A few years ago I decided to try to take back Christmas.
That makes me sound like a total martyr. Honesty, I really struggle with the holidays. Struggle as in I bounce between moments of glee and peaceful nostalgia to fits of rage and moments of paralyzing anxiety….. Merry Christmas?
I think most women and mothers go into the holiday season with ridiculous amounts of enthusiasm and equal parts unrealistic expectations for what we might accomplish. Perfect presents picked and wrapped? Check! 24 individually wrapped Advent gifts? Yay! Trek to the local tree farm and pick and cut the perfect tree and trim it with the exact amount of Martha Stewart recommended LED lights based on the height of the tree? Done! (I did research that once.) Bake cookies, buy matching Christmas outfits for the kids, holiday photos, pre-Pinterest inspired handmade gifts, Christmas cards….. I’m getting an ulcer just trying to remember all the things I used to do.
4 years ago, after realizing we hadn’t even planned out any sort of budget, and subsequently realizing that living on one income perhaps that may have been something smart to do, I started to pause and wonder, WHY am I doing all of this stuff that I am really, honestly, hating? I tried to remember exactly what gifts we had given our girls for Christmas the year before. I couldn’t even name one thing. All of the stress of shopping and none of it was even…. memorable. The packaging, the waste… from an environmental standpoint Christmas Day always made me feel serious Mother Earth guilt.
4 years ago on December 27th I was due with my 3rd baby. There is nothing like a baby due at Christmas to give a woman the Trump Card to throw down. I played that card hard that year and it was the best forced traditional change ever granted to me and my family. I sat down (and barely got up) and made a list of the things I wanted to do that holiday season, the things I had to do, and the stuff that I was supposed to do. All the supposed to stuff I just blessed and released. I had read about a Mom who was feeling like her children were turning into greedy, ungrateful Christmas monsters and shared her plans for a Read, Want, Wear, Need gift plan.
So I decided that year, I too, would give my kids a Read, Want, Wear, Need Christmas.
Each of my kids got 4 gifts, and has on every Christmas since.
Something to read.
Something they want.
Something to wear.
Something they need.
They get one gift from Santa, and a stocking will little things as well. Others have asked if my kids feel short changed by this. Is it boring? I asked my girls this last year and they said, “What? You aren’t stopping that, are you? We love it! Don’t quit doing it!” So no, it’s safe to say they enjoy it!
That change alone freed me from so much holiday stress. I cannot over-buy or emotionally shop. I’m forced to pick carefully, then stop shopping and do other things. The priority list now includes more fun things that I don’t dread doing, like see the Nutcracker, snow-shoe, hot glue stuff to stuff and make ugly crafts, watch our favorite Christmas movies. Do I still get stressy? Of course. Do I still have waves of Non Christmas Card Sending Guilt as I open up cute Shutterfly cards I ADORE getting from my family and friends. Sure. Do I envy the women who really do have the skills to Do Christmas and do it well and enjoy doing it? Honestly, yes. Does it bother me enough to go back to the old ways? No. I hope any of you who are entering this season feeling like it’s time for new traditions, will find some peace in knowing that we don’t have an Elf on the Shelf, I don’t want one, and if you give me one, I will use him as a door stop. May you do more of the things you love, and less of the things you don’t!