To the mom who cancelled Christmas: I feel you

Growing up, we had a friend whose mom lost her mind one Christmas Eve. As I recall the story, the kids were all acting up and fighting; someone didn’t want to wear a tie to church and someone was whining and I’m sure they’d all had too much sugar. The mom, who was probably exhausted and stressed from trying to create a wonderful holiday for her family, snapped. She dragged the fully decorated Christmas tree out into the yard and announced that Christmas had been cancelled.

I used to think that their mom was crazy. I felt sympathy for her children. Now, I’m surprised more of us aren’t dragging our trees outside and cancelling Christmas.

Our family doesn’t do an elaborate Christmas and yet, December still turns me into a crazy person. Earlier this week, I sat straight up in bed at 2 AM and realized that I hadn’t bought a single present for any of my kids. I started online shopping at 3 AM, which has never ended well for any human being. Earlier in the day, I’d baked 18 chocolate chip pies for teachers, coaches and other adults who are involved in my kids’ lives. The list has gotten a little out of hand, but it seems important to honor these people who are part of our village.

On my pie baking day, I was incredulous that my kids still wanted dinner.

These are the kinds of things that cause moms to toss the tree into the yard.

Most of us have really full lives and adding Christmas prep on top of our other responsibilities is a recipe for crazy-making. None of our every day activities gets taken off our plate. No fairy comes through and handles our regular chores so that Christmas can happen. We have to fit it in to our already full days; most of us give up sleep or self-care to pull together a nice holiday for our families.

It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a designated person or magic maker to keep parents from getting overwhelmed and twitchy. It’s up to us to take some things off our plates in order to maintain some sanity. I think we have to triage the demands and keep our family’s priorities in mind. For example, at our house the kids only get three gifts each. Every year, on Christmas Eve, I look at my kids’ small stack of presents and panic. I am tempted to go buy a bunch of plastic stuff to make it look more festive. I have to remind myself that, by the end of the day, with gifts from grandparents and other family, there will be more than enough gift giving.

I like sending out and receiving Christmas cards, so I’ve kept up that tradition. Our tree has been up in the family room for five days, but we haven’t found a time that the six of us can gather to put ornaments on it. There really isn’t a deadline for these things. I make sure we get our nativity sets out early and meet our friends to decorate cookies because those activities fill our hearts. I’ve stopped doing things that are just a pain and not meaningful. The stalker Elf on the Shelf only made it one year in my house before his creepy self ended up at Goodwill. We all have to make choices.

And we parents could all probably offer ourselves and each other some grace. Let’s lower the bar a little. Let’s consider our children fortunate if we don’t cancel Christmas. Let’s celebrate small victories and let some unhelpful expectations go. Let’s give each other credit and praise for not throwing the tree out into the yard.

I think this will be my new standard. If the season ends with the tree still inside, then everything else is just bonus.

May your families and your trees remain safe during this holiday season. I’m going to take the next few weeks off from blogging so that I can come back clearer and stronger in the New Year. I’ll see you on the other side!

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  • My four children grew up hearing me declare to all who would listen that my favorite day of the year was the one after Christmas. Have a merry one. I love your posts.