“Please Cancel Christmas”
(But Only the Stressful and Excessive Parts)”
Every holiday season finds me, once again…..stressed out and lamenting the fact that there is too much expectation of mamas everywhere, when all that we really want is to spend time making memories with our kids. I want to make cookies and gingerbread houses with my children while wearing a giant, fluffy onesie. I want to go see The Nutcracker with my family. I want to drive around with my kids and see the neighborhood homes decked out in Christmas lights. I want to watch Christmas movies and eat popcorn with my family (also wearing a giant, fluffy onesie.) Instead, I am often spending my free time doing anything but enjoyable activities. I found myself almost relieved when it appeared that our holiday gathering would need to be canceled due to surges in positive cases of the variant we shall not mention. Disappointment and relief all clumped together. I wanted to see my family, but I was already at a breaking point. There would be less to do. I could just spend time with my kids.
I always insist that it is necessary to arrange a photography session for the sole purpose of creating beautiful Holiday photo cards for the family. Each year I swear that I will NOT make cards. It is too much. Each year….I still do it. If you are a wacko like I am, you will also search Amazon for matching outfits that your pets can wear. Because it is adorable to see a hefty bulldog wearing a tutu and floral crown. Also, why NOT just add one more thing to my already topsy turvy plate? (Maybe this year I will even send the cards out) I don’t want to miss out on doing additional fun holiday activities like creating homemade ornaments with the kids and perhaps……just breathe. (Seriously….. make that happen) Searching for and buying gifts for family members and the kids seems to be a never-ending task that always takes priority over anything relaxing that I would prefer to do. Finally, everything purchased must eventually be reviewed, to make certain that everyone will feel equally appreciated with gifts that are similar enough in amount and meaning. The gift review inevitably leads to one last store trip to even things out. Sometimes multiple store trips are necessary. It often feels as if there is time bomb ticking away. The thought that I will run out of time is a nagging, almost obsessively looping thought. There just always seems to be too much to do.
After gifts have been selected and purchased, many mamas find themselves locked in a room trying to silently go undetected while making a mental inventory of the numerous presents purchased throughout December. We stay up too late and consequently become exhausted messes for work or childcare the next day. It is primarily the mamas who are the main procurers of every present for the children and family members…..even the husband’s side! (Yes honey, you did an amazing job of being helpful this year. Historically it has always been me though and many women still struggle with this being the case) Women are usually solely responsible for not just purchasing, but also the hiding and wrapping of every present as well. (We are also still running the daily household chores and shuttling children to their usual activities after work and school – that stuff doesn’t end) Also, if we are to be realistic, who is ultimately going to be responsible for finding new homes for the onslaught of new stuff? Mama; that’s who. If we want to be able to still walk through our homes after Christmas, it becomes necessary to also take on the task of donating or selling older toys that the children have grown past. I realize that being gifted new items sounds like a nice, privileged problem to have. I DON’T WANT IT THOUGH! It is simply, TOO MUCH. I want to enjoy time with my family. Instead, I give in to lofty expectations and run myself ragged throughout the weeks prior to Christmas. Seriously, I don’t even know where these unrealistic expectations come from.
Throughout my journey to making Christmas magic happen, I field frequent family requests for more gift ideas, despite having already given a few specially requested and much wanted gift suggestions for my children. A few gifts are more than enough in my opinion, but many disagree. Why do some people believe that EXCESSIVE GIFT GIVING is the only possible route to showing….or receiving love? Doling out multiple (and equal) gift ideas is not easy when there is a limited amount that my children request, and I would personally love for those items to be under MY tree on Christmas morning. I am not excessive. I do not want my children being excessive either. (I may be a bit “extra,” but that’s an entirely different story and completely irrelevant to Christmastime.) The few things that I know my children would really love are the things that I would like to see them open on Christmas morning. They are only little for a short while and I want the most anticipated items under OUR tree on Christmas morning. It’s selfish. I’m aware. Is it so wrong that I want to watch my children experience that feeling of “Christmas morning magic” in MY home?
The never-ending holiday to-do list will continue to barrel on, especially if you are also hosting the holiday. You must now prepare a menu and don’t forget that your cousin is now a vegetarian. Remember that Aunt Jo cannot consume gluten or soy. Little cousin Mary also cannot have anything with sugar. Amidst the chaos swirling in your head, try to also keep the house clean for the days leading up to the gathering because….well, I am not even sure why. BUT JUST DO IT! Don’t allow your children to be dressed in anything but their best, because…….pictures. What would people think if you allowed your children to just be themselves? The horror. You really need to add holiday clothing shopping to your list, especially after a worldwide pandemic made leisurewear the official clothing of tiny humans everywhere. My kids grew out of anything considered socially acceptable for dressing up and I never replaced it since we were essentially homebound. Somehow the importance of being somewhat dressy seems insignificant now. Mama, you have too much on your plate. Just let some things go, especially when they are not high on your priority list.
Recently, a friend who was equally frustrated by the overwhelm of holiday preparations pointed out that despite always having to return or donate numerous UNNECESSARY items after the holidays, her husband explained that any frustration should just be let go because it gives his mother joy to see the children open gifts from her. (BUT…..the gifts are not even from her because they are allegedly from Santa – the man, the myth, the legend, so does it really matter?) My husband always says the same about just allowing our families to give whatever they would like to. This statement simultaneously made me feel like a terrible person for depriving others of their joy and frustrated over the feeling that my kids don’t need excessive amounts of gifts. I would rather my family make some toy and clothing donations to people in need. My kids don’t need MORE STUFF. If joy is legitimately felt from watching the children be happy, then just spend time doing activities with them all throughout the year. Acknowledge their individuality and know their true preferences. Accept them as they are. Really “see” them. Every day. Happily, watch them open the few gifts that they really wanted. They do not need a mound of items just for the sake of giving presents because excess is not what the holidays should be about.
I always strived to create a magical feeling for my children where they lie awake on Christmas Eve, in excited anticipation for Santa to visit. For my oldest children who no longer believe in the myth of Santa, Christmas Eve is still a beautiful “feeling,” that they experience, and the anticipation is still there despite not believing in the once cherished but now obviously implausible myth of a red suited, fat man driving a sleigh of flying reindeer to shower the entire world with toys. How could he realistically squeeze that giant ass down a narrow chimney and why don’t children ever question the absolute impossibility of making it around the world, with multiple stops…. in ONE evening? Perhaps we keep the ruse going because we all need a little bit of magic. If we all need some of that magic though, am I selfishly denying my family in a misguided attempt to JUST BE ABLE TO CHILL OUT AND BREATHE DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON?
A non-Catholic friend had once commented that the Christmas holiday was too commercial and excessive. Being a high schooler at the time, I disagreed vehemently but I had limited life responsibilities and was also not the one responsible for creating the “holiday magic.” I had time to relish the weeks prior to the Holiday and just relax. I could shop at my leisure and wrap only a few small but thoughtful presents. It WAS about lovingly buying special presents for family and friends. In more recent years, it has become a race to the finish. Why such blinding urgency? The journey, sanctity and true meanings become blurred when you are just trying to please others on principle, while rushing to finish a seemingly never-ending list by a looming deadline. As an adult, I have now realized that Christmas really CAN BE about excess. My friend was correct so many years ago and I now begrudgingly admit this. How did I get here? How do I change this and reclaim the true spirit of the Holidays?
As the sole proprietor of Christmas Inc., I am ready to quit! Something needs to change.