Christmas is Complicated

I have a complicated relationship with Christmas. I love it- I love warm fires on cold nights, twinkling lights and the smell of pine, family and cookies and socially irresponsible carols about bullied reindeer. I love giving (and getting!) presents, and the way friends make time to catch up and people make an effort to make strangers smile and take care of people less fortunate than them.

But. You knew there would be a “but,” right? I always, sooner or later, start to crumble under the pressure. Making memories with my kids sounds so wholesome and easy, but they fight over which ornament they’re going to hang and whether it’s eggnog time and whether air is for breathing and- well, seriously, they fight over everything. I plan a special day but tempers fray when we get a late start, or they would rather watch some crappy TV show than read Christmas classics by the fire. My idyllic visions shatter upon first contact with the enemy family.

And then there’s the gift giving. I LOVE giving presents. I love finding just the right present for someone I love and seeing them light up when they open it. When I was a kid I’d save for months in order to be able to buy my mom and brother things I was sure would wow them (success rate: likely hit and miss, in retrospect). But (there it is again, the “but”). As an educated adult, consumerism makes me ill. What sort of labour practices produced the toy my kids want? Is the store paying a fair wage and treating their workers well? And am I setting my kids up for success if I teach them that “stuff” brings happiness? How can I justify spending hundreds of dollars on gifts when there are people dying out there, people my money could help? I muddle through, trying to find a middle ground.

I expect this Christmas will be pretty much like the others; heart-filling moments when I think “Yes, this, this is it” rapidly followed by ones where I wonder if selling my kids on Kijiji is a viable new Christmas tradition. This year, though, I’ve got a new plan. I’m going to do my best to revel in the bits that are beautiful, and let the chaos roll on past while I watch it with amusement. Rather than rush about looking for perfection or trying to create Family Christmas Togetherness, I’m going to slow down and connect in little real moments with my kids and add in some things that really make me happy, even if my kids couldn’t care less- like pulling out the recipe for my Nanna’s crescent buns and fudging my way through a Christmas carol on my dusty harp.

Maybe Christmas isn’t some kind of complex parental performance art designed to make children happy. Maybe it’s just another perfectly imperfect day with family, but with better food and presents thrown in. Maybe we can chill out. Maybe.

Baby goat contemplating the Christmas tree, 2015. Some years were crazier than others.

 

 

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