Last night at 8:05pm, I had an awful thought. I remembered that I wanted to place an Amazon Prime order for some last minute Christmas gifts. The problem was that after 8, they would no longer arrive in time for Christmas. %$&!@
Guess what, they weren’t even that important or necessary. Certainly not important enough for me to brave an actual brick and mortar store 2 days before Christmas. I realized I’d actually be saving this money. Those last random gifts – one to add to an already large enough pile of small toys for my own child (that he’ll probably be bored with before the new year) and the other to “equalize” a gift to another child – didn’t even matter. Like, I had a $25 gift card for one kid in the family and then a $20 card for the other. I felt like I had to get another gift for the $20 card kid to make them equal. There may not even be a chance for these kids (well, parents really) to realize that the amounts are different!
Why do we craze ourselves like this during the holidays?? IT DOESN’T MATTER.
A good friend has been saying the last few weeks at the end of our weekly exercise class, “It either gets done, or it doesn’t.” At first I was kind of like, “ok…?” but as the season went on, I developed a better understanding.
The Christmas cards I didn’t really want to do in the first place, but pushed myself to create, just sat on our kitchen table for weeks. Looming. Making me feel guilty because I was not measuring up. I forced myself to send cards to those who had sent us cards but some won’t arrive until after Christmas. Hopefully I’ll send the rest later in the week just so the cards don’t go to waste. Ha! “Go to waste” is funny to me because the other thought going through my head is a friend telling me “I’m just going to throw it away after Christmas.” Why do we even bother? I mean, why do we even bother if it’s not something we ENJOY! Sources of guilt and inferiority should NOT be given the time of day during the month of December (well, ever, if we can help it). If you like to send Christmas cards, go at it, I’m happy to receive them. But if I don’t send one back, please don’t take it personally.
Chains of Obligation
I often get to December and feel shackled by traditions and obligations I didn’t even choose. They’re just so longstanding that it’s unthinkable to break them. They certainly have their moments, but I have that stubborn personality sometimes where I don’t want to be happy about things that I didn’t choose or things that I felt OBLIGATED to do.
When the Calendar is Empty
This year was a bit different. A perfect storm of change that left us with 3 EMPTY December weekends leading up to Christmas, along with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself. Many of our usual plans changed for some reason or another and we kept pushing off playdates and social get-togethers until “after the holidays.” I should’ve been happy. Instead I felt like we weren’t doing enough. Our productivity was lacking. We weren’t popular enough to be invited to Christmas parties and we weren’t experiencing nearly enough Christmas cheer, darn it! It is truly amazing how our brains (and/or American society) ensure we’re never content with what we have!
This weekend I finally shut down all those awful thoughts. If we didn’t have a completely free Saturday yesterday, we wouldn’t have redeemed our season passes to the local indoor water park and had the opportunity to swim with Santa! How cool is that? Then, since we were home in the afternoon with nothing else to do, we were able to see Santa come through the neighborhood on a fire truck! I think this may be the first year since we’ve been in our house that we were home for this event.
I could learn a lot from my 4 year old. On our recent vacation, he wasn’t focused on the things that didn’t live up to his expectations (like I was). He had zero expectations so everything was amazing. Even this year when Santa asks him what he wants for Christmas, he has no clue! Having a clear calendar should mean no expectations. Every unplanned family moment is a bonus. Pulling in the driveway with excited Ian the first night our Christmas lights were up. The past-bedtime snuggles spent in deep conversation with my little guy. The day of cookie baking with the whole family because we actually had a free day to do it! All the dinner picnics throughout the season watching Christmas movies. Breaking out all the musical instrument toys to play along with Christmas songs. These are the memory-worthy moments. What we will NOT remember are the gifts and the cards.
What’s the Worst That Can Happen?
So if the cards don’t get sent, the cookies don’t get baked, you don’t get the perfect $50+ pictures with the mall Santa, and all the gifts don’t get given, what’s the worst that can happen?
I mean, seriously, you can’t go on facebook without seeing a millennial mom post the same article about 50 Experiences to Gift Kids Instead of Stuff. Nobody wants the stuff!! Why do we bother spending our money on it? I spent probably $40 altogether for my kid this year, which is a pretty big accomplishment, but it still feels a bit empty because it’s all just cheap toys that will be forgotten soon enough. At this age, he needs to see stuff under the tree, but he doesn’t care what it is. So Santa shops at the Dollar Store and Five Below. If you have kid under 5, you do NOT need to spend a ton of money on gifts. 1) they won’t care that much and 2) everyone else will buy them things! This is probably the most we’ve bought him for Christmas since he was born.
Put yourself first. Don’t go into debt buying gifts to impress family or friends. Spend time with people. Make memories for free. Create traditions that YOU want to do. Be in the minority and don’t succumb to American consumerism that’s at its peak this time of year. You’re better than that. You’re content with what you have and you surround yourself with other content people. Real friends and family care about you, not what you give them (nor the cards you don’t send).
Now I’m looking forward to experiencing our church’s Christmas Eve family service sitting next to my son, instead of worrying about forgetting lines onstage. I’m excited for just the 3 of us to see a movie on Christmas morning after opening presents, a tradition we started last year. Then we’ll have dinner with some of our favorite family friends having my dream Christmas dinner – Italian chicken parm and pasta!! And it won’t be homemade.
I spent a lot of this year thinking about my “dream life” but didn’t realize till now that I should’ve been putting the same intentionality to creating my dream Christmas.
What does your no-stress dream holiday look like? Are there Christmas traditions (or obligations) you wish you could ditch? I challenge you to create and enjoy your own holiday rather than trying to fit into someone else’s!