It’s that time of the year, mamas. When we pile on the pressure, the expectations, the magic-making.
The countdown is officially on now, and I find myself making lists upon lists upon lists. Most are written or typed, but then there are the lists in my head too.
Did you get enough gifts for each child? Did you get things they’re going to be excited about? Should you make a last-minute Target run for a few more things? Make sure you get stuff to bake Christmas cookies. Should we buy and make a gingerbread house too What night could we go to the mall for pictures with Santa? Crap. We didn’t mail letters to Santa! Do we have to? Do we need pictures with mall Santa if we already got a blurry cell phone picture with another Santa? Are my kids going to wear the clothes I bought for church? Should I have gotten a few options for each?
TBH, I almost pushed for us to buy tickets for a Polar Express train ride that would have cost around $300 for our five-person family. Because you have to do the Polar Express ride during Christmastime, right?
And Santa’s village and gingerbread-house-making and the Rockettes and the Nutcracker and the tea with Elsa and all the local craft activities and every holiday party or happening about town.
No, no. Wrong. Very wrong.
Don’t do it all, please. Trying to do it all is the fastest way to gift yourself a nice big box of Christmas burnout, on top of our regular mom burnout, which is just way too much burnout we don’t deserve.
My advice is this: choose a few things you can afford to do without stretching things. Make sure they’re things you really want to do and things your kid would actually even enjoy doing at their age. I remember driving almost two hours for a Polar Express ride and paying an obscene amount of money for it when my oldest kiddo was a baby, and she was a baby — she didn’t care. It’s a fun memory to look back on, sure, but so was the rest of what we did for Christmas that year.
Long story short: we could have saved our pennies on that one.
The other day when my kids were playing, I had the idea to turn our small bedroom closet into a “Cozy Christmas Corner” to surprise them. I cleared out a bunch of stuff I don’t want or need anymore (which was a decluttering bonus!), added a fuzzy gray rug, extra throw pillows, and a few stuffed animals. I strung Christmas lights up and stacked a few of their favorite holiday books in there.
Their eyes legitimately lit up when they saw it. They squealed with excitement and piled right in, and then we read Little Blue Truck’s Christmas. When it was time to get ready for bed, they asked if they could sleep in there, and I tried to explain that telling people you now sleep in a small closet might get Mommy and Daddy in some trouble.
But none of them wanted to get out, and it made me so happy that something so small and silly (and free!) brought them so much excitement.
It reminded me that this is the important stuff. The random cozy book corner to read a pile of Christmas books in.
Adding Christmas lights wherever you can (we have an odd dangle of lights in our bathroom for festive tubby time). Making green and red paper chain links to string up all over the place (our living room looks like Buddy the Elf went to town with the construction paper). Dancing to Christmas music on full blast (my kids can lip-sync “All I Want For Christmas Is You” better than the Christmas Queen herself #humblebrag). The way my two-year-old shouts “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!” louder and louder as our laughter-levels increase.
The thing of it all is this: the holidays come at us full-speed. We can feel it. Everything begs loudly for our attention. We can hear it. There’s another shiny distraction (or sale) around every corner. We can see it.
But what I want — and what I need — are the little things. The tiny things. The unexpected things. The random things.
And I want, so desperately, for my eyes to be open to those things. The important things.
Because deep down, I know my children are going to enjoy the magic regardless. What they really want is to sit on my lap with a cup of hot chocolate and Noelle streaming on Disney+. And that’s what I want to do too.
So, my friend, put down the sprinkles and step away from the glitter. Erase that sneaky little elf you forgot to move from your memory, and enjoy the holiday cards you receive without feeling bad about not sending your own out this year. Try not to fret over the Batman sweater your kiddo will inevitably wear on Christmas Eve instead of the red reindeer dress you got especially for that occasion. Stop fussing with the charcuterie board and the plans for what sides to serve for dinner.
It’s time to join in on the fun instead of being the one who merely creates it all.
Happy holidays, mama. Please don’t forget to enjoy all that you’ve done.