Is anyone else sick to death of the holidays already? I was all set to write a column about how my husband and I celebrate this time of year as an interfaith couple with toddlers, but I had to stop in the middle of the second paragraph. Gag! Who wants to read any more articles about how to make sure each tradition is respected and that the kids are exposed to the best of both religions? Besides, neither my husband nor I are what you’d call observant. We bow down to consumerism—patriotic and otherwise—at the end of the day like everyone else, whether you admit it or not. I want a framed print I saw at a gallery and a dress form for Xmas. As long as they’re under the tree, this is a successful holiday in my estimation. Jesus? I like him very much, but he no help with curveball. And candles are pretty, so we light up the menorah, my husband says some Hebrew words that my kids will one day understand (I’m all about phonetics) and we all have a cup of cheer. Then it’s back to watching TV, reading kids’ books, and building forts in the living room. Yay, interfaith holidays.
In my family, I’m famous for saying that I’d rather be put into a medically-induced coma than have to endure the holidays. Put me under right about now and wake me up on December 31st in time for a kick-ass, child-free NYE bash with all my good friends, bottomless champagne flutes, Nirvana as the house band, and Elvis, The King himself, serving up fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches sprinkled with powdered sugar all night long. (What? This is my fantasy. You don’t like it? Dream up your own!)
The holidays are all about indulging in fantasy and I don’t want to be responsible for making sure others’ wishes are fulfilled. Does that make me lazy? Maybe. I like to think it makes me realistic. Making sure everyone in the family gets to live their more-realistic-than-mine holiday fantasy takes work. Hard work. And the thing about holiday fantasies is that they’re damn near impossible to pull off sans flaws. The planets have to be aligned with your family’s collective chakras and there can be no disturbances in the Force. It’s a LOT of pressure and responsibility, which, frankly, I don’t want to take on. As an at-home mom with volunteer duties, a small business in the works, and parent-teacher conferences to attend, I have enough on my plate already.
I think this is why humans invented Santa Claus—to have someone to blame when the kids get upset that they didn’t get that gold-covered PlayStation they begged for or when your in-laws give you a not-so-subtle hint via a gym membership and/or cooking classes. Santa must’ve stopped at the wrong house! Maybe our neighbors got the stuff we wanted. I think humans invented God for a similar reason—the desire to place blame on someone other than themselves when things don’t turn out as planned—but that’s a topic for a separate article. Like I said, I’m not exactly observant.
Anyway, as I sit here typing and thinking, thinking and typing, I can’t help but wonder whether my kids are picking up on Mommy’s jaded attitude toward Xmas. As far as parenting-style goes, I’m much more like Roseanne than I am June Cleaver, so the kids shouldn’t really be surprised that I tend to buck the trends espoused in popular parenting magazines and mawkish talk shows. That said, I don’t want them to have the same hang-ups that I do. If they like this season, I want them to enjoy themselves. And I will willingly don the June Cleaver mask if necessary to make sure they’re happy.
I guess that’s why I dislike this season so strongly. I feel like everyone is being disingenuous just to please others because they feel they have to. But, in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what parenting is and why it’s such a difficult thing to deal with. I’d love to wear the “Nicole” hat, but find that I have to wear the “Mommy” hat all the time—even when kids aren’t involved—because “Mommy” is the one responsible for making sure all of the holiday magic happens. “Nicole” is content to lounge around all day in a Snuggie watching the usual Xmas specials and drinking hot cocoa.
So for those of you who are lucky enough always to have had perfect holiday seasons without a parent going postal, congratulations. Hug your mom and thank her for the effort—then nominate her for beatification. For the rest of us, do the same. Creating holidays out of nothing is one of the things moms do best. Truthfully this statement applies to anyone who is the head of a household. If you were raised by your dad or a grandparent or aunt, etc., give that person a hug, too, and let him or her know how much you appreciate their efforts. Better yet, offer to help them out this year and in the future. Making spirits bright is a tough road to hoe. I know the maxim is that whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, but I don’t think that’s true. The holidays don’t really kill people, it’s the stress and unrealistic expectations that do. And they don’t really leave us any stronger. They make us grumpy, irascible jerks for most of the season.
So, yes, I’m ready for the holidays to be over. I’m also looking forward to NYE. For me, it’s not a celebration to welcome in the new calendar year. It’s a congratulatory party to honor those of us who created the holiday fantasy for everyone else and didn’t lose our minds in the process. In reality my NYE will not feature a live set by Nirvana and sandwiches by Elvis, but it will feature good friends, good music, and good champagne. And, frankly, that’s enough to keep me going through the end of the month. That, and the promise of Santa delivering my heart’s desire on Xmas Eve. I’m not too old to live the dream.