It’s not easy at this time of year to be focused on the reason for the season. Thanks to this new world where we have to be offended by something every other breath, this season has been even more fraught than usual. Once we’ve all taken sides and pitchforks against each other in the social media battlefield over songs, there is still all the other exhausting holiday things to do: decorating, shopping, wrapping, gifting, parties, events, traveling, cooking, baking, and more shopping.
I’ve been out of the Christmas loop for the last few years as we are usually moving at Christmas. It’s easy to justify no need go all out with decorating when your life is in boxes. However, this year, we are staying put for once, and the kids have expectations. Adults aren’t the only ones bombarded with media telling us what the “perfect Christmas” looks like! It affects kids as well.
I’m homeschooling this year and so I’ve bought more presents than I usually do. I’ve noticed that my daughter isn’t playing with certain toys and asks for time with others that she would find in a more traditional kindergarten classroom. Lord help me, but I’ve bought a few puzzles. They’re not the first puzzles, we’ve owned, of course. It’s just that it’s so easy to lose pieces. Sigh. I’ve bought a few other activity things for us to do, replacement supplies for her play kitchen because I guess they sprouted legs but I can’t find them anywhere. No wonder she doesn’t want to play with it! I’ve complained on Facebook that the only thing I can find for my son is Lego kits. He happens to love Legos but it seems like his gifts should be more well-rounded.
I came up with a plan to buy cookies and pass them around the neighborhood. We’ve been here 6 months and I only know the next door neighbor’s name. She has custody of her grandkids who are near in age to my daughter. However, since we are homeschooling, I rarely see them. Thank goodness my husband is on vacation this week. He can help us in the kitchen while we bake and make sure tiny hands are washed so we don’t spread salmonella or something.
I actually don’t have to do much cooking for the big day itself. We will be traveling to visit family a few hours away. But then…well, then there’s the politics of family and in-laws. It comes with a strange house the kids don’t know and strange people and strange customs and lots and lots of opinions. I’ll be sure to take my anti-anxiety medicine that day.
And then there’s the issue of the Ghost of Christmas Past. I’m a headcase, plain and simple. Growing up, Christmas was always a tough time. I’m full of memories of arguments and fights, fear of bills, anxiety over presents, and just a looming sense of disaster. Again, pass the anxiety meds, as I try to bottle up memories and keep them from seeping into everything in my present life.
Through it all, I try to teach my children the true meaning of Christmas. I tell them it’s better to give than to receive when they can’t understand why we are donating new toys to Toys for Tots, donate to a charity, or give some loose change and spare cash to red Salvation Army bins. I remind them again, and again, and again, that Christmas is NOT about presents. It’s not about Santa. It’s not about all the expectations we’ve created of decorations or food or even forced cheerfulness and visiting family. I want them to know the real reason for the season because I don’t know what the future holds for them. What if they one day take a job where they have to work on Christmas? What if they live far away from us and can’t visit over the holiday? What if they just prefer a minimal existence and don’t enjoy decking the halls with holly? I want them to know that Christmas is in their hearts and can be all year long. I want them to know that they can still have a wonderful, blessed, happy Christmas even if xyz doesn’t happen.
And just when I am feeling entirely over-exhausted from it all, one of them will say something that lets me know they get it. It makes it all worth it. This holiday season, remember the real reason for the season. Remember to give to the less fortunate. Remember to spread love and cheer. Have grace for others, you never know what battle people are going through. Have open arms and an open heart. And if that exhausts you, and it might, well, at least then it will be worth something instead of being exhausted from all the manic shopping and vainglorious display the media tells us is necessary for Christmas. Take back Christmas!