It’s Sunday afternoon, and I just sat down for the first time today (except for the time in the car to drive to Mass, and sit in the pew, and then drive home.) I just now finished the bulk share of the cooking for our week of merry-making. I am tired.
This Christmas is my fourth as a mom of an earthly kid, and I think (as I pat myself on the back) I am improving little by little each year. Before I was blessed to be a mother, I used to daydream about Christmases with little, padded feet running down our stairs, rushing to the Christmas tree. I thought about all of the great moments yet to come, all the moments when I would get to relive the magic of my own childhood as I watched my children live out theirs. But, I was looking at Christmas through a child’s eyes.
Then, they were here. And, I began looking at Christmas through a mother’s eyes. At first, it was simple: reindeer pajamas for Christmas Eve and a Fischer Price puppy with a bow on its head for Christmas morning. It was magical, and beautiful.
But then, something happened, and I’m not sure how. I became aware that our Christmas card would look better if Bram were in a red sweater, and if Jack’s and my outfits color coordinated so if–and that is a big if–someone snapped our picture as a family at the Christmas tree farm or holiday party, it would be Christmas-card-worthy. So, I started to shop for that aforementioned sweater mid-December. By the time I had that illustrious shot taken, I barely had time to order our cards and send them before Christmas. It was stressful.
Then, when Sam came, things got more complicated: the boys’ outfits had to match. And, not only did they have to match at Bram’s preschool Christmas program and on Christmas Eve, but also at the tree farm and Candy Cane Lane . . . you see where this is going. By this year, I was shopping in October for casual outfits and by November for The Christmas Outfit.
I also started shopping earlier for the boys’ gifts and for all of our family before Thanksgiving rolled around. I started Sam’s advent calendar, a string of 24 hand-sewn miniature stockings (to match his brother’s), determined to have it finished by December 1st. Of course, it wasn’t, and for the first week and a half of December, I just handed Sam the stocking for the day, let him fish out his candy cane, and he couldn’t have cared less. Then, Bram’s stockings kept falling, even though they are three years old now and should know how to stay put on the mantle. After several taping jobs, he, too, was handed a stocking per day. He gladly chomped on his candy cane without a mention of his stockings not being hung.
I decorated the house, for the most part. There are still craft supplies on the window sill in the dining room and the pictures in the bathroom have yet to be hung. The nativity scene in the stair case still looks silly with no garland around it; I bought extra, but it is still hanging over the bannister.
I had Christmas bedding for the kids, and it’s been on their beds since the week after Thanksgiving!!! Yay, Mom! Except, I haven’t washed the bedding AT ALL since I put it on. I hope this isn’t something CPS can charge me with later . . .
And, we were doing fine, as the Christmas cards went out (I ran out, and forgot to order more, so everybody that usually gets one and didn’t, please don’t take it personally) . . . We were doing fine until yesterday morning, Saturday before Christmas. I woke up in a panic, realizing I didn’t have enough time to do everything I still had to do. I presented this fact to my husband, who had plans to take our oldest out Christmas shopping. I presented this to my husband, not as fact, and as “I’m so sorry that I underestimated how much I had to do and could you please change your plans for the day,” but as an “I can’t believe you thought it would be a good idea to leave the baby with me on my baking day” kind of way.
So, just like every year, the Jack and Taylor Christmas fight exploded all over our already jam-packed day. I guess I make too big a deal out of every little thing for Christmas. And, he was shocked to learn he wasn’t grateful for all I did, and had no idea how much work it takes to do the dressing and shopping and planning and baking and wrapping and stuffing and coordinating for perfect Christmas cards, perfectly dressed children, perfectly (not) decorated house, perfectly wrapped presents, and enough scrumptious food to eat for the week of Christmas so that it can feel like vacation around here and not feel like just another day of Mom serving oatmeal for breakfast and chicken nuggets for lunch.
And then, we calmed down and I baked for two days straight. I said I was sorry for blowing things out of proportion, and he said he was sorry for being so hard on me. And, I asked if he would try to act like he was impressed over the baking and wrapping and dressing and picture-taking and card-making and present-wrapping and coordinating because, after all, this was my Superbowl. And, even if he didn’t think it was all that big of a deal, all of this stuff I’m making myself crazy for is–hopefully–the stuff the kids will remember when they start their own traditions someday.
He chuckled at me, and said he would try. And I realized that Christmas is Mom’s game: all of the details that somehow whirl into magic. And I wonder, as do my friends, how did our mothers do it all? I know they had to have had more coffee, less exercise, and maybe even forgot to pick out an outfit for themselves even though everyone else was dressed perfectly.
Christmas and all of its trimmings happens above and beyond a mom’s normal, endless list of chores. I realize that it might just not be possible to do it all–the normal, and all of Christmas–and that some things must be let go. I try to sleep, at least, to make sure I don’t turn into Mrs. Clauzzila. But, try as I might, there is–and maybe there always will be–that moment every December when I realize I’m behind, or lacking . . . then maybe I will freak out. Maybe that’s just part of my Superbowl.
I hope not. I hope I can get Christmas down to a science, and be able to execute it without a freak out and without diminishing the magic. Bram is old enough this year to truly grasp the magic, and I intend to drink in every minute. I know that he will grow up to probably be just like his Daddy, and tell his wife she’s overdoing Christmas and won’t she just please relax? But I’ll also hope, down deep in that manly heart, he knows that his memories of Christmas were born out of his Mama’s love for him. Maybe then, he won’t be too hard on his wife.
And, whether my kids wear matching outfits or not, whether the cinnamon rolls burn or not, these children are here with us, in this almost-decorated house. Jesus in the manger and my two children asleep in their beds on Christmas Eve is enough magic for this detail-obsessed, perfectionist Mama. Praise the Lord for children–especially His Son–and for the fact that no matter how imperfect we are, He came down to love us just the same.
Merry Christmas! Go Mamas! . . . may your tired hearts and aching backs be filled with Jesus’ love this Christmas.