Christmas can be such a magical time of year, but it can also be a time that stretches our capabilities. As a parent during the holidays, I always feel the need to design the “best” experience every year for my kid and my family. I latch on to this season like it’s the last time we will all believe in magic. Keep reading for a fun view on the different Christmas stages of an all American family.
Stage 1: Everything is Magical
This is Christmas time. At our house, it starts in October. Ok, maybe September if the year has been a rough one. Anyway, the point is this is a time of magic and wonder. Everything smells different, Walmart becomes a veritable toyland of amazement, and everywhere you go jingle bells are ringing in the background. Could there be a better time to be alive?
This is when dreams are made, when I spend hours online searching for the most unique and beloved holiday traditions taking place in our area. Much of my time is spent in planning, scheduling, and prepping my family for the bountiful harvest of fun about to take place. Seriously, we are all so excited, it’s a wonder we aren’t holding hands and singing Christmas carols on our way to school.
Stage 2: Let the Fun Begin
This is go time, people. Everything we have been planning for starts now. I like to keep a bin of Christmas appropriate warm weather gear (you know, the cute matching hat/glove sets and spare family Christmas pajamas) in the vehicle, in case of an emergency holiday activity we hadn’t planned on. This is also the best time to print out holiday themed calendars, with color coded event plans, for each family member. Being on the same page helps build family cohesion.
During this time of year, “deck the halls” morphs from a Christmas song into a family motto. Ok, so a 135-piece Christmas village set may seem a little overdone, but once you wade through the miles of tiny lights that won’t stay in the bottom of the houses and never reach far enough, it becomes more manageable. Also, I don’t know about you, but my kid loves to play “shred the fake snow around the house and wear it on my head while mom puts up the entire village” until it’s time to set up all those precious little fake people. Christmas fun bonus! Seriously though, once those little houses are all lit up, I swear my heart grows a few sizes bigger than the Grinch.
Stage 3: My Feet Hurt
Complaining has started. Not at fever pitch yet, mind you. Give it some time.
Apparently, children (and adult) feet get a little sore after walking 5-15 miles a day while engaged in Christmas fun. I guess on some level I assumed the breathtaking phenomenon of twinkling Christmas lights and extravagant holiday displays would never get old. My bad. We all make mistakes.
Luckily, with some quick breaks to snack on our home-made gingerbread men and candy cane cookies, most of the family is able to pull it together and rejoin the fun. The ones that keep complaining stay in the car.
Stage 4: If You Don’t Have Fun, Santa Will Not Come
Parenting is hard. It’s even harder during the holidays, when I have to parent not only my son but also my husband and all of our extended family. Do these people not understand the importance of Christmas magic??
It starts with one bad apple. A few grumbles here and there, with one grandparent dragging their feet when we announce the trip to the 10th Christmas festival of the season. That’s all it takes to create a landslide of misery. Suddenly I find myself surrounded by approximately 2,000 grinches who “are tired” and “feel pressured to have fun.” Excuse me? Gee, what a difficult thing to go through. Some people are pressured to work 7 days a week, some people are pressured to get perfect grades. Must be pretty tough to feel pressured to HAVE FUN.
In all honesty, I am not above admitting there is an internal Christmas clock driving my every move at this stage in the game. The end of the holidays is starting to loom closer, and I feel a desperate rush to pack in every possible ounce of Christmas fun while we can. I probably start to resemble some kind of super hypersonic Christmas robot, but it’s all done out of love, people.
Stage 5: Just Wrap the Presents and Give Me Some More Eggnog
Ok, even I am starting to get a little tired. My feet hurt (I won’t tell people that however, I’m not a fun destroyer). I may have left too many presents to wrap until the last minute, out of fear that I was going to start too early and have nothing fun left to do. Now I find myself up until 2am the 3 nights before Christmas, in a mad labyrinth of wrapping paper and coordinated bows. All of those cute videos I saved on how to wrap unusual objects are forgotten – I slap paper onto anything that will hold tape at this point.
My family also does this cute thing with gift tags, to make every present unique. There is no “to mom from dad” nonsense in our house. We like to say things like “to: captain snores a lot from: the queen of insomnia.” Sarcasm is a love language. Unfortunately, while this is a fun idea with lots of time on your hands for planning, it becomes less fun at 2 am on Christmas Eve. Plus, some of us don’t have a sense of humor about ourselves, which makes the gift tags a bit challenging.
Eventually, at this stage in the game, even I end up rushing through treasured Christmas traditions in order to get some sleep and not turn into a complete banshee. Sometimes, I even hide in my closet “looking for gifts I can’t find,” when I am secretly eating chocolate covered cherries and reading my book.
Stage 6: Christmas Until June
Well we survived it. Christmas is over. Wrapping paper is in the garbage and everyone is utterly exhausted. Also, about 2 minutes past the first stocking being opened, suddenly a big poof sucks all of the life out of the holiday. What is that about??
Let’s face it. From our prone positions on the floor (where we can barely breathe from all of the recent activities), we realize a cloud of depression has descended upon us. I like to call this the “don’t you wish you had spent less time complaining and more time soaking up the Christmas magic before it was over” day. I also routinely remind my family members that all of the fun is gone, there is no more fairytale enchantment, and we have nothing to look forward to until summer. I’m a realist.
After I crawl around in a fog of angst for a few days, stifling my tears into my pillow at night and trying to remember if we stored the elf on the shelf in the right place to be able to find it next year, I find some minimal comfort in finishing up leftover Christmas candy. Sometimes I think about reviewing my Christmas Pinterest board for a jumpstart on next year, but it’s too painful at this stage. I’m not ready for that kind of grieving yet.
As part of our Christmas mourning ritual, I like to leave our decorations up as long as possible. The record so far was July. Most of the time, my husband lovingly waits until my son and I are not in the house before he rips apart the Christmas village and buries all of those lovely little people in storage bins for a few months. While it’s incredibly heart-rending to come home to an empty living room, it also helps to rip the bandaid off a little.
Eventually, we ease our decorations into their respective storage bins and start finding other ways to spend our time. Travel and summer sun always help to refocus us. Also, I find that keeping two stockings up on the fireplace year-round (and leaving the gifts in them) is a fun way to rediscover Christmas a couple of times as well as irritate the relatives that come to visit.