After years of trying to reawaken my holiday spirit, I woke up Dec. 1 with a cliched ol’ song in my heart (probably Mariah Carey, let’s be honest). I was filled with . . . anticipation. Not exhaustion. Not dread. Not an overwhelming urge to chuck it all and book a tropical cruise, “Christmas with the Kranks”-style.
I know why I lost that zest for the holidays: sleep deprivation, worry, feeling wildly overwhelmed. A misguided sense that I was falling behind, or not doing things “right.”
And I know, too, why it has finally returned, all decked out in its sparkly holly earrings with a carton of eggnog in each hand. I’ve gotten my anxiety under control. The kids are bigger, sleeping, chatting, and joking with their own little personalities. Spencer and I have made strides to get our household organized. We laugh more, especially at ourselves.
So here it is, right on time: my Christmas spirit blowing through the front door on a gusty winter breeze — with advent calendars and elves on shelves, matching pajamas, hot cocoa . . . the whole nine yards, friends. Better pull around the sleigh.
It makes all the difference that Oliver and Hadley are now old enough to understand and get excited, too. Your children’s joy is your own joy. Participating in these festive activities makes me happy. And when’s the last time I sent — or, you know, faxed — a letter to Santa? We all need magic in our lives.
The kids are pumped about St. Nick, yes, but we’re trying to focus more on the overall “spirit” — made easier with the visual help of “The Grinch,” actually. Giving back. Love. Togetherness. I get teary thinking about the warmth of my parents’ and grandparents’ homes at this time of year: the Ray Conniff Singers belting out their classics, chased by Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.” Carefully unwrapping decades-old ornaments crocheted by my great-grandmother. Dimming the lights and getting lost in the snowy scenes of old movies.
That’s what I want to give my children: traditions.
This meant putting up the tree last weekend. Hadley and Ollie were bouncing off the walls by the time I got back from work on Black Friday. Spence and the kids had been home waiting for me so we could pack up all things pumpkin and start throwing tinsel like confetti. It’s always been a Snider tradition to decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving . . . and I doubt Oliver could have waited another second.
We opened the ornament boxes and lifted out the tissue paper. They descended like rabid wolves. Watching the kids manhandling all the “handle with care” items, I took a deep breath and . . . let it happen. Que sera, sera.
A year ago, my compulsive need to make everything “just so” would have meant plucking those delicate bulbs to place on a top branch, far from tiny fingers. Evenly spaced. Thoughtfully distributed.
But I’m changing. I wouldn’t let anything get purposefully broken, of course, but I wanted the kids to enjoy the process. Heck — I wanted to enjoy the process, too. When Hadley hung a third ornament on one scraggly branch, I didn’t interfere. And as Ollie collected all the red ones to admire, then clump together, I smiled with appreciation. I took a picture. I did not tidy.
It goes against my nature, friends: leaving all the rough-hewn edges. Stepping away and pulling back my smoothing hand, which itches to restore “order” but should not.
That’s motherhood in a single blinking bulb to me: learning to release the idea of perfection and embracing what just . . . is.
I’m actually getting there.
Now where’s that eggnog?