Confession: We have yet to truly acknowledge the holidays in our home. Between sick children, ever growing work responsibilities, and an ill-timed kitchen remodel, we’ve had no time to deck the halls. After a particularly sad scroll through Instagram last weekend, it appeared that every family IN THE WORLD was knocking Christmas out of the park. Meanwhile, our Elf has yet to make an appearance. Y’all, the tug of social media is real. One swipe through Facebook is all it takes to convince me I’m failing to create magical memories for my children.
Social media sets an unachievable standard all year long, but the holidays add an extra layer of guilt. As a reformed perfectionist, I still find my Type A roots bristling when I think about all the things I SHOULD BE DOING to truly provide a memorable season for my family. The expectations I set for myself seem impossible to meet — let alone exceed — and I find myself knee-deep in guilt for not being able to pull it all off. Surely I can’t be the only mama out there daydreaming about a Pinterest-worthy season while pulling off an Amazon Prime reality.
Here’s what made my “should I be doing this” list:
1. Looking at holiday light displays. They are walking and gazing at the enchanting lights, never even noticing that there isn’t anything to do BUT look at lights. The children are agreeably holding hands with their parents. They are walking at the perfect pace for gazing. No one runs ahead. Simply magical.
2. Attending holiday parties with a perfect snack to share in tow. The snack is displayed on a festive platter. They are eating just enough, never over indulging, never hovering near the buffet. They are smiling and laughing with old friends. They never make jokes that land like a stocking full of coal. They just laugh and hug and sip their beverages responsibly. Their presence makes every party better.
3. They are faithfully adhering to their workout schedules. They are running and rowing and lifting and cross fitting on the regular. So very fit. They are the picture of zen during bikram yoga- just breathing it all in. They are stretching after every workout because they understand the importance of stretching. Their holiday bodies are on point. On point.
4. They are imbibing in just the right amount at their spouse’s holiday gala. Just one glass and never more. They are sensible in their choice of white wine. Their teeth look shiny and white, not even the slightest hint of purple. They never offer to use extra drink vouchers even if it does seem wasteful to just let them SIT there. They know better. One glass, never more.
5. Holding hands with their husbands as they stroll through the mall. Spontaneously stopping for gingerbread lattes (no whip). So spicy! Agreeing wholeheartedly on gifts for the children. Beating the holiday rush and coming in under budget.
6. Dressing their children in boutique style holiday outfits for outings and events. Affixing a beautiful holiday bow to their daughter’s perfectly coiffed hair. The bow remains in the correct spot all day long- it never slides, never droops, never pulls so much as a perfectly curled hair. They walk around town with their beautiful bows affixed perfectly to their beautifully curled hair enjoying all the hometown holiday magic. All of it.
7. Remembering everyone on their Christmas list. Tucking gift cards into the mailbox for the post man and leaving impressively wrapped packages of cookies and treats for the UPS man. Putting thought after thought into the perfect holiday gift for their child’s teachers. Breezing confidently past the gift card aisle. Every gift is impeccably wrapped and always presented on time, never late. The cards are handwritten with care – so much care!
8. Fitting into their pre-holiday jeans. They are comfortably buttoning their pre-holiday jeans with room to spare. Giving no thought to the type of shirt they will wear because every shirt works when your pre-holiday jeans fit so beautifully. A perfect fit mid-December — that’s what they have. What a gift.
9. Marching through snowy fields in search of the perfect Christmas tree. The snow is freshly fallen — nary a splash of mud in sight. No one is cold because everyone has dressed perfectly for the weather. The children are frolicking happily in the snow, not even considering throwing a snowball- they wouldn’t dare. The first tree they stumble upon is perfect — just perfect. They cut it down and drag it to the car effortlessly. What a lovely tree.
10. Decorating the tree as a family. Handling each ornament with care. Every light bulb works perfectly. Basking in the glow of the fully functional strands of lights.
11. Driving around looking at Christmas lights whilst sipping hot cocoa. The children are nestled in their car seats carefully cradling their hot cocoa. It is the perfect temperature — not too hot, not too cold, and carefully mixed. No layer of sludgy chocolate in the bottom of these cups, no sir! No one spills a drop in the immaculately maintained car. All of the headlights are working perfectly. Everyone ooohs and ahhs with delight. Boredom is the farthest thing from everyone’s mind.
12. Baking Christmas cookies in a beautifully decorated and tidy kitchen. The ingredients line the freshly wiped counter. Everything is accounted for and stowed safely in beautiful mason jars. The difference between baking soda and baking powder is well understood. The cookie sheets are a dazzling shade of silver, not a stain as far as the eye can see. The children wait uncomplainingly for directives from their patient mother. They wait and stir and scoop and mix. The cookies are delicious- removed from the oven at exactly twelve and a half minutes ensuring the perfect crispy edge to soft center ratio. The frosting is the green of fresh fir trees and the red of Santa’s suit. They sample the cookies together and laugh and smile and chew with their mouths closed. The children good-naturedly agree that just one cookie is best.
13. Sitting down with joyful hearts and compliant children to compose letters to Santa. Agreeing cheerfully to multiple revisions and rewrites. Never fretting after learning the items on the original list (now purchased, wrapped, and tucked with care in the most clever of hiding places) are no longer desired. Just addressing an updated letter to Santa and happily dropping it in the mailbox. No worries. Knowing their child will receive each and every gift with a grateful heart.
14. Agreeing amicably on a holiday movie for family movie night. Curling up on the couch in front of a roaring fire watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Popping popcorn and sharing without a whisper of argumentativeness from the children. Just cuddles and fires and love. Everyone maintains a safe distance from the fire with no reminders. Safe and cozy.
15. Mailing their holidays cards in plenty of time. Ordering just the right amount — not too many, never too few.
16. Decorating the mantle with burlap and buffalo plaid and rustic reindeer and snowmen. Relishing in the cleverness of your design. Smiling at the mantle each and every time they walk past it. So festive!
17. Carefully crafting organic strawberries to look like adorable Santa hats for an afterschool snack. Basking in the glow of the children loving every single Santa inspired bite. Delicious and nutritious.
18. Having their photos taken with a truly authentic Santa. Dressing their children impeccably in coordinating (not matching) attire. Their outfits are evoking the envy of all the other families waiting in line. Their hair is combed and plaited to perfection and their cheeks are rosy with cheer as they sit on Santa’s lap. And what is Santa he is! The authenticity of his beard delights all. Everyone looks to the camera and dazzles the crowd with open eyes and genuine smiles. It is a Santa photo for the ages.
The holidays are such a wonderful time to make memories with our beautiful families — whether they be of the picture perfect or more messy variety. And you know what? However you roll in your house is a-okay because the magic of this special time is alive in our children’s hearts whether we serve the strawberry Santa hats or a pouch of strawberry yogurt.