Before kids, I used to ride in from Judgeytown on a very high horse. I’d look at people who celebrated Christmas and roll my eyes at the over-the-top decorating, gift buying and general turning of oneself inside out. Being Jewish, my family would have one big Channukah party. Everyone would get one nice gift and then, for the duration of the holiday, several more small gifts. I had it easy, and I’d spend Christmas day safe and smug, with a positive balance in my bank account and a healthy shot of Baileys in my coffee.
Then I married a Christian man and had two kids. I’ve become one of “them” and all bets are off.
In many ways, I still have it easy. My oldest son is only four, and doesn’t get tantrum-y or whiny when he doesn’t get something he wants. He actually wants very little (except a pet. He desperately wants a pet.) At Halloween, he was very happy with his homemade Wall•E costume and didn’t even raise an eyebrow when his candy bucket mysteriously went from full to decimated.
Now that he’s older, my well-meaning husband routinely baits him with “Have you made your Christmas list yet?” or “If you’re good this year, maybe Santa will bring you a…(fill in the blank.)” He wants his son to enjoy the same holiday “magic” that he had growing up. Personally, I find it all a bit annoying and it puts a lot of pressure on me. I have to run around like a maniac and fulfill a wish list, only to have a portly, gin-blossomed fictional dude take all the credit? No thanks. I did not sign on to be some centralized figurehead’s go-between. Merry all over that. I used to be a type A people-pleaser who couldn’t say no to anyone. Once I was thrust into a season filled with travelling, cooking, parties, Christmas cards (seriously? We can’t just send each other festive emojis? I have to buy stamps now?) and endless credit card shuffling, I was usually burned out sometime around November 1st.
I’ve had to take a crash course in managing expectations – those of my kids, the hubby, and mostly mine.
1. When my eldest asks repeatedly for a pet, I demure with a gentle reminder of the Sea Monkey massacre of 2016. I also say “no” now. Often and sometimes loudly.
2. At my husband’s family gatherings, we now have a Secret Santa with a $20 limit – everyone gets a gift and no one is left out.
3. I will gladly bring a dish to a potluck, but I’m not quite ready to host an entire dinner party (no longer having a livable house with actual walls is a major contributing factor.) I also say “no” to at least 50% of the invites. Partially because I’m an antisocial jerk, but mostly because we can’t schlep around the entire city all day every weekend without epic meltdowns and/or sustaining personal injury.
4. The kids get some gifts, but not so many that the living room resembles Santa’s workshop. We don’t buy the latest and greatest must-have children’s toy, especially when you consider that kids mostly play with something for five minutes before it goes into a re-sale bin. No retail grifting, no eBay extortion, no Hatchimals in my house (for more on this latest form of piracy, please read urbansuburbanmommy.com/parents-presents-and-profiteers/). Merry.All.Over.That.
5. We can’t have a tree this year, but we’ll proudly display a tiny, ornamented holiday lavender bush. Right beside the menorah.
The biggest seismic shift in my attitude is the lens through which I’ve come to view the holidays. I’ve stopped being resentful and started appreciating what the holidays are all about: mass consumerism (kidding… or am I?) In doubling our holidays, we’ve doubled the celebrations, the food, and spending time with people we love. You can’t really put a price on that.