I assume that most mothers are like me when it comes to the holidays. We look forward to the traditions and holiday events that are sure to bring joy to our families, especially to our sweet, angelic children. We dream of shared experiences that our kiddos will treasure forever and someday pass down to their own children. We anxiously anticipate the joy on their precious little faces as they take in the sights and sounds of the holidays.
Unfortunately, it seems that my expectations of making memories during the holidays with my sweet cherubs seem to always fall short. I have compiled the following list of times when, just perhaps, my expectations may be a tad too high:
1. Decorating the Christmas Tree.
Every year I imagine my husband and I serenely unpacking each precious ornament so that our children can “ooh” and “aah” and reminisce about the beautiful baubles while they lovingly place them on our perfect tree that we handpicked at a quaint tree farm on a beautiful snowy day while wearing festive outerwear and fun plaid scarves.
That is not how it goes down. At all. Let me paint you a more accurate picture.
This year we went to the local Home Depot on an unseasonably warmish Saturday. I had gone to the gym and was still a sweaty mess. Mr. Wizard thought that 60 degrees in December equaled shorts and a t-shirt weather. It does not. Especially in the shade. So as we were walking around trying to find a tree, he was trailing behind us with his arms tucked in his shirt complaining of being cold. “Clark, Audrey is frozen from the waist down” went through my head more than once. At least Audrey had the sense to wear appropriate clothing. Sassafrass and Little Man were running around through the trees like wild animals. My husband was holding up every tree trying to find just the right one, but wanted to see them for himself as he apparently didn’t trust my judgment (probably because I said “sure, fine, whatever” to each one), so then I had to hold them so he could look and I got scratched up arms and sap stuck to my still sweaty forehead.
After what felt like 6 hours of tree holding I heard a smack and a scream and then Little Man came running over with blood all over his face. He had tripped and hit his mouth on the concrete and had a bloody lip. I yelled over his screaming to my husband, something to the effect of “JUST PICK OUT A DAMN TREE!” and ran-walked carrying Little Man inside the store to the bathroom to clean him up. Mr. Wizard followed along saying “I feel weird. I think I’m going to throw up. I feel very disoriented. I’m cold. I think I’m sick. Do you think I’m sick? What if I’m sick? Are you cold? Should I be this cold?”
We finally got cleaned up and got a decent tree home and set it up and then spent another three days trying to get it straight. It still is precariously close to toppling over. Then it was time to put on the ornaments. My fantasy of lovingly unwrapping each ornament while my children waited patiently was obviously way off base. Instead, it was “Sassafrass, hold on! Wait a minute! Let me unwrap the ornaments and I will hand them to you. Scoot back! Step away from the ornaments! No, don’t throw them! Little Man, please don’t sit on the box! Just wait! Aaaargghh!!!” Finally, after some direction and lots of patience, my husband and I devised a system that seemed to work for awhile so that we could hand each child an ornament in a timely manner. Of course the box full of hooks turned into one giant ball of hooks, so it took us twice as long to get an ornament ready to hang just trying to unhook one hook from that ball of mess.
The rest of the time was filled with Mr. Wizard claiming that every ornament was his, Little Man dropping each ornament multiple times, and accidently kicking or sitting on the breakable, fragile ones, Sassafrass being sassy and running up to her room crying on more than one occasion, and, somehow, all three children putting every single ornament on the EXACT SAME BRANCH!
I knew from experience that it didn’t really matter where the ornaments were placed. The cat will make sure and knock down any that haven’t fallen yet. And will hide them. Plus, I’m still not convinced that the tree will not topple over any time soon, thereby taking care of any stubborn ornaments that are still hanging on.
2. Decorating Cookies.
Every year we make and decorate sugar cookies with the kids. Every year I envision happy faces, carefully placed sugary sprinkles, a crackling fire, Christmas carols playing in the background, peace, and calm. What the heck am I thinking?
Tonight I attempted to just roll out the dough and let the younger two cut out and bake the cookies so that we could decorate them tomorrow. This is what it sounded like:
“Make sure you wash your hands. I will show you how to roll them out and then you can try. Little Man, don’t pick your nose when you are baking…. or ever. Go wash your hands again please. Sassafrass, please don’t sit on the table. I will move your chair so you can reach. You are doing a nice job rolling out the dough. Maybe let’s try to keep it on the table though. Why? Well, because we don’t want to use dough that has fallen on the floor. Little Man, get your hands out of your pants. Go wash your hands please. Yes, with soap. Yes, with water. Yes, I think Elsa is nice, but I don’t have an Elsa cookie cutter. I think we should stick with the trees and bells. Oh dear, I think we are okay with the flour. No more flour. Little man, you are doing great cutting out your shapes. Let’s not put them on our face, though, okay? Because our faces are not very clean and cookies don’t belong on them.” And on, and on, and on.
After awhile Sassafrass asked me why I was talking in a funny voice. I think it was my “I’m trying really hard to keep it together and make a happy memory, but the amount of mess that is occurring right now is about to make me lose it voice”.
Luckily, I think my phony voice worked and my kids had a great time with the cookie making. I hope they learned from the experience. I hope they learned not to put their hands in their pants when they are baking.
3. Looking at Christmas lights.
Every year, my husband and I pile the kids in the car in their jammies with blankets, travel mugs of hot chocolate, Christmas carols on the radio and drive around the city looking at some very impressive Christmas displays. This activity is enjoyed for about the first two houses. And the first one is usually ours. After that, the following sounds can be heard from the backseat:
“Mom, My hot chocolate isn’t very hot! Mom, I can’t drink this, it’s too hot! I dropped my blanket and I can’t reach it. Can you turn on the movie? Sassafrass is kicking my seat! My hot chocolate spilled. Mr. Wizard is playing his Kindle! Can we watch a movie? Can we get ice cream? How long are we going to drive around? Mom, look at the castle I’m making on Minecraft. Are we driving in circles? I have to go to the bathroom”. etc., etc.
Yes, sometimes our attempts at making Christmas memories don’t go as planned, but here is what I have learned:
I have learned to significantly lower my expectations.
I have learned that even though the Christmas traditions we have with our children may not go exactly as planned, I will continue to do them because years from now my kids won’t remember my “weird voice”, but will remember the laughter and fun we had even through the chaos.
I have learned that the best moments usually involve mess.
I have learned, thankfully, to embrace the chaos.
Thank God for the chaos.