How was your year? Pretty good? Hope so.
You wrote this ten days before Christmas, when you had such a stiff neck from tension that you could barely turn your head… when the whole house smelled like gingerbread and fir but the bathrooms needed cleaning… when you hadn’t wrapped a single present… and when you were once again asking yourself if you’d bitten off more than you can chew with this whole holiday.
First of all – you’re doing fine. Well done, you, for once again taking on the responsibility of making Christmas for a busy family of five. It’s not easy, but it is important, and you should pat yourself on the back for whatever you’ve accomplished so far. In fact, pat yourself on the back AND have a drink of Baileys over ice.
Here are the lessons you learned… painfully… again… and always manage to forget every year in the run-up to the holiday. DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES AGAIN, FUTURE HANNAH. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over & over while expecting a different result. DO NOT BE INSANE.
When I told you to go have a drink of Baileys, was there none in the fridge? Have you put off buying it – again – because you can’t justify the expense? Don’t be silly. Buy the Baileys. There is nothing wrong with forcing yourself to take time out to relax.
You never, ever receive as many Christmas cards as you send out. If you’re OK with that, go ahead and send as many as you like. But as of December 15th, you have received exactly three cards – one from a friend, and the other two from local politicians. Give yourself permission to let this one go if you don’t enjoy it.
If you do decide to send Christmas cards, get the single-sheet photo cards and stick a blank label to the back of each one for a personal note. Much easier than trying to find a pen that won’t smear.
The kids love decorating a gingerbread house. You love having a fun messy activity to do with them on those weekends in December when they are bouncing with excitement. What you don’t love is baking your own gingerbread and constructing the house from scratch. It does not enhance their experience. It takes longer than you think because the dough needs to chill, then be rolled out and cut, then chilled a second time, then baked, and you can’t fit all the pieces in the oven at once. Buy the damn house kit. Also don’t forget to save the gross Halloween candy for use on the house. Someday, when the kids don’t want to help decorate it anymore, you can make one from scratch the way you want. Until then, stop trying to Martha Stewart the holiday.
On a related note, make gingerbread men from Nicole’s recipe, not Canadian Living’s. Hers taste better. Don’t expect to find those icing tubes at Sobeys. They don’t have them. They have gel, which makes a godawful mess. Buy them at Michael’s in November.
Start wrapping gifts earlier. Don’t think “oh, I’ll sit down with an old movie some night soon and do them all at once”. NO. BAD HANNAH. You have more gifts to wrap than you can possibly imagine. You always have to wrap gifts from childless people in other provinces who use Amazon to ship direct to your door, and they don’t pay for wrapping, and you need to do that, too. The pile is bigger than you think it is.
When Sobeys has their December BOGO sale, always on the first weekend, buy a bunch of extra canned goods and put them aside. You will be asked to bring “something for the food bank” to every single event you attend outside the house for the entire month, including kids’ birthday parties. You know that helping others less fortunate is very important, but this year you spent around $100 in a month on various food drives because they kept popping up without warning. Plan better and you can make your charitable dollars go a little farther.
Your kids have at least three good friends with late November / early December birthdays. When you see age-appropriate toys on sale in October, grab a few and put them aside so you aren’t forced to go shopping multiple times at the last minute.
Suck it up and buy the Lindt Advent calendars. Remember how bad you felt when you went into Harry’s room for something and realized he hadn’t used his calendar since December 3rd because the 99-cent wax chocolate tasted so gross… and then when you asked him about it, he said he didn’t want to tell you because he knew money was tight and he didn’t want you to feel bad.
Don’t go to your old boss’ Christmas open house. It’s sweet that he still invites you even though you haven’t worked for him since 2008, but it’s always awkward, the kids are bored, and its a little depressing being reminded of your old pre-dayhome life. Use that evening instead to invite someone to your house.
Remember, you actually do love Christmas. You love the tree, and the fireplace channel, and the food and the TV specials and the looks on your kids’ faces when they open their presents. Remember that you really can throw out any traditions that don’t work for you & your family. Ask yourself what memories you want your kids to look back on – tired, stressed-out, stiff-necked Mom who rants about gingerbread for an entire weekend, or messes and happiness and fun?
You know the answer. Just be gentle with yourself.