From the moment my first child was born, I’ve been crushed by the tinsel-wrapped weight of wanting to create the perfect Christmas.
It’s evergreen-scented, cozy, and twinkly, lit with the glow of a tree decked out in homemade bulbs. No one is bickering. Or whining. Or sneaking off with a sibling’s stocking stuffers. I’m drinking a peppermint mocha at just the right temperature, as I have not misplaced my mug after making an emergency dive to help a potty-training toddler.
No one has been up all night with a stomach bug or excited insomnia, and there are definitely — definitely — no Christmas Day fevers. It’s happy. Calm. Simple.
And all my responsibility.
It took becoming a mother myself to understand that moms are Christmas. I spent the first couple of years thinking I wasn’t doing the holidays “right,” whatever that was. I was also resentful that the success of the season seemed to rest squarely on female shoulders. I didn’t yet know how to ask my husband — or anyone — for help.
Mostly, I worried over whether I’d really enjoyed any of it, you know? It was a blur. That anxiety deepened when our daughter, Hadley, arrived. Suddenly I had a second child I couldn’t disappoint — one who also needed documentation of all her “firsts.” Another little person I wanted to enjoy those with but often felt I couldn’t.
It’s so easy to get caught up in having “enough”: exciting presents, parties, plans. But an accidental gift of COVID-19 was the need to scale it back last year. And you know what Oliver and Hadley talk about most? Reindeer food. We tossed dry oats mixed with glitter from our porch on a damp, rainy Christmas Eve. When the mixture hit the spotlights in our yard, it exploded in a shimmering cloud. Magic.
Weeks earlier, we’d been treated to cookies from Buddy, our visiting Elf on the Shelf. He brought sweets for the Johnson children, which he’d (very wisely) hidden and frozen beforehand. As Buddy’s loyal helpers, Spencer and I had planned to take them out to warm up the night before. We forgot. Panicked but wanting them to have the special cookies, I mentally scanned the questions that 5-year-old detective Oliver would ask.
Instead, our son was uncharacteristically speechless. His eyebrows shot up. “Whoa, they’re cold!” Ollie sputtered, turning to his delighted sister. “Hadley, Buddy brought us cold cookies. Probably ’cause they’re from the North Pole!”
Those are the real precious moments — the ones this planner just can’t plan. Understanding this better now, six years into motherhood, I’m giving myself permission to relax more this year. Perfection really comes from delighting in the unexpected, so I want to stay in the moment . . . and not worry about creating the perfect anything.
Because being present? Well, friends, that’s it. That’s everything.