Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Expectations

My friend Theresa over at Our Life in Words wrote a post, Holiday Expectations, that stuck in my mind all day.  Her writing was filled with longing for bygone holidays when family members were still alive, when holidays were spent celebrating and when life seemed simpler.
When I married Greg, his family had a tradition of Christmas Eve dinner.  After church his brothers and sisters and their children would head on over to his parent’s house for food, drinks and fun.  It was one of those warm and fuzzy nights that Theresa wrote about from her childhood.  Except that it was not how I was used to spending Christmas Eve.  It was fine before we had children.  We could enjoy each other’s company then come home to relax in front of the fire get a good night sleep and wake up to the craziness that was Christmas.  My children have nine older cousins.  Back then with nine kids with only a ten year separation from oldest to youngest, it was madness.  Once my girls were born I wanted to have the Christmas Eve’s that I remembered from my family.  
Jake LOVES Christmas!  2009

My family would go to Christmas Eve mass and come home.  We would watch Christmas specials on tv and have hot chocolate in front of the Christmas tree.  It was calm.  Bedtime was our typical routine. Maybe slightly later, but we were nestled all snug in our beds while wishing ourselves to fall asleep fast so Christmas could come.  This was not my girl’s experience for their first few Christmas Eves.  We would rush to Mass to get a seat. Then we would either rush to his brother’s house (already way past my Gracie’s bedtime of 6:00pm that she kept until she was 3years old) or rush home to my house to prepare a dinner for 15.  I thought if I hosted then my girls could at least be in their own house on Christmas Eve.  It didn’t work for me.  I wanted my girls to come home, snuggle up in their pjs, watch a bit of television in front of the fire and the tree and go to bed with a story and a proper tuck in.  Not a quick peck on the cheek because I had to get back downstairs to a houseful of people.  Nope, it did not work.
sock aliens 2009

So I changed it.  I backed out of this tradition. I was concerned that I would be met with hostility.  I already felt like the black sheep of Greg’s family.  I was always the one that had to leave early for bedtimes, had children that would not eat everything that was offered to them, and would get easily overstimulated.  It seemed like I was the one that always had to do things differently.  But this was important to me.  I needed it to be this way.  I am not sure how his family felt about this.  Now that his parents have since retired out of state and his sister’s family moved north, the tradition dissolved anyway.   Now that my girls are older, they probably would love to go to their cousin’s house, stay up late and party.  Especially my Lilah, who at 1:00am on New Year’s Eve, is still not ready to go home!  It is my reluctance to give up on my ideal Christmas Eve that keeps this from happening.  I still want to go to Mass, order a pizza, drive around looking at lights while we wait for the pizza to bake, then relax in front of the fire, watch Elf for the hundredth time this month, sprinkle magical reindeer food on the front lawn and wait for the arrival of the most wonderful day of the year.
me with my bed head and ugly robe opening up our gift of a pool!

I think that we as mother’s place many expectations on ourselves as to what a perfect holiday is.  We want to replicate our childhood memories.  Perfection is unattainable.  Yet we keep striving to attain it.
When I think harder about my childhood Christmas memories I can recall my parents leaving one Grandparent’s house and on the short drive to the next Grandparent’s house furiously downloading about which relative pissed them off and why.  I can recall the stress to get us to church on time and dressed in our holiday finest.  I can remember my sister and I being furious on Christmas morning because we were up at 5am ready to hit the living room, our fingers itching to rip open colorful paper but my brother would sleep on, not the least bit interested in waking from his sleep, even thought it was Christmas!  We would beg and plead but my mother refused to let us wake him up.  Torture.  
Mixed in with our idyllic childhood memories are the signs that our very own parents were not so perfect after all.  They dealt with the same family issues, stresses, and concerns that we as parents do.  That is usually not what we choose to remember.  I want my girls to reflect on their childhood and look beyond the times that Mom lost her mind because the gifts for those 9, no now 10 cousins have not been purchased, the Christmas cards are late, very late for me, and not one cookie has been baked...yet.  Because the cards will get send and they will stamp every single one the way they like to.  Cookies may not have been baked yet but tomorrow we will bake all day long.  The gifts.....well, there is always Amazon for that!

Enjoy your holiday season, whichever winter holiday your family celebrates.  Try not to get bogged down in perfection.  Seek peace and tranquility.  Find your own joy and balance.  You and your children will be better for it.

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