“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” ~ Erma Bombeck ~
In my house, about 99.9% of Christmas magic making falls to me. I’ve always taken this job seriously since there are few things more special to little kids than the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. I remember the bristly needles of our fake tree, the shiny glass ball ornaments, and the sweet crooning of Nat King Cole…fat, sour cream cookies slathered with homemade buttercream frosting, chipped, gold painted porcelain angels and of course, twinkling lights. Ordinary days, in an otherwise dreary and cold Illinois winter, transformed into a magical countdown towards the pinnacle of excitement and expectation, Christmas Eve! The world seemed to come alive with color, rich reds and glistening golds. Pine, peppermint, and festive music filled the air and the spirit of the season was all around.
Yes, Christmas is a magical season but I’ve come to realize that magic doesn’t just happen…magically…it’s lovingly and painstakingly created through the blood, sweat, and tears of exhausted mothers (mostly). I never understood why my mom was always so busy, why she couldn’t slow down and enjoy the holiday. Now, I understand.
The planning, the shopping, the baking, the decorating, the damn elf hiding, the wrapping, the hauling, all of the merry making….it’s a lot of freakin’ work. But how often do we make it harder than we need to because we believe that’s what good mother’s do? How many of our choices aren’t from the heart but made out of a sense of obligation, guilt, or fear of not doing enough? How often do we refuse to accept help or insist things be done our way? I’m guilty. But I’m also tired and ready to commit to making some changes this year.
Here is a list of 5 things I plan to give up this Christmas Season in order to lighten the load and make more meaningful memories with my family.
1. The Elf on the Shelf
If I could give any advice to new parents entering their first holiday season, it would be this…think long and hard about any traditions you introduce now. Ask yourself if you really will have the time and energy to keep this up for the next 10 (or more years). The elf seems like a great idea, Santa’s little private detective spying and reporting in on all the kids’ shenanigans, but mostly it’s just jumping out of bed in a panic at 11 pm because you forgot to move that damn thing. And while I never got into the clever elf mischief ideas, there are only so many places for this guy to hang out. I’ve seen lots of creative articles on how to write a loving goodbye letter from your elf, but I’m thinking maybe Chippy just won’t show up this year. When they ask while I’ll shrug and say “maybe he doesn’t like you.” Okay not really, but even a simple “I’m not sure, maybe he knows you guys are so great he isn’t needed anymore” or some lie like that will smooth his absence over. Either way, I’m really hoping he stays away.
2. Sending Christmas Cards
For years I really, really got into planning, creating, and sending family Christmas cards. I loved taking the photos, buying coordinating outfits, sifting through templates and inspiration and making my own original and beautiful card. I imagined our family and holiday wishes hanging lovingly on distant relative’s refrigerator. And while I still like the idea of Christmas cards, and I love getting others’ cards in the mail, I am just done with this added effort and expense. We are smack dab in the middle of social media, where everybody and their brother can see what I ate for breakfast, why spend $250 on cards and postage when I can reach even more people with half the effort and virtually zero expense? It makes me a little sad, to be honest, to let this one go, but I need to take some things off my plate this time of year. I’ll still post something on social media and share my holiday greetings, but I’m done stuffing and hand addressing 95 holiday cards.
3. Making Dozens and Dozens of Christmas Cookies
Is there anything more Christmasy than homemade cookies? Who doesn’t love getting a holiday tin filled with delicious, homemade cookies and treats? Christmas cookies are a huge part of the season and for that reason, I’m not giving them up entirely, but I am done making over a dozen varieties. Last year I literally had hundreds of cookies in my freezer ready to share. Sour cream cutouts, Oreo balls, sugar cookies, Ritz peanut butter chocolate dips, kolaczkis, Rolo pretzels, molasses ginger cookies, peppermint shortbread, peanut butter Reese’s cup, chewy cranberry white chocolate chip, and peanut butter M&M. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of dollars and hours went into making these cookies (and cleaning up afterwards) but I know it was far too many. I don’t even like baking, but I feel handing everyone, from my parents to the mailman, a giant platter of homemade cookies is a stay at home mom requirement. I will make some cookies this year, but only our favorites. Instead of hours slaving over a floured surface, I’ll spend more time enjoying the season myself.
4. Visiting Santa
I understand Santa is a really big deal for little kids, but when did we think replacing the magic and mystery with some guy in a fat suit and cotton puff beard was a good idea? I’ve had more awkward questions than magical moments in Santa’s presence. “Why does his beard look fake? How can he be the real Santa? That Santa looks different from last year.” Every year it’s more white lies about Santa’s helpers and I find all these exceptions and exemptions make it harder for them to keep believing. All of my children have been genuinely terrified of the guy at one point or another and mostly it’s lots of waiting in line, awkward photos, and tons of loaded questions. This year, we’re skipping the big guy all together. I doubt they’ll even miss it.
5. Buying More Gifts Than They Want, Need or Appreciate
Every single year I say I’m going to stop buying so much crap and every single year it seems more gifts find their way under our tree. The reality is, my kids absolutely do not need (or even want) a ridiculous amount of presents. After the buying and wrapping, hiding, hauling out, and unwrapping…it’s opening, and assembling, and disposing of the garbage and finding a new home for it all. In about 4 months everything is scattered across 3 floors and before the ground thaws I’m boxing it up for the spring garage sale. I am done wasting time, money, and precious toy box real estate on excess. I don’t want them to become greedy, thankless brats and by continuing to give them more than they need, I run the risk of exactly that. As hard as it will be, I’m focusing on quality over quantity this year.
I only have a handful of years left before the magic of Christmas fades from my home. Yes, we’ll celebrate as a family even after they stop believing, but the years of sharing in Christmas magic is finite. Rather than spending these moments creating Pinterest worthy photographs, I’d rather etch lasting memories in my children’s hearts. Saying no allows me to say yes to what matters. I’m saying no to other’s expectations, guilt, and anything else that keeps me from being present and happy.
Do you struggling slowing down and enjoying this time of year? What can you take off your plate in order to be more present this season?