I wish I could say the season had my eyes all aglow. I truly envy friends who love Christmas and are full of joy this time of year. Complicated by the parenting special needs adoptees thing, a child who is not coping well this season, and haunting feelings that my aim has fallen short, I must admit the whole christmas thing has me a bit kerbobbled. It has been evolving for me over the years and now that the bustle has quieted a kind of sadness is seeping in.
I spend the entire holiday season engaged in internal battle. I’m torn between my desire to abandon the entire thing and take a cruise and my desire for my children to experience the magic. There is never enough time and there is always compromise. I try to convince myself that I’m doing it all my way only to emerge on the other side feeling a little dirty.
My older children were all homeschooled through the “Santa years,” their television viewing was pretty limited, and we were far removed from family leaving them mostly free from outside influences. Their desires were few and their joy contagious. It was so much simpler then. Now, that seems like something that happened in another universe.
My younger children attend public school and have been submerged in the cultural madness that has turned a single religious holiday into an all encompassing national seasonal phenomenon of over indulgence. My youngest recently informed me that it is Santa Clause’s job to bring him presents with an air of entitlement that I’m still coming to terms with. His demands for an “elf on the shelf” pushed my patience to the brink. Although we chose to eliminate Santa visits after wish lists began to sound more like ransom notes, the school provided a spin on the jolly elf’s lap without my consent.
Maybe we didn’t venture out as much back then, or maybe it’s the in your face nature of the Internet, or maybe I’m just more raw now, but I find the intensity and duration of the season overwhelming and a bit soul crushing. I don’t have the endurance to maintain the enthusiasm for months on end and wouldn’t want to even if I could.
Everywhere we go someone asks, “Are you ready for Christmas?” The children are asked what Santa is going to bring them. I’m bothered by the assumption that we participate and my heart aches for those who don’t. Not because I think they should, but rather because I find it annoying and it is my cultural tradition. I can only imagine how horrible it would be to have this all crammed down your throat when it is not. I’m tortured by my attempt to find a balance between showing those I love how much they mean to me and waking December 26th with my integrity intact.
I despise the idea that I “should” do anything the last six weeks of the year and have been working to define our own practices. I stopped sending Christmas cards years ago and pledged to express my gratitude to those who impact my life every day of the year. Courtesy of Hallmark, I’m fully aware that this choice may be perceived as a slight by some. I remember years ago a friend telling me that if someone went two years without sending her a Christmas card then they were off her list. Ouch. Beware the Christmas wrath.
We’ve scaled back gift giving, limiting it to small doses for immediate family, choosing to host a party for our friends, and focus more on doing and being together. Again, there is the danger of hurt feelings in this choice and that is the core of my unease.
I completely reject the practice of enabling entitlement and have forbidden my children from making lists or writing to Santa. This became necessary after I heard Little Guy complaining about the one request that wasn’t granted last year–a skateboard because he was 5 and lacked the coordination for it–but couldn’t name a single item that he had received which among others included a new bike.
As the month of December wore on this year, I became increasingly disgusted with the thinly veiled and escalating requests for handouts on my community’s Facebook page by mothers lamenting that they couldn’t give their children the Christmas they “deserve.”
I’ve heard everything from grief to panic expressed by friends and strangers. And from those parenting special needs children whose wires are already crossed and often suffer complete meltdown under the holiday stress, I’ve heard outright hatred spoken. The existence of the phrase “holiday stress” should be an easy indication that we’re not doing it right.
Even as I write this I know that I may be misunderstood and receive one of those monikers reserved for nasties with no holiday spirit. There in lies the kerbobble. Anyone who knows me will testify that my nature is generous and I care deeply for my fellow travelers. My discomfort is not with giving, or sharing, or a lost spiritual meaning. No “reason for the season” bit here–that’s not my shtick. I’m not even suggesting that anyone should stop doing anything that brings them joy.
It’s just too much for me. I’m perplexed as to why we are all expected to buy in. Why do we year after year participate in this colossal merchandizing scheme when, for so many of us, it is downright painful or financially impossible. Why is opting out risking becoming a social pariah or crushing guilt? You’ve seen “Christmas with the Kranks,” right? Not so far from the truth.
I wish I could wrap this up with a final tidy sentiment, but I’m afraid I don’t have it quite figured out. I usually wait until my emotions are more settled before I put it in ink, but I need to get this funk out and move on.
I wish that I could rewrite the script to go something like “Hey, you do you and yours however you see fit and I’ll do the same. I will accept and appreciate any way you choose to or not to include me and mine and you do the same. Oh, and let’s cut it down to a couple of weeks next time and see how that goes.”
Maybe next year I’ll get it right.