The holidays are upon us! Such an exciting time of year for making memories with our families. No, I’m serious. Did that sound sarcastic? Okay, unfortunately, it does seem that my expectations of making memories with my sweet cherubs always seem to 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.
Instead, we schlep ourselves to the nearest home improvement store where I wander around pointing out trees that my husband will inevitably shoot down in favor of the one he likes, but not until I’ve been forced to hold up about 43 of them so he can stand back and look while I’m getting scratched up arms and sap in my hair.
We manage to get a decent tree home and then spent another three days trying to get it straight in it’s stand. Again I am the designated “tree holder” while my husband lays on the ground and does something to try to get it straight. He’s probably watching Sports Center on his phone for all I know.
Then it is time to put on the ornaments. My fantasy of lovingly unwrapping each ornament while my children wait patiently is obviously way off base. Instead, it is “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! Please don’t sit on the box! Just wait!” We manage to get the ornaments on the tree with only twenty six of them getting broken and, somehow, all three children putting every single ornament on the EXACT SAME BRANCH!
It doesn’t really matter where the ornaments are placed. The cat will make sure and knock down any that haven’t fallen yet. Plus, chances are good that the tree will still fall over, 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.
This is what it sounds like instead:
“Make sure you wash your hands. I will show you how to roll them out and then you can try. Don’t pick your nose when you are baking…. or ever. Go wash your hands again please. 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. Dude, 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. Whey is there so much flour?!? 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.”
All of this is said in what my kids call my “weird voice” but is just my high-pitched, sing-songy “trying to keep it together and not lose my shit over a huge mess” voice.
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. And it’s really not impressive. 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? She is kicking my seat! My hot chocolate spilled. 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?” And, inevitably after all the hot chocolate: “I have to go to the bathroom”.
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 mean, a lot. Basically, I just don’t have any expectations.
I have learned that even though the Christmas traditions we have with our children may not go exactly as envisioned, 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 hope.
I have learned that the best moments usually involve mess.
I have learned to embrace the chaos.