It can be really easy to feel like you are failing your children, especially around the holidays.
I had so many good intentions this year.
For example, our neighborhood group announced that there would be a home decorating contest. Oh, boy, we were going to blow it out of the water. We picked a weekend, got down all the lights and had visions of amazingness dancing in our heads.
Then the baby started crying and the older one whined that he wanted to put up the tree instead of watching his dad fumble with lights on the roof. One thing led to another, and all we ended up with is a little bush with a string of lights around it and a very sad, lone strand lining the roof. We don’t even turn them on because we are too embarrassed.
But, hey, the kids don’t really care about the outside of the house, right?
That’s what I told myself as I focused my attention on a mid-December trip to Ohio to see family and friends there. We would see the train exhibit, go to the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo, take in the live Nativity and go ice skating downtown.
Then it rained all day the day we were going to go ice skating. We did make it to the zoo, but we were too tired to stay until it got dark and the lights came on. The next day, the kids seemed totally happy to make their own ornaments and decorate Grandma’s tree, so we never went to see the trains. Lastly, we learned the live Nativity wasn’t up and running, so we watched “A Muppet’s Christmas Carol” instead.
On the (very long) drive back to the Carolinas, I reassured myself that the kids had no idea what they were missing. They got to see their family, and that’s all that matters.
Besides, we had plenty of fun stuff to do back here. We could make hot chocolate and sit in front of the fire as a family. We could see “Santa” when he came to visit our neighborhood clubhouse. We could wrap presents for our long-distance family together.
Then we had a heat wave in December and hot chocolate and a fire sounded miserable. The baby got sick the day that Santa came to our neighborhood. And we discovered that Amazon does gift-wrapping, so we simply shipped everything to our family’s homes already in holiday décor.
Nothing. I did not accomplish one thing that I wanted to with my kids this year. My mother always did an amazing job making and preserving our holiday traditions. We would go to the tree lighting downtown or see a Christmas play at the local theater. We decorated Christmas cookies and cuddled in front of the same movies every night, year after year.
I don’t know how she did it. Maybe she didn’t let the rain, or a sick baby, or flat-out exhaustion get the best of her. Maybe she didn’t make excuses like I did this year.
Or, maybe I just didn’t realize that we weren’t doing the things she hoped we would. My Christmases were always amazing because I was always with my family. Sure, we fought and cried and probably drove my mother insane, but my brother, sisters and I always ended the day completely happy. We were totally oblivious to all the effort she put into the cooking, the shopping, the decorating and the day-tripping she did – including anything she planned to do but didn’t.
Hopefully, I’ll get my act together in time for next year. And if I don’t, I hope my kids don’t realize it.