Any time an expectation is attached to something that doesn’t come naturally to me (birthday parties, elaborate recipes, hair braids), I get performance anxiety and I freeze. I worry about the possibility of failure before I even start and so when it comes to something like Christmas, the whole hullabaloo feels like a set up. For disappointment.
I’m prone to panicking and then over-doing by attempting Christmas morning dazzle in the name of Santa Claus.
Which works sometimes.
Yes, just sometimes.
The evidence lies in the big Barbie Dream House sitting in our basement that’s never been played with. And in the old pictures of a toddler in tears who wanted lip-gloss and got a bike instead. To be clear: they were tears of disappointment. There’s also a past Christmas list or two that detailed “robots that clean rooms” (pretty sure my kid came up with Roomba right there) and “one of Santa’s reindeer”—alas, wishes that could never be filled by a mere-mortal mother with a mere debit card and a budget—and had to be placated with tin robots and plush Rudolphs.
The refrain goes something like, “But don’t worry, mom, this has nothing to do with you! I’m asking Santa.”
Which is adorable and maddening all at once. I want that kind of belief in them, but I hate the storied archetype of a frantic adult searching the near empty shelves of a toy store on Christmas Eve; I hate that the “Santa ideal” can ruin the meaning of one of the givey-est holidays on the calendar.
Because I love to give gifts. I love the feeling it gives me. I love when I get it right and it was just the perfect thing. Or the needed thing. Or something unexpected that just made someone smile.
And don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas. I love everything about it: the tree, the carols, the cookies, the books, the movies, the gingerbread, the altogether Yuletide cheer that lights strung on houses and trees can do for the heart (now THAT’S magic—looking at you, Draper Park).
But the running around? The trying to make it perfect? That’s tough for me to enjoy.
But I’m changing that. Right now.
This season, I resolve to enjoy the whole process more, and remember the true meaning of the season. And when I start to stress about the possibility of less-than-perfect and Santa-dreams-dashed, I will take a deep breath, pour myself some hot chocolate, and read Shelah’s essay on page 34 about the glory of the Christmas mishap.
And then I will turn to the Gift Guide on page 14 and know that with it, I can’t really go wrong. I’ve got this gift-giving thing in the bag. And “Santa” will have nothing on me now.
(But for real, does anyone know anyone who needs a Barbie Dream House? This Santa delivers.)
Happy Holidays, friends!
Brooke Benton, Editor