Christmas: The Most Wonderful Time of Year…or is it?

When the most magical time of year doesn’t seem so magical…maybe we should listen to the movies after all.

The holiday season has just begun, and I’m already tired.

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, right? But the mere thought of decking the halls and fighting the crowds makes me want to crawl under the covers and resurface only after the ball drops in Times Square.

Now, maybe you are Cindy Lou Who and radiate the Christmas spirit all year long; and if that’s the case, yay you! Please feel free to come to my house and radiate all day long. I will not stop you…and may even hand you the lights.

But some of us need help. (And by some of us, I still mean me.)

I’m not going to lie. Every year at this time, I get cranky. I’m all Thanksgiving-ed out, the kids are jacked up on caffeine and sugar, and all I can think of is the enormous list of things that need to be done. And don’t get me started on the lights that mysteriously stop working from year to year. I just love that. 

Bah-humbug.

Let’s face it, Moms. Our children’s happiness rests solely in our hands! Whether Christmas is a success or failure depends entirely on us. One wrong move, and our kiddos are going to therapy!

Or not.

But isn’t that how we feel? We put this enormous unattainable pressure on ourselves to make this the biggest and grandest Christmas of them all and completely wear ourselves out doing it. There’s nothing less fun than when we try to force the fun, believe me I know. I usually have this idea in my head of how it’s going to go….and hell hath no fury like a mother who doesn’t get her picture perfect holiday.

“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together.” – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

I mean, just how many “traditions” does one family actually need? Talk about pressure! After years of collecting traditions like coffee mugs,  (those sentimental blog posts and creative pins will get you every time) I started asking myself why? Am I creating lifelong memories for my family to pass down to their children…or am I trying to impress other moms who are just as tired as I am.

After giving it some thought, I realized many of the “traditions” we had were merely checking boxes.  They didn’t breathe life into our family or make happy memories. It became more about creating the “perfect Christmas” than about celebrating Jesus and our time together as a family. Bottom line, it was stressing me out; and when mama ain’t happy…nobody’s happy.

“He puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more!” – How the Grinch Stole Christmas

And guess what. I found out that no one even cared about half of the “traditions” anyway! Here I was stressing over fitting it all in so we could “Save Christmas” that I was totally missing what really mattered to my family.

When I took the time to sit down and find out what that was, I realized it was more about “Quality over Quantity.” It’s not how many traditions we have or how many presents we buy….

  • It’s making the traditions we have count. Quality time together doing something we all enjoy. And that’s different for every family! You may enjoy baking Christmas cookies…and we may enjoy going “Light Criticizing.” (don’t judge…it’s a perfectly good holiday tradition) 
  • It’s making the gifts we buy count. The older our children get, the more expensive the toys; so they know they may open fewer gifts…but they also know they will enjoy them longer.
  • It’s making the memories we make count. The more we schedule, the less fun we have. The best holiday memories I have are of the unplanned moments…the people…the love.

“That’s what Christmas memories are made from. They’re not planned, they’re not scheduled, nobody puts them in their Blackberry, they just happen.” – Deck the Halls

I don’t want the only holiday memories my children have to be of their crazy mom trying to force the magic. I want it to be magical because it truly is a magical time of year when we let it.

Quality over Quantity…that’s what I want. Now if I could just get rid of the Elf…..

“Just remember the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.” – Santa Claus, The Polar Express

 

 

Am I a Bergen or Troll?

Bergen…or Troll. Doesn’t sound like much of a choice, does it? This weekend I took my two Littles to see the new Troll movie while the Bigs went to an action flick; and to be completely honest, I’ve never in my life owned a Troll doll or even liked Troll anything. In fact, they always looked a little creepy to me. But the boys wanted to see it, they actually looked cute (kind of like rainbow Smurfs)…and Justin Timberlake is in it. Enough said. (Don’t worry, I won’t give too many spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.)

Now, I don’t know how it is with your children when you go to the theater; but once my guys step foot inside the front doors, they act as if they are suddenly dying of hunger and thirst even if they just ate 5 minutes ago. It’s no longer enough that we spend a gas tank’s worth on movie tickets, they now expect to add a grocery bill in snacks to make the movie “extra special.” I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy, and theaters in fact pump mind altering drugs from their vents giving everyone inside the munchies. Mark.my.words.

Being the professional parents that we are not, they usually get away with a drink (to share), maybe some popcorn, and some candy (that may or may not be smuggled in at times…I will never tell). So drink and candy in hand, we find our seats just as the movie starts.

Just to give you a little background information without giving anything away, the Trolls are these adorable little creatures who are always happy, sing and dance about everything, poop cupcakes, and love to hug. (and I totally want one…or ten) On the other hand, the Bergens are large ugly creatures who hate life, need major dental work, and think the only way to find happiness is by eating a Troll. (sounds legit) Every year, the Bergens hold a festival in which they each eat a Troll, that has been captured and held captive, to find their moment of “true happiness;” and this particular year is the first time the Bergen King Gristle Jr. has been allowed to participate.

Now, if you really don’t want a spoiler, you may not want to read any further. However, this part of the story is important for where I am going with this. 

So here we are at the festival, as the young Gristle Jr. is preparing to eat his first Troll so that he can finally experience “true happiness;” and at this exact moment, Hayes hands me his Skittles bag to open whispering, “I can’t open this. Can you? Make sure you don’t drop them.” Famous last words.

I’m not even kidding when I say this….but it was like slow motion.

Gristle Jr. takes a bite of his highly anticipated first Troll only to discover he has been thwarted by the escaped Trolls just as I rip open the bag of Skittles sending every.last.one. of them flying into the air and all over the people around us.

It literally rained Skittles for at least five minutes; and just when we thought it was over, someone moved and sent yet more Skittles pinging across the floor.

The look on Hayes’ face mirrored that of Gristle Jr. Complete and utter horror.

Gristle Jr.: “How am I supposed to be happy NOW?!”

Hayes: “This movie is completely RUINED. I don’t even want to watch it now!”

And I’m sitting there thinking I just stepped into the Twilight Zone and wondering if there is enough room to climb under my seat. But then it hit me.

True happiness is not in people, things, or circumstances. We say we know this, right? But while it is hard for an 8-year-old to understand this truth, it is just as hard for us as adults to accept. We think that the work promotion, new car, bigger house, or designer handbag is going to make us happy. But the truth is, we only turn around and want something else…something bigger, something better. It’s never enough, and we end up forever chasing happiness just like the ugly Bergens…only with better teeth. Bottom line is that true happiness isn’t in something tangible. It is found in Jesus and only in Him can we truly be content. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 NIV

So instead of climbing under my seat (I know you wondered what happened with that), I turned to Hayes as he sat pouting and whispered, “Are you a Bergen or a Troll?”

Blank stare (but he was listening)

“Are you a Bergen who thinks the only thing that will make you happy right now is a bag of Skittles? Or are you a Troll who will be disappointed…but will still enjoy the really cute movie we are watching?”

Bingo. Light bulb. And the fact that I even suggested he was remotely close to the ugly Bergens was enough to make him sit a little taller and re-engage with the movie before us.

The fact of the matter is, this little lesson ended up being more for me than it was for him. Yes, it helped him put things into perspective. Yes, I plan to use the Bergen/Troll analogy again for other seemingly catastrophic events (of which he has many). But even more importantly, it made me ask myself the hard questions. What is true happiness to me? and Am I a Bergen or a Troll?

Oh and by the way, for those of you worried about the poor kid’s Skittles…yes, I did suck it up and go buy him a bag of ridiculously over-priced candy from the concession stand…and yes, I did leave a trail of Skittles along the way.