We’re in the final stretch!
If you’re like me, you’re staying up late every night this week, baking cookies, wrapping presents, cleaning the house within an inch on its life. It’s stressful, but I can’t deny it — it’s fun and exciting, too. For parents, the joy and wonder we experienced as kids waiting for Santa to come is equally matched by the thrill of watching our own children discover the magic of the holidays. At this point, I’m not sure who in my house is more excited for Christmas Eve — my five-and six-year-olds or me and their dad!
I vowed in November to not sweat the small details and instead enjoy the holidays through my kids’ eyes; I’m happy to report that for the most part, I’ve been successful. And accordingly, this has been by far the most enjoyable Christmas for me as a mom. Here, then, are some lessons I’ve learned over the past few weeks — things I hope to remember next Christmas and for years to come:
- We didn’t send out Christmas cards this year. This wasn’t a plan of mine; I kept meaning to dress the kids up and take their picture just as I have done every year since they were born. And I’ve always hated it. That really is one of the things they don’t tell you about being a parent — if you can get a good photo of your kids for the holiday card, you should be moderating peace talks throughout the world, it is that difficult. Every year, I start to worry about the process before Thanksgiving and I wind up settling for the picture I hate the least to send to all my family and friends. This Christmas, I continued to put the process off and now it’s too late—and really, I’m so much the better for it. I intend to pick the tradition back up next year, but now that I know the world isn’t going to end if I don’t send out the cards, maybe I’ll be able to approach the task with a lighter heart.
- I’ve been married 18 years, and I am ashamed to admit this is the first year I have entered the holiday season with a written plan and budget. I carefully researched gift ideas and religiously scoured ads in order to find the best deals, as opposed to my old approach of blindly going into whatever store I was near and throwing things in the cart without much thought at all. I’ll try not to focus on all the time and money I’ve wasted on Christmases past; instead, I’m enjoying the peace that comes with having firm control of holiday expenses.
- I’ve tried to be more flexible and spontaneous with our time this year. A couple of Saturdays ago, we were supposed to go to a holiday event that we attend every year — something I’ve held onto as one of our traditions. The kids actually slept late that morning (such a rarity in my house I am tempted to call it a Christmas miracle), and it was bitterly cold and damp outside. I made several attempts to cajole the kids out of their warm, fuzzy pajamas, but they were perfectly content to curl up on the couch, drinking hot chocolate by the glow of the Christmas tree, watching Harry Potter for the very first time. I worried that we were missing out on making memories at our annual holiday party that we were now skipping in order to simply stay at home — then I realized that some of the best memories are made snuggling up together on a cold Saturday morning.
Next year, if you see me getting too stressed out during Christmas (and let’s be honest—I probably will be), please remind me to not take it all so seriously. I don’t want to forget what this feels like.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.