Now that we’re on the other side of Christmas, reflecting back on the beauty of the holiday, can we just take a moment to acknowledge what a herculean task it is? Making magical memories is hard work, y’all.
At ten o’clock on Christmas Eve, my best friend’s husband was outside in the backyard, assembling a playhouse in the dark. Another friend was setting forth on an all-night drive to see family in New York. All across the country, parents were cooking and wrapping and brazenly eating Santa’s cookies with nary a moment of guilt. There was work to be done and it wasn’t getting done without extra fuel.
Christmas Day is basically one giant obstacle course but instead of rope climbs and balance beams like you see on American Ninja Warrior, you’re wending your way through an emotionally-demanding day with children who are over-stimulated, under-rested, and generally bonkers.
All three of my children cried at some point during the day and I totally get it. By itself, a toy breaking or a special cookie being eaten by a rogue sibling might not be the end of the world but when you add in all the sugar and all the presents and all the expectation, kids don’t have a lot of bandwidth for disappointment. To be honest, neither do the parents, so it’s no wonder that the holidays can get a little testy at times.
To be clear, our Christmas was awesome. The presents were a hit, my mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls are spectacular, and my dad’s Christmas pajama pants were epic. It’s just that awesome takes effort. Sometimes it’s physical effort – like figuring out how to assemble the new baby doll high chair. Other times, it’s emotional effort – like not strangling your child when they refuse to smile charmingly with their siblings in front of the tree while wearing adorable matching pajamas. Is that really asking so much, kid? Really?
And it’s not just on Christmas Day. Behind every perfect moment of the holiday season is a parent working their tail off to make it so.
A couple weeks before Christmas, my kids participated in a painting party at the Arts Center, creating whimsical reindeer canvases. The products were delightful. The event itself was something of a train wreck. My detail-oriented first-born was stressed about whether she’d mixed exactly the right shade of blue for the background. My son hated his painting and literally ran from the room on more than one occasion before he finally decided that it was not, in fact, a reindeer but rather a Demon Goat Man. From then on, he was all smiles.
Halfway through the class, the child sitting next to my five-year-old reached over and painted two extra legs onto my daughter’s reindeer. I’m sure you can imagine the reaction. Happily, acrylic paint is very forgiving, as are five-year-olds. Several cups of water were spilled and more than a few tears were shed, but the results were absolutely adorable. My two oldest children decided to give their paintings to my parents (because nothing says Merry Christmas like a Demon Goat Man) so I dutifully wrapped them.
By Christmas morning, my kids had forgotten the drama entirely and, seeing their radiant smiles as they presented the gifts, I could easily forget the drama, too. The holidays are a great time for selective amnesia. As time passes, we’ll remember the love, the cookies, and the sweet painted reindeer and let the rest evaporate.
But for today, I’m acknowledging the effort that goes into the holidays. So hats off to all the parents, grandparents, and other assorted holiday superheroes who worked so hard to make Christmas special. Well done.