December 1, 2015.
By now your Christmas preparations will be in full swing. You’ve pulled out the decorations, circled the tree-buying date on your calendar and started a “who’s getting what” list. But if past behaviour is any indication, you will start to go a little crazy around December 20th. You’ll be tired, overwhelmed, stressed and a little bit bitchy. Think PMS with mistletoe. You will resent all the running around, the obligatory social engagements and the pressure you’ve put on yourself to find the perfect gifts. The purpose of this letter is to save you from yourself.
Christmas is like birthing a baby (I think). There’s excitement and anticipation leading up. You are organized, you are ready and you have a pan. You even get a little cocky, congratulating yourself on everything you accomplished in advance, pitying those who weren’t as smart as you. Then it begins and you want to get off the ride. You wonder how you could have miscalculated reality so severely. You beat yourself up. You beat your husband up. And before you know it you are screaming for drugs and vowing “never again.”
Jen, the most important thing you need to remember is that Christmas is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be joyful. It’s not supposed to cause stress, anger or bankruptcy and if it does, you’re doing it wrong. Remember the spirit of Christmas, how it promotes love, togetherness and peace. You got so caught up in having the right stuff with which to celebrate that you forgot a little bit about why we were celebrating in the first place. Yes, there is a lot of shopping that needs to be done: gifts, decorations, food, toys and warm clothes to donate, the all-important sparkly top … these are all part of our enjoyment of the season. But you need to know when enough is enough. If you can’t relax until the garland is up and you’ve found the perfect twinkly lights then, once again, you’re doing it wrong.
Remember the day you went to three stores to find the perfect little ornament to go with the neighbours’ cookies? That was stupid. Your heart was in the right place but you got caught up seeking picture-perfect presentation instead of thinking about the reason for the gift. They are wonderful neighbours who tolerate our dogs, pool parties, overgrown foliage, squeaky trampoline and occasional hot tub nudity. I’m thrilled our kids are growing up together and I hope they never move. Wouldn’t that have been a nicer sentiment to put in the card (minus the nudity) instead of scrawling “Love the Millards” 30 seconds before flying out the door?
Do you remember what caused you the most angst in 2014? I do. It was shopping for people outside our immediate family. Let’s be honest: shit got crazy. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make someone happy but for God’s sake, the 15-year old who babysat once is probably not expecting diamonds. So chill.
We are not a religious family but this year we need to find a way to teach our daughters about the true meaning of Christmas. In 2014, the Kindness Elves helped us promote random acts of kindness that hopefully they’re continuing to practice. I’m not suggesting we erect a live nativity in the front yard but maybe it’s time to stop being so afraid of talking about God and Jesus. It’s okay if you don’t always know what to say, and it’s okay to not have all the answers. When in doubt, refer to chill out instructions.
In short, you need to take it easy. Less is more. Christmas is all about the kids, and they don’t care if the garland comes from Walmart or Pottery Barn. They don’t even know what garland is, and in a few years they’ll be spending most of their down time with friends. What they do care about is a warm, loving home, time and attention from mom and dad, and presents under the tree. If your kids are happy, your family is healthy and we’re all together, then everything else is just noise. Don’t give in to the temptation to make Christmas about more than that.
And as an extra bonus for sticking to that healthy eating plan (you look fabulous, by the way), here are a few more suggestions for making Christmas 2015 a little easier. You thought of them while lying awake wondering about amazon.ca’s Christmas shipping cut off.
1. Organize a pancake breakfast for staff at school. Hold it the morning after the winter concert. This will be your gift to everyone who interacts with the girls outside their homeroom teachers. Nothing says “I appreciate how much you care for my children” like a table full of syrup and bacon.
2. Almost no one appreciates knick knacks, coffee table books or joke gifts that clutter up their home (except for Daren, who could open a museum). But everyone appreciates something delicious that has the added bonus of disappearing when you’re done with it, so give more edible gifts.
3. Your friends will be feeling equally frazzled and clueless as to what to get you. So instead of stressing over gifts, plan a night out in January as your gift to each other. A kidless night out is better than a new scarf or lip gloss any day, even it means pitching a tent in someone’s driveway and watching SITC reruns on an iPhone.
4. Resist the pathological need to see that person you worked with in 2011 “before the holidays.” Unless she’s leaving the country on December 25 you can see each other AFTER the holidays. It won’t be any less special.
5. Know this: Twisted Peppermint is NOT THE BOSS OF YOU. If you don’t have Bath & Body Works candles and hand soaps scattered throughout your house, Christmas is not ruined. Resist the temptation to buy 13 soaps to get nine free, and spend it on wine instead.