When I was a kid, my sister and I would wake up very early on Christmas morning and we would gallop down the stairs and stare in wide-eyed awe at the bounty beneath the enormous tree. We would have been up very late on Christmas Eve decorating said tree because my parents believed that Christmas morning is made that much more magical if it is the first morning you see the tree in all its glory.
We would rush downstairs and open stockings and gifts and eat Entenmann’s coffee cake and then we would get dressed in Christmassy clothing and pile into the car by 10am sharp and we would drive an hour and a half to my maternal grandmother’s house where we would have another Christmas morning.
A Whole. Other. Christmas. Morning.
And, you have to understand, in both of these households, gifts were opened one-by-painstaking-one. The tape was carefully picked from the paper, the paper was opened gently, and the reaction was ebullient regardless of the contents of the package. The giver was thanked effusively and hugged and kissed regardless of the proximity of giver to receiver…regardless of having to step over the piles of wrapping and a dog or two and skirt around that chair and step over the leg of the tripod…and then back again.
“CRAYONS! Oh my gosh! I was JUST telling mom that I NEED new crayons because mine are worn down to nubs! Right, mom?! Remember?! I KNOW! AMAZING! And this box has SIXTEEN! Mom only ever buys me the eight crayon box but SIXTEEN…that’s like…periwinkle, right? Burnt sienna maybe? THANK YOU! MWAH! Mwahmwahmwahmwahmwah!!”
And…ten minutes later…
“Another one? No WAY! I already got a present from you guys! What are you up to….A COLORING BOOK?! Goes with the crayons, right? I see the method to your madness now. UNICORNS???!!! Totally my very favorite mythical creature!! Did mom tell you that? No? You just guessed?! AMAZING! I can’t wait to use this! I’m going to make you a chartreuse unicorn by sunset. I really am! OK Mwahmwahmwahmwah! I LOVE THIS! BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER!”
For hours…and hours…until late in the afternoon…
At which time, my sister and parents and I would pile into the car and drive the 45 minute drive to my paternal grandmother’s house.
And guess what we’d do.
Except, at this point, no one can be all that damn grateful anymore.
“Crayons? Oh. I just got some…ow! Don’t kick me, mom! I WILL say thank you, OK?! Thank you, grandma, for ANOTHER box of crayons. Box of eight. Thanks.”
If I am recalling this correctly, I'm pretty sure that most of those Christmases involved tantrums and threats. Lots of threats. And some swearing through clenched teeth to “&*$%! behave because it’s &)@^%$* Christmas for chrissakes!”
I read an article recently that was being passed around from mom to mom.
Let’s stop gaslighting our children over the holidays.
It was all about how unfair we are to our kids because we expect so much from them at this time of year and we mess up their schedules and we ask them to sit quietly in scratchy sweaters during boring conversations and be grateful about gifts they don’t want and food they don’t like and then we scold them for melting down.
Uh….YEAH! That’s Christmas, baby!
I love Christmas. I love everything about it – the music and the lights and the happy greetings and the Salvation Army dude outside the Walgreens and the cheese and crackers on plates adorned with resin holly berries and hot cocoa from mugs that look like Santa’s head. I love the warmth and the family time and the days off from work. EVERYTHING ABOUT IT.
And, equally as important in my book, I love the blatant and wanton gaslighting of our children throughout the entire holiday season.
Because, here’s the thing, guys. In the entirety of your existence, there is no such thing as good without bad. There is no such thing as a perfect day or a perfect experience. You have to LEARN to FIND what is good and put your focus on that.
You have to learn to ignore the painful freeze of the snow that snuck into your gloves and down your boots so that you can enjoy the rush of sledding down the hill.
You have to run past that stitch in your side if you are ever gonna score the winning goal.
And if you want the American Girl doll and crayons and unicorn coloring book and all the weird knick knacks from your stocking, you are gonna need to wear the scratchy sweater and be polite and let grandma’s friend, Sylvia, who dropped by with cookies that are hard as rocks, pinch your cheeks and tell you that you’re an adorable little boy…even though you are CLEARLY a girl.
That’s the story, man. That’s life. And we all hope our kids are in it for the long haul so we should strive to benefit from all the season has to offer. Because, some day, if you want the nice condo and the experimental theater company, you might also find yourself working all day in insurance and you need to channel all the forced holiday cheer you can muster in order to smile through it and get to the end of the week.
Unless I can take a minute to talk to you about your whole life policy because we are currently about 5 below our quota for 2014. I’m here for you. I just want to be sure your family is secure.
So I wish you the happiest of holidays. If you have children, I hope you expect way too much of them. I hope you drag them with you to the company holiday bash and the Kristkindle market and Julmarknaad, and the Lucia festival, and a long two-act show by Dickens…or a ballet. Somethin’ classy. And I hope you expect them to behave their damn selves.
And, if you don’t have kids, borrow some. And gaslight the heck out of them. As a GIFT.
Because that’s what Christmas is all about.
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