Not sure about everyone else, but I am still recovering from the holidays. Unlike my 20s though, it wasn’t the travel or the booze that beat me up. This year it was the obligations, the traditions, the dinners . . . all of which ended up feeling like a full time job! When I returned to the office on Monday, January 3rd, I was actually relieved for a little break from the chaos.
In past years, the holidays represented a break from the tiresome days of late nights, pressure, and deadlines at work. It was a bona fide excuse to put my electronic leash down and just walk away from my job and ignore it for hours, maybe even days! The holidays used to be time to snuggle up with my family, drink hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire, wrap and unwrap gifts, and have some simple fun. For the most part, the holidays still represent all of this to my daughter and my husband, but this time around they felt like a chore to me. It wasn’t that everything lost its magic, but it was that keeping the magic alive was harder than my full time job!
The family traditions that grew in my husband’s family over the last 20 years are beautiful. But they are not the traditions of a family with small children. They are the traditions of adults -- late dinners, wine, presents late on Christmas Eve, and big roaring fires. Through the eyes of the mother of a toddler they became events certain to stretch the limits of both my daughter and myself. This year I spent the holidays running interference on fire places with no safety screens, stair cases with no gates, piping hot ovens, hors d’oeuvre plates with all manner of choking hazards magnificently arranged, and glass ornaments hanging at exactly 2 feet from the ground. All of us were sleep deprived . . . sometimes because the events started approximately an hour after my daughter’s bed time, and sometimes because it simply did not cross aunty’s mind that turning on the lights in the spare bedroom and flushing the guest bathroom toilet would wake the baby. By the end of the holiday season, I declared that I was starting a new round of family traditions that were kid friendly and the rest of the family could come see the baby on the baby’s terms next year. Meanwhile, my husband declared me the Grinch who was trying to steal his family’s Christmas traditions. In just three short days I found myself wanting a vacation from the holidays. It was hard on me, it was hard on my baby, and even my husband found himself incredibly frustrated with the tension between his family’s insistence that the baby join the party and their total lack of common sense regarding all things baby. He even said of some of the relatives, “it is hard to believe they are parents.”
We are still at an impasse on the future of Christmas. I want to focus on the simple stuff like silly footed PJs with snowmen on them and baking cookies. I want to read Santa Mouse by the fireplace (with a safety screen) and share hot chocolate for dessert. I want to stay in my PJs until noon and play with all the new toys on Christmas morning. And most of all, I want to relax and spend the time working less, not more. My husband cannot imagine Christmas as anything but what he has known for decades, while I continue lobbying for a new rendevous with Santa. I can’t help it. I am the one putting together outfits, meals to-go, back-up plans, presents, and all the other things that go into pulling it all off. My husband doesn’t even notice how many times he has loaded and unloaded the car or carried everything but the baby down the stairs because he is just focused on the fun. In a way I think he has the Christmas spirit more than I after it all, but no matter how much I try to get on the same page as him I am finding I am simply scrooged. And although I am not the “my way or the highway” type, I think Santa is going to back me up on the idea of reinventing Christmas – at least some of it – so that it is truly our very own to enjoy, not survive.