I had big plans for the holidays this year. I wanted them to be joyful. And meaningful. I wanted us to create family traditions that would carry my daughter into adulthood. So we decorated a tree. We hid the elf every night. Despite having a realist for a five year old, we played coy about Santa. This did not stop her from pointing out, in the blunt way that only a kindergartner can, that her presents are bought by mommy and daddy. With money.
In lieu of gifts for each other this year, my husband and I decided to give some money away to people who needed it more. So all week I have been wandering around the streets looking for ways to rid myself of the dollars in my pocket. For some reason, in this city where there is always someone begging for change, I have had trouble finding anyone. I guess I will keep it up until the New Year.
Yesterday was looooooong. All day, Maya alternated between bouncing on her toes in excitement and impatient whining. There really should be school on Christmas Eve. What else are we supposed to do with our antsy kids all day? Maya drew pictures. She played with Legos. She watched a movie. We even went out for breakfast. And all this before noon. (This is what happens when your child wakes up at 7:30, rearing to go.) Around 3:00 I cooked a dinner of baked chicken, Jasmine rice, and asparagus. We drank wine. Then we bundled up and drove to Washington Square Park to listen to Christmas carols. Maya was cold and unimpressed. We did have a brief moment which involved me hugging her tightly while murmuring a teary Silent Night into her ear. (I am a sucker for a good Jesus carol.) She gave me kisses. It was nice. Really nice.
Maya went to bed at 6:45 last night, exhausted from the overwhelming pressure of waiting for Christmas. We wrapped up her presents and put them under the tree. (Ooops, I mean Santa came of course. Presents come from Santa. ) Our plan was to watch some goofy Christmas movie, eat buttered popcorn and cuddle on the couch. Also eat cookies. (I have baked enough cookies this season to feed all of Bethlehem.) For some reason, Netflicks picked this night of all nights to fall apart. So we ate a bowl of popcorn, drank some eggnog (mmmm, alcoholic pancake batter!) and watched A Christmas Story which was not nearly as funny as I remembered it being.
I went to bed disappointed and a little depressed.
I guess I was hoping for some dramatic, heart warming Christmas Eve moments. I wanted this day to be "special". I wanted to go to bed buzzed on eggnog, humming Jingle Bells, overwhelmed with love and gratitude for this wonderful time of the year. Instead it was just a normal day in our household. Actually, a normal day for us usually involves someone in a gi practicing a choke. So not normal even. Long. And boring.
You know what happens when you try to force a special moment? You end up freezing your butt off in a park, while a bunch of New Yorkers sing Angels We Have Heard on High and your five year old whines "Can we go home now?"
Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote this in the NY Times this week: "Why aren’t we happier during the holidays? Perhaps because we set unrealistic expectations. We focus so much on creating holiday magic, but the season’s enjoyment is perhaps best found by limiting the number of daily aggravations we face. It might not look like the holiday of our dreams, but simplifying the menu, limiting the number of presents bought or reducing our hours spent traveling might just result in the most elusive of holiday gifts: a happy surprise."
You may have something there, Sonja.
This morning Maya woke up at 6:54 and called out from her room "Mama when the 5 is in the middle is that the one before 7?" (Being the mean parents that we are, we told her that even on Christmas she can't get up until 7:00.) Exactly six minutes later she came bounding into our bed. "Its 7:00! Its 7:00!" We played dumb. "Is it time for school?" "NO MAMA, ITS TIME FOR PRESENTS!!!!!"
She pulled candy out of her stocking and ate two Swedish Fish for breakfast. Chloe (the dog) ripped open some wrapping paper and went to work on a rawhide bone. After opening a box that contained a bunch of hideously overpriced plastic makeup and hair accessories stamped with Hello Kitty's face, Maya exclaimed "This is what I wanted forever! Thank you SO SO much!"
Yeah, presents are cool I guess.
Now I am drinking coffee. Maya is watching Nick Jr. and flipping through a new activity book. Around noon, Matthew's dad is going to show up with half of the Disney Store in tow.
Today I am going to get it right. I am going to sit in my house and be thankful for its cozy warmth. When Maya gets bored of switching from one new present to the next, we will go to the playground down the block, the same one we go to every day after school. I will eat more cookies and drink more wine. I will not get upset when Maya would rather watch Little Bear than the yule log. (Yup, I love me a fake fireplace that plays Christmas music.) Around 3:00 I will become incredibly bored and stir crazy and wish my jiu-jitsu school was open. I will probably do a load of laundry. Maya will lose no fewer than 3 Polly Pocket shoes. I will snap at her when she accidentally spills hot chocolate all over the sofa. She will snap at me when I say no to "just one more Hershey's kiss." In other words, it will be a normal day. A wonderful, sometimes boring, sometimes joyful, normal day. And when I kiss Maya goodnight it will be with overwhelming gratitude and love, not because our Christmas was special, but because she is.
That's the plan anyway.
Merry Christmas everyone! Peace and love.
May you enjoy all the little moments.
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