Monday, December 14, 2015

Ten Days Before Christmas

We have a picture of our kids on Christmas when they were babies and weren’t aware of anything except their own joy, with smiles as wide as their faces.  They are sitting in a pile of toys and wrapping paper, looking like Santa himself came over and passed out joy and love.

I love that picture.

Likely the picture behind the picture wasn’t all happiness and smiles; likely I had stayed up way too late the night before freeing toys from the boxes and wires that hold them together during transit, got up way too early to children who got up way too early in general, and then took care of their immediate needs like diaper and bathroom and breakfast and who knows what else by the time the moment was captured.  Likely my mind was spinning with what time I had to start cooking our elaborate Christmas meal, if the turkey was thawed all the way through, should I take that casserole out of the fridge yet?  I couldn’t be in the moment, relegating the best ones to photos snapped, destined to be remembered years in the future.

For a lot of years, Christmas was wonderful and awful.  For a lot of years, ten days before Christmas was crunch time, flurry of activity time, high-stress time. 

Strip away the music, the lights, and the Christmas cheer, and you saw me running around like a zombie with kids in tow, gathering up presents and gift wrap and food and drink like I just got the go-ahead to become America’s Top Hoarder.

Miserable.  Stressed out.  Frantic.  Often in tears.  What if it didn’t get all done?  What will happen if ten days wasn’t enough to get it all in?  So many people will be disappointed.  I wished for a nanny, a personal assistant, a wife of my own to cook and clean and pay bills and run errands, just so I could do Christmas.

Ten days.  For ten days before Christmas, I counted down the days until it was over, until I could breathe, until life was back to normal.

Today, ten days before Christmas, it’s a different picture.  Gone are the days of managing children’s moments; they take care of most of their own now.  My calendar is scribbled with their activity times, which often overlap.  I spend more time managing the logistics of their lives than anything else.  Ten days before Christmas I’m not stressing out; I am helping them not to panic over the last project due before the end of the school term, reminding them to pack their gym clothes, telling them they need to find a ride home from practice tonight.

Maybe we’ll bake cookies; maybe we’ll go see that house in the next town over that does an amazing lights display.  We’re not hosting guests this year; we’re going to see the new Star Wars movie.  We catch more Christmas TV specials together, something we rarely did before.

Over the years we’ve pared down our gift-giving, lessening the financial strain.  Our kids need not one new thing for Christmas.  They know it; they ask for little things, just because presents are part of Christmas. 

Christmas has become quieter, slower, smaller.  To me, it’s better.  I enjoy it so much more.  I mean, if I’m going to do Christmas, this is how it’s going to be.

Joyful.  Peaceful.  Busy, but enjoyably so.

The way ten days before Christmas should be.



  1. It is so much different as they grow older, I agree.
    And we stress out so much but they really don't care.
    As long as they have us around the tree, that is all that matters.
    I love this post.

    1. Nobody at my house cared about how big Christmas was. It just was what it was. They did notice how small it got, though. But you're right - all they care about is that we are all together.

  2. Replies
    1. The moment when I realized that things got easier? They were easier.

  3. Love, love, love. It helps me find my breath in the chaos.

    1. Thank you, Angela. Finding breath in the chaos is what I seek, most days.

  4. Reading your description of Christmas pasts brings SO many memories and emotions to me- much like yours. I've had too many Christmases with crises or surgeries or parenting stressors to count...

    THIS Christmas will be different. Much like yours... :)

    And I thank GOD for it, every day.

    1. The holidays are hard, aren't they? Memories get ingrained. I'm glad you will have a much calmer holiday season this year than in years past, too. xo