Friday, December 18, 2009
I think I must take after my dad when it comes to the holidays. "Bah humbug!" he used to say. I know that he was kind of kidding - putting on the Scrooge persona like an old sweater - but also he probably really meant it to some degree.
That's what I feel like: Bah humbug.
What's the holiday season supposed to be about, anyway? I mean, if you're not of the religious persuasion. A season of giving, a season of goodwill, I suppose. And it would be nice to believe that people are nicer this time of year, and that I feel closer to those I'm close to. But those feelings seem to be fleeting; I glimpse moments of goodwill, and that feeling of closeness and connectedness comes in occasional waves.
But for the most part, this time of year boils down to a lot of additional stress.
There's so much pressure to feel a certain way during the holidays - to get into the spirit of the season! There's pressure to provide my kids with memories they will treasure. Oh, and gifts too. There's pressure to come up with a special gift for the hubs - and then the stress of "Will he like it?" There's a lot of guilt, too. I always feel like I'm failing, falling short of what I should be doing for my family this time of year.
I dread shopping, I procrastinate about wrapping, dealing with a tree that little ones won't be able to keep their hands off of feels like a chore, and all that holiday baking? Some years I summon up the energy and motivation to do it, some years I don't. This year I won't. I don't think. I'm still going back and forth on it in my head. If I go ahead with it, it will be one more thing to feel stressed about, and if I don't do it, it will be one more thing to feel guilty about. It's really a no-win dilemma.
It's a week till Christmas, and we have not a single decoration displayed. The holiday decs are all out in the garage and have not been brought in yet. We have lights strung across the front of the house, never having been taken down from last year, but they have yet to be lit this year.
I think the reality is that it's just never the same as when you're a kid. When you're a kid, you can just sit back and watch it all happen for you. When you're an adult - a parent - you're the one who has to make it all happen, and it's just not nearly as much fun. And, I think, the holidays tend to magnify people's feelings of loss and isolation, wherever those feelings stem from. For a lot of people, it seems to actually be kind of a sad time of year. I know that I always start feeling a little sad around Thanksgiving, because that's when my dad got sick eleven years ago, and he ended up dying shortly before Christmas that year. So, yeah. Sad.
And then there are the kids. You'd think that with the threat of Santa watching to see who's naughty or nice hanging over their heads they would be magically transformed into little angels this time of year, but it's just not so. Not in our house, anyway. I actually resort to calling Santa on the phone and tattling to him right in front of the kids. It goes something like this:
Me: "Annabelle, help clean up the playroom."
Annabelle: "But I don't WAAAAAAAANNNNNNNT to!"
Me: "Go clean up NOW."
Annabelle: "But it's BOOOOOOOORRRRRRING!"
Me: "Okay, have it your way. I'm calling Santa."
And then I walk over and pick up the phone and fake dial, to all of the kids' horror. Okay, well, not Kevin.
Me: "Umm, Santa? Yes, this is Lisa Morguess. Yes, hi, we're fine, how are you? And the reindeer? Good, glad to hear it. Listen, I'm calling about my daughter, Annabelle. Ummm, she doesn't want to help clean up the playroom. She says it's boring."
Annabelle starts freaking out at this point. It's quite entertaining, this whole cause and effect thing. I feel so powerful!
Me: "Yes. Uh huh. Oh, now she's having a tantrum. Yes. Oh, you want to hear her tantrum? Okay, hold on . . ." (and I hold the phone out to the room, at which point Annabelle is in serious danger of losing her mind.)
I know, I'm probably scarring my kids for life. But really, who am I to deprive them of a reason to seek therapy some day?
So at that point, usually the offending child will comply, but geez. It's a band-aid solution.
I also invested in one of those Elf on the Shelf deals. Have you seen it? It's this little elf doll who is supposed to be in cahoots with Santa. He comes to your house and sits on a shelf and watches the kids to see who's naughty and who's nice, and he flies back to the North Pole each night to give a report to Santa. Each night after the kids are asleep, the parents are supposed to find a new place for the elf to watch from, so when the kids get up in the morning, they have the illusion that he really left during the night and came back and found a new place to watch from. It's a cute idea, but it's so not working in my house. I forget to move the damn thing usually, for one thing. The first morning he appeared on the fireplace mantle in our living room and I explained to the kids that it's a real, honest-to-goodness elf straight from the North Pole, Annabelle ran into her room in hysterics - she was terrified of it. Geez. Anyway, the elf is doing a poor job of keeping my kids in line, and I'm considering booting him out on his duff.
Ahhh, the holidays.
So this weekend we'll get a tree and decorate it. Somehow I will get the Christmas shopping finished and the presents all wrapped between now and next Thursday.
When all is said and done, and the kids' eyes light up on Christmas morning, of course it will all feel like it was worth it, but honestly, I'm usually ready to shut it all down by the end of Christmas day.