Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Holiday Trap (Warning: Not for the Eyes of Kids)

When I was a little kid, I looked forward to every December, not just because my birthday was in that month, but because I adored the lights and the Christmas carols and all of the goodies my mom would make. For much of my childhood we lived overseas, so seeing family wasn't too much of an option, but if people couldn't come, they would send gifts and cards and warm thoughts. Of course, my brother and I enjoyed the presents. Growing up and finding out the truth of things wasn't so bad either. It was the warmth and spirit of the holiday that mattered after all.

When I got married, things got way more complicated. Not only does my husband celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas, but he is also three days older than me. Now we have three holidays and two birthdays to celebrate in a two week period.

When we had kids, Santa started to come because I couldn't imagine not sharing the things I grew up with with my kids. Suddenly, not only were there Santa gifts, but also teacher gifts to make and cards to write, and I went off the deep end from insanity to complete and utter dread. I hate the month of December now. I approach it with dread and a sense of frustration I never thought I would have about a season that is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Exhausted, I roll into New Years just thankful it is all over and accomplished for one more year.

If there were something I could go back and tell my younger, newer mom self, it would be to NOT set up the expectations that I set up. The expectation of gifts for two sets of holidays. The expectation that Santa would come and drop off an amazing spread of gifts and stockings full of candy every year. The expectation that there would always be a tree and lights and goodies. I can't fall back upon the religious aspect of Christmas because I don't really buy into any of that anymore. If anything, I identify more with the pagan origins of the holiday. We should just light candles on the Winter Solstice (my birthday), and tell each other how much we love each other. That would mean so much more than a guy in a red suit and a glut of consumerism in my mind.

My older, more thoughtful self doesn't like the smoke and mirrors traditions we set up for our kids and the commercial glut of sugar and stuff that our country dumps on each other every year. My kids are reaching the age where they either know the truth and just don't want to admit it, or will be finding out that I have been lying to them very soon. If I could, I would just stop doing it all. But, now I've got two kids who would be heartbroken if all of of that were to go away. Part of me wishes they would ask me about Santa directly so I could get the big question out of the way and instead of spending weeks hunting and shopping and hiding things alone, we could all share in making it whatever kind of holiday we want. I feel like it would be more real and equitable and enjoyable. I can't force this knowledge on them, however. I just know in my heart that they will ask when they are ready to know.

Meanwhile, I stay stuck in this trap of my own making. What is a mom to do?

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you have an overwhelming December!

    I have some ideas that might help you, but I don't know your personal circumstances so I apologize if they are not helpful!

    In December 2016 (if you can cope that long) Hanukkah will be from December 24 to January 1st. You might try to combine them into one big holiday dinner. Then you might say to your family that the one big dinner was so lovely that you would like that to be the new tradition. In order to make this more palatable to them you could tell them that they can invent a holiday of their own to celebrate in the summer (or whenever it would suit you). On the topic of creating your own holidays there is a wonderful book by Megan Cox called The Book of New Family Traditions (it may be out of print) she also has a smaller version of it that I think is still in print.

    My family invented a holiday called Krakenfest which we celebrate in June. We decorate a small tabletop stand with sparkly squid ornaments I sewed, and play a goofy little kids game called Kraken Alarm, and I made my daughter a stocking in the shape of a tentacle to hang on her door the night before.

    Another suggestion I have is if your children are older that you ask them if they would prefer one big present rather than lots of little ones (plus books, there must be books)!

    Good luck!