Every year I say it. I swear I’m going to keep it simple. I’m going to have that fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.
The problem is, moms are inundated. Commercials (endless commercials). And Christmas carols on TV and the radio and in every store. And social media ads and pictures of our friends doing Christmas-y things. There are images everywhere of the perfect Christmas. The perfect gifts. The perfect family photos for the perfect Christmas card. Those perfect forever memories. And now so often in the middle of it all are these reminders: remember the “reason for the season” or “presence not presents”. Everywhere we turn are the constant contradictions to MAKE IT PERFECT BUT DON’T OVERDO IT.
I can’t help but feel somehow I’m not doing it right. Somehow I seem to be getting it all wrong.
At our house we try to keep it simple. Really we do. Dan and I don’t exchange gifts and the kids get the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, and one other gift”. Five gifts plus some candy in a stocking each. We put up a tree and stockings and a nativity but we don’t do outdoor lights. Of course Santa comes on Christmas morning but we don’t do the long lines to visit Santa and we certainly don’t do Elf on the Shelf (in fact that conversation went something like “You can waste your own money on one of those Elves if you want but I’m telling you it isn’t going to move because it’s the parents.” End of discussion). We read some Christmas books and watch all the movies. We don’t do gingerbread houses but we bake a lot of cookies and just eat them all ourselves. It sounds pretty simple.
Can I tell you I still feel overwhelmed?
Because someone has to buy all those gifts. And five gifts for five kids is still a lot of driving around and standing in line and waiting for front porch deliveries. Plus there’s the teacher gifts and angel tree gifts and grandparent gifts and gifts for the stocking-stuffer fundraiser. Then someone has hide those gifts until its time to wrap and then find enough boxes that fit and then cut and wrap and tape all those gifts. Someone has to get the stuff to bake the million batches of cookies we love to eat and candy for the stockings and a bone for the dog. Someone has to plan what to have for dinner and make sure everyone has something in their closet that fits for Christmas Eve mass. And even if it is just a random photo and a pre-made Costco card, someone has to drag and click and change the names to our family and order the card and pick it up and slap on all the stamps and stick them in the mailbox. Someone has to make sure all the breakable ornaments are at the top of the tree so Lizzy can’t get to them and someone has to hang the stockings in a row. I wonder what the kids would think if I literally only provided my presence this season??? No tree or stockings or gifts or Christmas dinner or cinnamon rolls from a tube on Christmas morning. None of it.
You know what occurred to me today?
The Christmas season isn’t simple because my life isn’t simple. I have five kids, two cats, a dog, and a crested gecko not to mention a husband and a house to take care of! Add to that all the ‘simple’ little memories we all strive for at Christmas and, surprise, I’m overwhelmed!
My regular days are full of diapers and grocery shopping and laundry (endless laundry) and dragging kids to and from school with clean uniforms and signed planners and cooking dinner (or at least some grilled cheeses) and homework time and carting kids to basketball or soccer practice and reading books and brushing teeth and tucking in and re-tucking in. My regular days are often pretty exhausting and I end up flopping on the couch at 10PM with a dazed expression and aching shoulders just hoping for a little quiet time with my husband and a few laughs from the Tonight Show.
When all the other Christmas stuff gets added in I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Plus there’s Lizzy un-decorating the lower third of the tree several times a day or pulling down the stockings. And there’ve been two broken ornaments because the boys play basketball in my living room (which is now about two feet smaller because of the tree and presents taking up space) and a ball hit the 16 year old glass balls which shattered all over the presents and tree skirt and carpet.
Today Luke woke up crying from his nap. I heard him coming down the hall but he didn’t make it. He threw up all over the hallway carpet and the bathroom door and the wall and baseboards. It was awful. He had blueberries with his lunch. You know what isn’t very Christmas-y?? Scrubbing vomit out of the carpet and the leftover puke smell that still lingers throughout the upstairs.
Where is my simple, fun, old-fashioned family Christmas?
Where is my peace, love, joy, and hope?
Why am I so very near tears???
Tonight instead of dragging kids around to Eli’s soccer practice I got to sit home with James and my sick Luke under our red fuzzy throw blanket from grandma watching A Christmas Story. Lizzy was already tucked into bed. And it dawned on me.
A Christmas miracle.
A simple Christmas season is an unattainable expectation. We don’t live in a Hallmark movie. But I certainly have MOMENTS. Moments of simple. Moments when I want to shut my eyes and memorize every little detail.
Like that very moment with my little boys under our red snuggly blanket.
Like Elizabeth in her red and white polka dotted pajamas ooohing over the tree and pointing with her pudgy finger at all the ornaments, especially that red bird.
Like coming in after giving Lizzy a bottle to unexpectedly find Dan reading the Grinch to ALL the boys and how they laughed when he tickled them and how I just laid quietly on the bottom bunk. Watching. Taking that moment in.
Like finding last year’s unmade Christmas craft in the bottom of the decorations box and stopping right then and there to make it with James.
Like Luke admiring all the packages, especially the big ones, and his ridiculous guesses at what’s inside.
Like quoting Christmas Vacation with Isaiah. “Don’t throw me down, Clark!”
Like Eli coming home today after school to hug me saying, “I liked your note today mom!” because I slipped a sarcastic little note in his lunch after an epic mom meltdown yesterday regarding some Costco pumpkin muffins. Our own little inside joke!
I think it’s possible for all of us.
Maybe if we look hard enough. If we wait patiently. If we squint our eyes a little bit. Maybe we CAN have a Christmas filled with simple little moments amid the chaos. A snippet here and there of joy. Perhaps a few seconds of peace. Minutes filled up with love.
That brings me so much hope!
And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Hope. The birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. And the hope He brings to my crazy, beautiful, ordinary life.