Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but haven’t we all been there at some point? You’ve searched Pinterest for the ultimate Christmas bucket list with activities that the entire season depends on. You’ve Googled the best gingerbread recipe and cute ways to decorate goodies for your kid’s classroom. Maybe you’ve even thought about making a special personalized gift for your parents with the help of your eager and independent children. It all sounds so picturesque, and I mean, isn’t real life just like the Hallmark movies I watch for two months straight?
But instead, I find myself venting to my husband how much harder everything is with four opinionated small children. Ha, I wonder where they could they have gotten that character trait from? (*cough* from their mother *cough*) I’m trying to make lasting, forever memories filled with joy and love, and instead, I’m pretty sure we will all need post-Christmas therapy thanks to the meltdowns, temper tantrums, flu symptoms, and general overall toddlerness.
For awhile, we had a running joke that it wouldn’t be a holiday if one or all of us wasn’t sick. I’m certain the classic song goes, “Seven temper tantrums, six prescriptions called in, five Christmas parties, four cranky kids, three stores for shopping, two fevers spiking, and a stressed and exhausted mom.” It’s difficult to have a loving, family baking moment when you’re pretty sure Sally just wiped her nose with her hand and then cut out a sugar cookie. Yummy, snot-flavored baked goods. Or how about when the 3-year-old is on the floor of our beloved Target upset because I won’t get her the toy that is hiding back at home for her to open on December 25. If I had a quarter for every time I had to say, “Well, we will have to see what Santa brings you honey.” I could go to one of those change places and pay for Christmas with all the money it shoots out at me — true story. In a perfect world, we really could call Santa and let him know the 9-going-on-16-year-old might actually have her eyes stuck like that if she rolls them one more time. Instead, I have my best friend text me, thanks to the idea I discovered of changing her contact name to Santa Claus. Naturally, I return the favor when her 9-year-old does the same thing. Solidarity, sister!
I look back on memories growing up, and my mom was the best at doing elaborate Christmas crafts with not only my siblings, but with all of our friends, as well. Thinking about all those tiny hands and scissors, glue guns, and glitter, and I just shudder. Yet I don’t remember her raising her voice or getting on to us for doing it wrong, or even any of us throwing fits. I remember decorating with my grandmother and her patience as my ornament OCD started early on.
So maybe it’s less about making perfect memories and crossing off lists of must-do things, and more about just being together. Our kids aren’t really ruining the holidays — our expectations are. It’s fair to say my children won’t remember me snapping at them to stop acting a fool in the grocery store, but they will recall me teaching them about giving and the Salvation Army worker ringing the bell outside. There will be no lasting negative memories connected to me denying them a certain toy, but hopefully they don’t forget us talking about gratitude. I believe they will remember that I tried to do everything I could to make the holidays magical, and when they grow up and have their own children, I expect a phone call like the one I’m about to place to my family.
This year, when I’m feeling frustrated, I’ll try to remind myself that my children make the holiday so much better — not worse. The amazement in their eyes and shouts of joy far outweigh the arguing and illness. Besides, who wants to live in a Hallmark movie, anyway? Not this mama!