Up until this last week, I’ve been uncharacteristically chill about Christmas. The reasons are varied.
1. Thanksgiving was late, so we were still riding those lingering festive fumes well into December.
2. I mostly stayed out of stores (except for one day when I went on a mad and desperate hunt for jeans, I HATE CLOTHES SHOPPING).
3. There’s been no snow, which makes everything decidedly unfestive and ordinary.
4. We’ve been drifting in and out of illness.
5. Schedules have been wack. With the kids running hither and yon — on Friday the older two returned from their Colorado trip just a couple hours after my younger daughter left for Puerto Rico for two weeks — routine flies out the window, and there’s not much time or energy to dedicate to festivities.
Mostly, I just pretended Christmas wasn’t happening. The lack of pressure felt amazing. How far could I take this, I wondered. We already skip the gifts, but what about nixing the stockings, too? Do we actually need a tree? And who really cares about a Christmas Day turkey or ham anyway?
Days ticked by and still no tree, no thought of stockings, no nothing. Well, except cookies. I like the cookies part and happily baked trays of peppernuts and butter cookies, gingerbread men and Russian tea cakes.
It was lovely.
I’d seen articles (didn’t read them, though) about how women shoulder the bulk of making the Christmas magic, and it’s true: it probably wouldn’t occur to my husband to do anything to celebrate Christmas until the 24th at 7 pm, if then. So, with the older kids beyond the magic stage, and my younger daughter gone, why bother stressing myself out over something that no one particularly cared about?
But when I ran my brilliant no-stockings plan by the kids, my younger son gave me such a beseeching, pleading, crestfallen look that my very soul was pierced. I’m already aware that he is growing up in a very different family from the one his older sibs grew up in and that, just because the older kids are poised on the edge of the nest ready to leap, it doesn’t mean he is. This still-cuddly, lanky, as-tall-as-me boychild of mine fiercely loves, craves, and needs our togethering traditions.
So we reversed course, but with a couple changes: my husband would be in charge of the stockings (this is how I delegate responsibility so I don’t have to take responsibility for everything) and the older kids are in charge of each other’s stockings.
Or something like that.
We did eventually get a tree, but just barely. (My younger son had gotten so desperate for holiday cheer that he’d resorted to making miles of paper chains and stringing them all over the house. Getting the tree was the only way to make him stop.)
Saturday, four of us drove over to the farm to get the tree, and then I played Christmas music and baked cookies while my younger son quietly decorated the tree all by his lonesome (until I texted my husband to please come help because the youngest child decorating the tree all by himself is heartbreaking), all the while feeling mildly guilty about our last-minute slapdashness until I realized that it was solstice, and, Oh hey, look at us being all light-up-the-dark intentional!
So here are the questions I’m mulling over: How to shift celebrations to accommodate a changing family while still respecting everyone’s needs? How to steer clear of consumerism without being grinchy? How to create togetherness and tradition without it becoming a burden?
There’s no answer, I know. Just, flexibility coupled with selfcare and trying to be generous and prioritizing relationships.
Or something like that.
For sure, there will be no Christmas ham this year. My suggestion of a giant salad was met with a minor revolt, so I switched to a lasagna. But then this morning as I was making my grocery list, my older son said, What about hamburgers? and everyone lit up so I switched course yet again. Christmas burgers, here we come!
This same time, years previous: rock on, Mama, sex for all creation, the quotidian (12.21.15), the quotidian (12.22.14), fa-la-la-la-la, how to have a dunging out date, toasty oatmeal muffins, Christmas pretty, homemade marshmallows.