1. My kids are another year older, and I still don’t have a picture of them on Santa’s lap.
When the holiday cards and Facebook holiday pictures start showing up in December, I suddenly remember, “Still haven’t got that shot of the girls on Santa’s lap… Huh.” I’m not exactly sure how we’ve gone nine years without this childhood essential, but there you have it. My kids have never had the pleasure of sitting on some stranger’s lap to whisper their deepest desires into his ear. Actually… now that I think about this, I’m definitely ok without this picture!
2. Lying to my kids about Santa
When my nephew was 12, I told him there was no Santa. It took me all of Christmas Eve to realize that he hadn’t gotten the memo somehow, but once it became clear to me that he was in middle school and thought the NORAD Santa tracker was a live feed of Santa, I had to act. I feel no guilt about this because he really was of an age where the adult world was opening up, and I really didn’t want him to get beat up in middle school gym class.
My kids are definitely nearing this age (see The Atlantic’s, “When Kids Stop Believing in Santa” to relieve any of your own lingering Santa guilt). So we’re at the point where, while we’re not actively pushing a belief in Santa, we’re also not laying all our cards on the table. Instead, we’re sitting back and letting the kids take the lead.
This year, for instance, Nell has gone so far as to set up a test for Santa: she’s putting out a stocking for him to fill for my husband and me, something we don’t ordinarily do. And Libby spent ten minutes last weekend asking me, “Who is Santa?! Who is Santa?!” In both of these instances, I played it cool. I asked, “What do you think is going to happen?” “Who do you think Santa is?” Both kiddos replied with their own story of Santa. They’ve shared their thoughts on invisible houses that only Santa can find or magical reindeers that help Santa know who’s asleep and awake. The fact that they’re not responding with, “It’s you and Dad, right?” Tells me that they’re still working hard to believe; they still want the magic. So, I tell Libby once again the Santa story. And on Christmas Eve, you can be darn sure that the stocking Nell puts out for Santa to fill on our behalf will be filled to overflowing with no guilt on my part for “lying” for at least one more year.
3. Not throwing our annual holiday party
My husband suggested that this year we not throw our usual holiday shindig. And though I had a twinge of sadness that I wouldn’t be seeing everyone we usually see, I was also very happy to give this year a miss. There will be other parties in the future, and, I think, they’ll be all the more fun for taking a year off from the tradition.
4. Not traveling home for Christmas
Long car rides with children are dramatically different from long car rides with grown-ups. The first requires the logistical no-how of an armed invasion, the second, a pack of gum and a road-trip playlist. We avoid long-car trips with our children as much as possible because we’re not sadomasochist.
5. Taking some shortcuts
My Christmas cards will be New Year cards this year.
I ordered many of my gifts online this year. In fact, a good percentage of my gifts to folks are actually gift cards.
Christmas dinner will include macaroni and cheese from a box because that’s what my kids want. (Fear not, the grownups will be enjoying a maple-glazed steelhead trout).
Historically, I’ve ordered our Christmas cards the weekend after Thanksgiving. I’ve driven all over town buying what I hoped would be everyone’s perfect present. And I’ve spent many hours on Pinterest looking for a dish to add to my holiday table that I hoped my kids would enjoy too only weep a little every year when they ask me to instead serve them peanut and butter sandwich on my grandmother’s good china.
Not this year, baby! I’m taking the shortcut and I think we’ll all be the happier for it.
Alright, here is what I am actually feeling guilty about: Being overloaded. Still.
To begin with, I want to acknowledge that this guilt I’m feeling is a first- world problem. I am so blessed. So privileged. And so grateful to live in this time, this place, and with these people.
Even after the many years I’ve spent working to not feel guilty about all of the above, I still have unrealistic expectations for myself at this time of year. I still schedule too much, attempt to do too much, and then lose it too much when I can’t quite make it all happen. And my kids suffer each and every time.
To let myself a little off the hook, it just so happens that I am scheduled at more than full-time this month. The work I do comes in waves, and this month has included some big waves for me professionally. Nell and Libby are old enough to get this, and I’m lucky to have a partner who can tag team the home front with me.
I feel bad. I hate that we only having 15 minutes to do something before we have to go/do something else. I hate that I yelled at my kids over pulling off an enormous piece of tape when we’re wrapping presents (“Seriously? We’re not wrapping the Titanic people!”). I hate that I burned my husband’s birthday brunch because I was trying and failing to let the girls cook it themselves (What the hell people with December birthdays?! You are the worst!). And I hate that this time for making holiday memories is so damn short.
Tonight, when I was one sparkly gold ribbon away from tying the children up in their rooms until the New Year, I fled the house to go the corner store. I kind of love when we run out of some little thing for just this excuse to step out for 10 minutes. I walked to the store, alone, and enjoyed this spring weather we’re having. When I got to there, it was closed for inventory, but the woman, maybe feeling the spirit of the season, let me in anyway to buy my bag of tortilla chips. I thanked her and chatted with her and a man who evidently had just become the new owners of my local store twenty minutes previously. They told me all about their big plans, and I happily gave them their first two dollars.
I walked back home in the dark and returned to the overload that is my family’s life at this time of year. I looked at the clock and felt my shoulders tightening thinking of all the little things we still had to do before bed.
We ate. Lunches were packed. We got the tree decorated. The toilets got cleaned. We packaged up the boxes of gifts we need to mail. The girls had their baths. This blog entry miraculously got written.
My list is not done.