a thing that mostly everyone paid into a Sports & Social fund. And let me tell you, I am all about the Sports & Social funds – particularly if they focus on having a mega Christmas party. That’s one of the things I miss most about working outside the home (sighs, looks to middle distance fondly remembering the outfit prep, mad dancing and general craic of the office Christmas do…).
But much to my disappointment, the values and priorities of this particular Sports & Social committee didn’t align with my Christmas blow-out approach. Furthermore, it was chaired by a person who was distinctly into ‘fancy-dancies’, as my 3rd class teacher Mrs. Griffin would have put it. Little bits and bobs you might say. She had a plethora of chunky keyring on her keys, pens with fluffy and bobbly bits at the top and what could only be described as ‘kooky’ taste in novelty earnings – of which she had a different pair for every day of the year. Let’s just say she was a knick knack kind of person and her personal commitment to ‘stuff’ utterly influenced all Sports & Socialspending. At every opportunity – St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween etc. – we would walk in to start our work day to be met with a little ‘surprise’ on our desk.
If we’re talking in terms of the five languages of office etiquette here, I am definitely not in the ‘stuff’ camp (I appreciate time-in-lieu, cash bonuses and baby guinnesses at office parties) so I have forgotten most of the dreadful trinkets bought for me with my own hard-earned money. But I distinctly remember arriving in on Valentine’s Day to a floating love-heart balloon tied to my PC, some heart-shaped chocolates and probably a dreadful love keyring also. Harmless, you might think, but having to walk with said balloon all the way back to my flat in Dublin 7 obviously meant I got water-ballooned. I don’t blame the children – I looked like a total wally and a worthy target.
When it comes to being part of a society, it’s hard to control what we ‘celebrate’ and how we celebrate it. Particularly as it’s almost impossible not to be drawn in to what the crowd (and major corporations out to make money) has already decided everyone should do.
As a mother I am keen to foster some nice family traditions and to create good childhood memories for my small ones. This can only be done, however, in keeping with our own family values and some of the things that we value are taking life slowly where we can, keeping things simple and not getting caught up in the ‘stuff’ (plastic, pressure to fit in etc.) the world often throws at us.
I’m talking about when possible here, as no-one escapes peer pressure – and, in particular, it’s tricky to manage how you want to celebrate any given ‘event’ personally versus how your child might want to celebrate it either because they are a different personality type or because they see their friends doing things that they want to do too.
So I find times like Halloween tricky, when there is so much on that the whole thing feels like a bit of a circus. Personally, my dream Halloween would be that the children dress up on the last day of school before the mid-term break and enjoy all the at-school-fun-stuff to the max. I have super memories of Halloween from my school days and the teachers do it all so well and the kids are with their buddies. The obvious added bonus is I don’t have to participate too much! Then maybe another evening of dress up with bobbing for apples, barm brack etc. at home – maybe your friends or cousins could call over – and then read a spooky story or watch a spooky film that evening. If I was feeling very energetic I would throw in pumpkin carving because the results are cute. I would cut out all decorating – apart from aforementioned pumpkins which I like to scatter around my front-door step and sitting room as if we live in Maine or someplace pumpkin-appropriate – and I would cancel trick or treating and the non-stop-sweets elements. Oh, and all costumes would be hand-me-downs or home-made.
This would be my ideal 3-day Halloween event in an ideal world.
I had a great chat with a friend the other morning about it. And she could just as quickly come up with her own family’s recipe for Halloween success. So we’re all trying our best to celebrate in a way which aligns with our personal values and energy levels – it’s a game of give and take. And perhaps a case of saying ‘No’ a little more?
All I can say in relation to Christmas is hang on to your hat and your family values. I am staunchly against Christmas creeping into November, but for how long will I resist the temptation of the curranty, sugar-dusted, marzipan stollen in Aldi?
No less than my fancy-dancy-loving colleague of old, we all have our own priorities and our own weaknesses too. The hard part is exercising them as an individual in an office or a family within a society where more is better.