So I’m really trying to simplify and slow down this holiday season. I thought I would do a series called “31 Days of Exhale” in the month of December but those 31 day series’ scare the pants off of me and I don’t think trying one in December is a wise idea. So I thought we would do “15 Days of Exhale” and that scared me too so I thought perhaps we’d do ten but now we’re just going to call it “Time to Exhale” and we’ll stop when we stop. Because that’s how I roll. Hopefully, you do as well.
The point is this: Let’s slow down. Let’s remember to remember what we’re doing. Let’s not lose our heads over getting the newest My Little Pony dolls. Let’s not get cranky and drive away in a huff with a cross hanging from our rearview mirrors. Let’s just roll with it and lower our expectations a bit. Oh, and I’ve been posting daily (at least I try to do them daily) prayers over on the Facebook page and they tend to be on this subject right now as well so head on over and click “Like” if you haven’t already and you won’t miss them!
Before I had kids, I had grandiose plans to trim the tree with hot cocoa and carols playing in the background with a light snow falling outside and my children living in peace and harmony.
Clearly, I didn’t understand that those images are only for Norman Rockwell paintings.
No one has Christmas decorating stories like that. No one. And if you do, we don’t want to hear about it.
In fact, while getting our tree last weekend, I saw a family I adore and know from church.
“Time to get the tree?” I asked him as we stood in the parking lot. With a knowing look, he replied, “Last year, we invested in one of those pricey stands because it wasn’t pretty.”
And I knew. Oh, boy. Did I know.
Moments later, I saw his wife – who didn’t know I had already talked to her husband.
“Man, we almost got divorced over putting the tree in the stand a few years ago,” she said.
And I knew. Oh, boy. Did I know.
Before we ourselves invested in the same pricey tree stand, it wasn’t pretty either.
And it’s not really much prettier now – there’s just fewer choice words uttered while putting the tree in the stand – which, of course, doesn’t go along with my Norman Rockwellian Christmas Dream.
The reality is this: my expectations have been far too high.
It’s easy to dream of what it will be like when you have a family when you don’t actually have a family because you don’t know what you don’t know.
Then we grow-up and have our families and trimming the tree looks more like this:
We trudge ornaments down from the attic. We open the boxes and pray to God we don’t find dead mice (as we did one year and yes, we threw all of those decorations out. Gross.) Within seconds, the boys have almost everything strewn all over the floor, even though I told them not to do so because it freaks my need for order out, and they start to play catch with the shatterproof Christmas balls. All ornaments are hung on the lower half of the tree and it’s loud and I think one year, Jason might have turned on Metallica or something like that. Sibling bickering is usually present, too.
Pretty much the complete opposite of what Naive Natalie envisioned when she didn’t know what she didn’t know.
But you know what? This year, I expected it to be this way and guess what? I actually enjoyed the chaos that is OUR way to trim the tree – not the PERFECT way, but OUR way.
Not to mention I found a new Norman Rockwell painting that is the real deal – see the above image? Yep, that’s real, friends.
So this holiday season, exhale and know that 1) lowering expectations will make you have more fun and 2) looking sideways at others and buying into what the media tells us is the “right” way to do something may not be the way YOUR family does it.
And that’s OK. Now exhale.
I’m exhaling so much I haven’t even started! Thanks for the reminder Natalie!
I love you, Natalie! Right now, our tree has been up for two days with nothing but a few candy canes and colorful pony tail holders on it. Oh, and a Webkinz at the top.
Awesome! I’ve got my feet in different worlds…with a son in college and a young son at home. I’ve got a unique perspective on how fleeting this chaos is. With all the unwelcome changes that have come my way the last couple of years I have been able to embrace and celebrate the fact that the chaos is no longer tinged with violence and dread. That is something I rejoice in almost daily!
I guess I learned from growing up (looking back on my childhood) that as long as no one is fighting and arguing, Christmas is special not because of the way we want it, but because of the way it winds up. If it is hurried and chaos reigns, etc, as long as the family is together and can get through the problems then the family is stronger for it. It’s the memories that are made with the family that makes Christmas special (I know the birth of Jesus, but I’m talking about everything else). I remember as a kid not knowing to how wrap presents correctly (because I didn’t know how and to this day, I still can’t do it). I placed the presents on the floor and placed sheets of newspaper on top, taping the ends of the newspaper to the floor. My presents looked like a Civil War camp under the tree. Or when I wanted an Atari game system (this was the 80s), but I got a Texas Instruments TI99-4A computer instead with games names instead of Space Invaders it was “TI Invaders” (cheap knock off). I was upset, but I will always remember that. From chopping the tree down in the woods and forgetting to bring the dog back with us and having to go back to look for him in the cold of winter for hours(okay, it was in the 40s, but that’s freezing cold in South Georgia), it’s the harried memories and getting through it together that makes it special.
I bet your kids and husband will talk about finding the dead rat in the decorations or remember how fun it was to play catch with the decorations etc for all of their lives when they look back on it. I know it is so frustrating for us adults in trying to achieve perfection and the vision of what things should be in our head, but’s the imperfections that make things special and memorable. (Now convincing my wife of that is another story…).
This year has been the first in many that I have not been grousing at those unmentionable people in my house who clump the tinsel on the tree (not placing individual strands like my Mommy made me do), If two ornaments are touching each other…so be it. With our son away at college for the first time and a teenage daughter involved in sports and band, I ham learning to let go of the control and make it special and memorable for our 9 year old. Time passes far too quickly and the good memory making days are gone in an instant. I AM adding breathing to my list, though. Thanks, Natalie!
You’ve shared a great message to take to heart!
Your note about what we don’t know we don’t know should be engraved on our foreheads when we turn 18, and especially when we are on the verge of saying stupid things like, “When I have children, they won’t ever fill-in-the-blank-here.”