Growing up, I loved the holiday season.
Fall was my favorite season in general, as it was always filled with hiking, bonfires, apple festivals, and craft shows, but Halloween really kicked off the fun. In elementary school, my dad and I participated in a pumpkin carving contest every year, and my mom made several of my costumes. They were beautiful, and even though I hated being cold, I often fought my parents’ efforts to put a jacket on because I wanted to show off my costume. I have so many fond (and funny) memories of running door to door in my neighborhood with my best friends.
Thanksgiving always came close on the heels of Halloween, and I loved it because my parents’ house was the gathering place. As my mom and dad prepared for the guests the day before and the morning of, I did whatever I could to help. Most notably, it was always MY job to set the table, and I always took it upon myself to make name cards and assign seats (apparently, I was always a teacher in the making!). Aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family would arrive with side dishes and desserts, and we’d spend hours talking, laughing, and playing. When my family moved in the 8th grade, these big Thanksgiving gatherings were the thing I missed the most, and I was so thankful a few years later when the family of my boyfriend (now husband) invited me to join their big family gatherings.
Then, of course, there was Christmas. Like any child, Santa and presents were always my greatest concern, but when I wax nostalgic, I remember listening to Christmas music, reading fireside, decorating the tree, and baking cookies, not what was underneath the tree.
The holidays were always so magical for me as a child, but adulthood has destroyed the charm and wonder for me, and I find myself simultaneously dreading having to do anything holiday-related and angry with myself for not making the holidays as magical as possible for my own children.
Making the magic happen isn’t always so magical.
And this year has been exponentially worse.
Let’s go back to the fall festivities that I enjoyed so much as a child – I don’t do them with my own kids. The main reason I don’t do the activities with my kids is because October is always one hell of a month for me as a teacher, and I just don’t have the energy on the weekends to battle crowds or fight my children when they decide that they are not happy enough with the nice thing I tried to do for them. And then there is just the fact that it is so dang hot down here. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in South Louisiana, and it has definitely become my home, but my memories are of picking pumpkins directly out of the patch in crisp, cool weather, not getting a sunburn just to pick one out of a big cardboard box. And don’t get me started on Halloween. This year, the Halloween decorations started popping up in my neighborhood as soon as the power came back on after Ida. My girls asked multiple times for us to put out our own decoration, but the struggle to return to normalcy after the hurricane, compounded with additional trips out of town for a funeral and a wedding, meant Mommy and Daddy just couldn’t muster up enough spirit to dig out the plastic skeletons.
And just as I thought I was getting away with a hauntless Halloween, my mom called to ask me for Christmas ideas. She said she was trying to get things done early since shipping delays would be a real issue this season. What?! Talk about terrifying. I hadn’t even begun to think about Christmas, and now I have to make lists of ideas for every relative who will call to ask, as well as a sacred list of ideas reserved for gifts from me, my husband, and Santa. While I could just hand over a toy catalog and a highlighter to my kids and tell them to circle what they want, this mama hates too many toys (read: too much clutter I have to fight them to pick up!), so I prefer a good balance of wants, needs, enrichment, and experiences, but that takes planning, and I am starting to feel like the Grinch.
And I think the worst part of this whole year has been the growing anxiety of facing the holidays for the first time without my mother-in-law. My husband and I rotate years with our families for Thanksgiving, and this year was supposed to be his family’s year. It seems even more important that we are there this year, but we’re out of vacation days. So instead, it will just be the four of us at home, and I probably won’t even feel like standing in line for a Turkey.
And honestly, not standing in that line might be exactly what I need to do. I want the holidays to be filled with good memories for my girls, but I don’t want every image to have a raging madwoman in the background because I drove myself crazy trying to make everything perfect.
So this year, I’m scaling back.
Thanksgiving will be a day of rest. Christmas will be small. The damn Elf might have a bad fall and have to stay put for a while. But we will still listen to Christmas music, and we will still bake cookies, and this Scrooge will do her best to enjoy her family and block out the pressure to be EXTRA this holiday season.