They are monsters of my own creation. Last night, my son demanded, "As soon as Thanksgiving is over--I mean as soon as it's over--you need to bring out the Christmas music." If the last few years are any indication, this means that I will need to play the following four songs on constant repeat for a month:
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
Nuttin' for Christmas, and
The Chipmunk Song.
No wonder my Christmas joy isn't what it once was.
I always have played Christmas music and decorated the house the day after Thanksgiving. In college, I strung up lights and wrapped our dorm room door like a present. In law school, I studied for finals to Christmas music. When I practiced law, my office was more decorated than my home because I spent more waking time there; it included white lights, Santas, Christmas music, and the return of the wrapped door.
December was all about anticipation, even as an adult. I'd purchase a few gifts for friends and family and mail out store-bought cards to a few more. Then I'd drive or fly home to my parents' house, where people would cook, clean, and take care of me, all while giving me gifts. It was a pretty sweet deal.
Once I had children of my own, the real Christmas work began. I wanted to create traditions and memories they would cherish, so I took everything up a notch each year. More decorations, more cookies, more music. Indoor lights, outdoor lights, white lights, colored lights. A lot more holiday cards in the mail, but a huge wall display of our loved ones' cards in return.
I love every minute of it, even while it makes me a little batty.
By Christmas, the kids are usually so amped up that they are intolerable. I am so sleep-deprived from baking cookies and Internet shopping at 2 a.m. that I'm intolerant. Just when I'm about done with the whole season, the actual holiday arrives with house guests and home-cooked meals to make. I wouldn't have it any other way, and my guests couldn't be more helpful and less guest-like, but I fear I'm often not joyful toward them.
I spend too much time trying to make everything just so and fail to enjoy my family and the holiday spirit the way I should. By the time Christmas arrives, I'm cranky not cheerful, and it's entirely self-inflicted.
I pledge to do better this year. I'm buying fewer--and I hope more thoughtful--things. I ordered my cards early. I will make and give as gifts the cookies I can make while remaining joyful. I will let the kids put up the decorations and will only relocate a few of them once the kids are asleep. I will cherish the few days each year when our kids have all their grandparents sleeping under one roof.
If remaining joyful means fewer decorations or less Christmas music, then so be it. I will save the Christmas playlist for when the kids are present and will coax them to include a little Silent Night with Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. If Nuttin' for Christmas accidentally gets deleted from my iTunes library, then we will all be well on our way to a happier holiday season.
What are you doing to make life easier and keep things in perspective this holiday season?