We woke up to frost on EVERYTHING…car windows were stuck when my husband left for work and, according to our oldest, it’s cold enough to sleep all morning (of course, he worked the night shift so he IS ready to sleep all morning!) J has rolled out all the Christmas CDs (no prompting needed, thank you, he’s Mr. Christmas) and is happily listening to Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Of course, in spite of the frost, cold and Christmas music, he’s running the ceiling fans…go figure!
There was a time when the thought of The Holidays approaching elicited something akin to panic. Christmas morning meant we’d be faced with a meltdown of unpredictable severity. It didn’t matter how much forethought we put into anything regarding this ritual, Christmas morning was a time of profound sadness for J and great frustration for us.
Turn on the TV right now and you’ll find some sort of programming designed to make you feel like your Christmas is “all wrong.” There will be movies about people who chose career over family and are given the chance to lead an alternate life (at Christmas, of course) so they can see the error of their ways. There are movies about people who’ve lost the spirit of Christmas and, by some miracle, find it because of a child, preferably a sick one who will be saved by love and Christmas. You’ll also run into a movie where the whole town pulls together to achieve a miraculous Christmas for a person/family who has lost all hope. The news won’t help: CNN and company are covering the hordes that have run into stores trying to buy themselves some Christmas miracle. If I sound jaded it’s because I don’t think getting a TV is going to improve your quality of life any more than getting Fisher-Price’s Power Wheels Barbie Jammin’ Jeep Wrangler would. I’m one of those people who thinks playing with the kids -rather than watching them play- counts for more…but I’m not here to give THAT speech.
We’ve been told Christmas is a time for miracles so we often fall short. Every year more and more parents join the surging wave of those who work hard to make their kids go oooooh-aaaaah on Christmas morning. This wave is only challenged in size, intensity and population by the ebbing one of those who are deflated by their kids’ reactions on Christmas morning. Hey, I’m not judging…we’ve done that! Then we were forced to re-think the whole thing, not because we wanted a Christmas miracle or had a change of heart, but because -quite frankly- it made sense.
J’s parents, namely us, were at a point where spiking the coffee, the orange juice, the eggnog and even the water once Christmas morning’s cataclysm had run its course was an alluring idea. In spite of all the love, good-will, happiness and togetherness we feel on a day-to-day basis, we weren’t getting the Hallmark Christmas movie feeling; there was no miraculous or inspiring denouement to follow all our preparation. What we were getting was Krakatoa, West of Java (the whole East of Java thing is a misrepresentation…but never mind the nerd who would bring that up.)
So…how did we get rid of the disastrous Christmas meltdowns?
Did we get rid of Christmas?????
Did we dash the children’s hopes and dreams?
Did we run over the sugarplums dancing around in their heads?
Did we tell them Santa Claus was a sham?????
No. We got rid of the unrealistic expectations about the season. Yes, it is a “season for miracles,” “the season of giving,” “the season of joy,” and all that good, peppermint candy-coated stuff, but we have redefined miracle, joy and giving. We didn’t change the meaning of the season, we simply stopped using the commercial one and gave Christmas back to J, saving our sanity to boot.
Your kid, you’re thinking right now as you read this, is LISTENING TO CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!! Yes, he is…and very contentedly, too. J is happy, but he’s not anticipating the presents; what he is thinking of has more to do with us as a family. It’s not that he’s an enlightened individual, J’s just not focusing on the presents because it’s not on the schedule yet.
Yes, there IS a Christmas schedule (thanks for asking.) We refer to the gift-giving portion as The Twelve Days of Christmas because the song is there and we might as well put it to good use. This doesn’t mean that on each day we give each other the amount of presents the song indicates or that every present is of the same caliber and worth; it means we pace ourselves, and get to enjoy one item each day.
In J’s case, he can play with his present, find a place for it in his world. We take time to understand the meaning of the moment we’re living. Everyone gets one very nice present which isn’t a car with a bow on it, but rather the one thing you REALLY wanted and were NOT expecting. We also get a lot of very simple things that entertain us…like wind-up chattering teeth, a wind-up poopin’ penguin, a cat-a-pult (which is a catapult that shoots plastic cats), a chocolate bar not of the kind that you get by the register at the grocery store, and such. Books…movies…music…knick-knacks you will carry with you for years to come and tell people “oh, THAT…well…this one Christmas…” Mostly, we give each other a good laugh, maybe a little cry, a hug, an “I can’t believe you remembered!!!”
On Christmas morning we open one last thing, after breakfast, while laying on the family room floor, and wearing our pajamas. There is no pressure and J, having had time to SAVOR the bounty in spoonfuls rather than by the tray, is perfectly pleased with Christmas being over.
But it all begins, of course, with the search for The Tree…