I’ve begun to realize that the week before Christmas, for me, is very similar to finals week in college. There is an abundance of very late nights, the frequent appearance of a very grubby sweatshirt, a steady diet of coffee, sugar, and carbs, a few tears, and the feeling of “if I just keep pushing…. it’ll all be OVER soon..”
It’s easy for me to lose the true meaning of the holiday in the midst of the bargain shopping, the lists, the added holiday school events, and the wrapping. My gosh, the WRAPPING. So much wrapping.
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And let’s not forget one of the dumbest parenting mistakes I’ve made- catering to peer pressure and adding the elf to our holiday tradition. As I’ve mentioned in this post, the elf was initially fun, but having to wait until the kids were asleep before secretly moving him each night is a lot like Christmas Eve, every.damn.day.
Thankfully though, this year I had a ringer. My oldest three are wise to the deal, so #2 happily volunteered for the task of keeping the elf’s antics up. (#3 subbed in on the rare occasion #2 forgot). And it was a win-win; they loved being creative and I didn’t have to do it!
In addition to preparing for the holidays, I had a few weeks of not feeling well; I was battling a kidney stone that decided to just hang around too long. I never really “got” the jokes before about kidney stone pain in shows like Friends or Seinfeld, but I do, NOW.
Needless to say, I headed into Christmas feeling very battered and not too filled with the holiday spirit. And in the giving spirit of Christmas, the younger three has shared their colds with me, giving me a thick, noxious, stuffy nose and throat. Blech.
Christmas Eve was a fairly mellow evening: a few family members popped by, some gifts were unwrapped, and we watched Home Alone* together.
(*Can I just say that as a parent, that movie is WAY different. Forgetting a kid at home? Really? And what do those parents do for a living that they’ve got such a swanky lifestyle? What the heck??)
The kids were put to bed around 10pm, and at that point came my lapse in judgement. As I cuddled #4 in bed, I felt my eyes growing heavy. And then the denial set in…
You know the denial. When you know you’re going to fall asleep, and you lie to yourself as you close your eyes that you’re not REALLY going to sleep, you’re just going to close your eyes for a second, and…..
Nothing like waking up abruptly from a sound sleep that your body is craving to remember that you have to do something… what was it? Oh, yes, that’s right.
You have to be SANTA.
I groggily stumbled down the stairs, and dug box after box after box of wrapped presents out of their hiding spots (I’m like a squirrel storing nuts away with them- every available nook and cranny of the house is filled with gifts prior to the holiday).
I wish I could say that my mood matched the cheer of the decor and the wrapped gifts, but not so much. The Captain had fallen asleep, and since he takes sleeping meds, it’s like waking the dead (pointless). I was coughing, and tired, and tired of working so hard. And in that moment, my thoughts circled the drain. I felt so exhausted- sick, tired of the constant workload, missing my father, hating being a responsible adult, and just wanting sleep.
An hour later, I dropped wearily into bed, sniffling and coughing and massively disillusioned by the approaching holiday that didn’t feel very much like a day to celebrate.
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Now the rule that we have on Christmas morning (to preserve our sanity) that the earliest that the kids can wake us up to begin the Christmas proceedings is 6am (And let me tell you, 6am comes really FAST when you hit your bed at 3am).
All six children were up by 5;15am, raring to go.
But here was the game changer.
They woke us up at 6am. But they excitedly told us that,
“Since we knew you were tired and it wasn’t 6am, we were so excited to give the gifts we bought each other that we did those while we waited!”
Note: Each year, we have the kids buy either school boutique or dollar store items for each other, to try and instill a sense of giving.
They Got It.
They were so excited to GIVE to each other that that’s what they did. They sat together, letting their parents sleep a little longer, and began their Christmas morning giving, together.
It was like being hit in the face with a big ole’ ball of Christmas spirit. And in that moment, despite my scratchy throat and my stuffy nose and my sleep-deprived body, I’ve never felt quite so blessed.
The kids enjoyed their gifts, and the day turned out quite nicely, but despite it being a cliche, my family turned out to be the biggest gift of my day.Six Pack Mom