Christmas is sometimes a lot to live up to. At least in my head it is. Ever since I was a kid I built the season up to something almost unreachable. I lugged stuffed bears down to the living room like it was Rockefeller Center just so we could look at the tree and make moony noises. And then I wanted boyfriends to drive me around so we could look at other people’s lights, drink hot chocolate and create MOMENTS. And then I wanted to go to every parade, see every movie, and I wanted to basically overdose on all the warm, gushy stuff you could only do during Christmas. Or else, what a waste. I’d have to wait an entire YEAR to get another shot. Christmas was just this bounty of MOMENTS and I needed to make them.
I haven’t outgrown it, but I also haven’t let it become the monster that ate December. So yes, once upon a time I put a lot of pressure on holidays. If you asked my husband, he’d say I still do, but he’s basically a liar. And you can’t see my crazy by outward appearances, because I’m not making baskets of cookies for neighbors. I’m not doing that because I get really flustered and twitchy when I bake, and I can’t sew without contemplating murder. I pretended to crochet like twice and made this piece of fat string that is somewhere in my closet. So no, I’m not killing myself with crafts. But yes, I’m totally pinning plenty of crap on Pinterest that I might or might not take a stab at. I’m jamming out to my Christmas playlist filled to the brim with the likes Otis Redding, Lindi Ortega and Stevie Wonder. And hot damn if I didn’t make fudge for the first time. But mostly, with two kids now, I’m keeping things simple, and I’m keeping them us and I’m present. I’m as content as a fat house cat sleeping in a warm window.
Last year when other kids my son’s age were adorably asking their parents for fancy things that started with an i and ending with a pad, I found myself in the weird spot of being unable to share in the storytelling. He wasn’t in a place yet with language to ask for anything and I felt a little lost. A little unsure of how to do Christmas this way. So I built what I could with the pieces he knew.
Some traditions get chucked, while others get restructured. You want to go to a parade? Okay, cool. Bring the tablet and the headphones. Go right ahead and point out all the great stuff, but don’t get your panties in a twist when the noise and stimulation become too much. Leave your expectations back at the home alongside that list of things you wanted to get done today. You’re gonna give up the comparisons and contrasts and that picture in your head. The one you thought would be the way all of this would look. Instead you’re gonna look beside you and see the big, wondrous smiles over fake snow. You’re gonna race into the kitchen and silently scream and do a quick running man dance with your husband because you swear that when you just mentioned Santa your kid looked at the fireplace. You’re gonna enjoy a late night building a train table, you’re gonna talk about Christmas every day to see what sticks and you’re gonna geek out with both your kids over the magic of plugging in the lights. They’re gonna count down for that real loud. Maybe you won’t write Santa a letter this year, but he’ll write his own name this time and it’s a shot straight to your heart just to watch him do it.
I won’t write sonnets to the hardships that come with the uphill climb that my son faces in his day to day life, but I can’t fall apart over this life outside of the mainstream either. This is his road, his story. I’m simply the mother walking alongside the path he’s forging. The one carrying a bag filled with stuff he might need, because a flashlight and an extra pair of underwear never hurt anyone. But for every lost battle and every race we’ve run at our own pace, my kid is over here enjoying Christmas like a Who down from Whoville. He does this thing to my heart and now watching his baby sister alongside him with that same eager excitement. He’s planted this seed in our family’s bones, and from it something strong is growing. He isn’t one to get lost in the details of things, and it’s that outlook that will forever be the moral to my every story. The whisper that says to stop, stop thinking so much and just sit in the warm window for a little while.