Every Year, I Try to Muster the Courage to Take On the Christmas Season With A Smile.
I don’t consider myself to be characteristically negative, but I am sure that Christmas was designed specifically to upset the delicate balance that my family has worked so hard to strike since school started in September. Now it’s cold, it’s dark, and the most stressful time of year waits on its haunches to initiate its daunting regime of consumer slavery.
As if there aren’t enough demands on our time, Christmas events seem to begin in November and not end until the year is through. It isn’t like you’ll be hanging out with your friends to sip mulled wine and expensive beer to pass those months, either. Nooo. You won’t even see your friends until sometime mid-January when we’re all still too paralyzed with fear to check our bank accounts, but we manage to find couch change for a coffee together.
Instead, you’ll spend your time amidst coworkers and extended family in rooms with no circulation and 5 people who are perpetually hacking. Your weekends will consist of shaking something store bought into your favourite dessert dish, and convincing your 6-year-old that ‘yes’ is the correct response when Grandma asks if he helped make it. Which brings us to the age-old subject of communal food. As much as I’d love to try cat lady’s new recipe, the pictures of her cat sitting in every Tupperware dish she has exists on her cubicle wall as a constant reminder that it might be better if I did not.
Abstaining affords you better chances of not finding feline pelt in your food, and lowers your chances of being seen indulging your weaknesses by that weird uncle that everyone has; the one who must remark upon every stress induced pound you’ve incurred in the days leading up to this bizarre charade. Insert eye roll here.
Visions of Sugar Plums
I put this reality out of my head in the beginning, imagining quiet evenings by the fire with my husband and kids with a great glass of wine and Christmas movies. Maybe a quick drive around town to look at the beautiful Christmas lights that always warm my cold cold Christmas heart, having time for the kids to actually play with the things they received, and an entire day in pajamas.
I am typically disabused of this idealist notion by the first week of December, or the third migraine of the month, whichever comes first. Friends and colleagues are always abuzz with excitement for this all-too-frequent occasion, and I just feel like Wednesday Adams in the corner as reality takes a foothold in me.
Hold Your Horses
First, there should be a moratorium on the very word until the month within which “it” occurs. There is nothing more frustrating than living through chaos from November 1st through December 26th because your kids know it’s coming but can’t really understand when, so they exist in a continuous state of nervous excitability (read: no one is listening unless mom is crying). By December 15th I am always sure that if I hear my kids casually tell me to ‘add it to the list’ one more time while educating me on the virtues of the newest Poké-whatever, my head is certain to explode and traumatize somebody.
As early as mid-October, Christmas enters the commercial stage with about as much grace as a cross eyed seagull on skates. Pumpkins are lucky to make it out in one piece after that magnificent red bully shows its face. I’m pretty sure the atmosphere in a shopping mall around Christmas could be effectively used for military-grade interrogation. Put me in a 30-person lineup with some shrill Christmas Carol on repeat and I promise you my composure will not last. I’ve had more public altercations in Christmas lineups than Edith Bunker was told to stifle. The year that I was six months pregnant at Christmas I should not even have been allowed to participate, it would have been easier for everyone.
Trying to do Christmas on a budget these days is practically impossible, given the expectations. I can scarcely manage supplying my immediate family with what they deem reasonable, it fills me with rage when I am pressured to perform at the level of extended family (many of whom I don’t even see on the regular). You might as well just concede and buy for everyone you’ve ever so much as cast a sideways glance to, because the second you think you’ve had the ‘we’re not going crazy this year, only buying for the kids’ conversation, someone will decide to give you something anyway and act like it’s possible for you not to stand there feeling like a shmuck.
There’s always the scenery to admire while you’re shopping, though, isn’t there? Line after line of enthusiastic parents and tired hungry kids waiting for a snapshot with old Saint Nick. Oh, mall Santa. There’s something about an aged man voluntarily subjecting himself to being sat upon by kids with leaky diapers and random animals all day long that just doesn’t compute for me. Between that, and Santa’s awkward joke about my eight-month-old wanting dog food for Christmas, I have pretty much made my peace with this particular issue. So, my kids are deprived and I’m a bad mom – you can add that to the list, too.
On to the family festivities you’ll go, boxes of overpriced trinkets in tow. Ready to dive into another potluck feast before crawling back into the snow-covered car to test your threshold for terror on icy Alberta roads to get to the next event that you hope you can keep yourself awake for. This is another consequence of the divorce rate, you know. Since no one is married anymore, good luck spreading your holiday time around equally! You’ll end up spending most of the day taking your kids in and out of the car and bundling and de-bundling them in a futile effort to keep everyone happy before eventually succumbing to the festive season stroke you so-deserve (unless you’ve already yielded to death by small talk). Hospital stays are the new all-inclusive parental retreats, dontchaknow.
Scotchy Scotch Scotch
There is unprecedented pressure not to drink too much at Christmas, which I think, given the circumstances, is cruel and unreasonable. And because I’m not good at following rules, I tend to do it anyway, say f*ck too many times, and generally remind people of why they judge me from January to November. Whomever said that I lack in gregariousness has clearly not spoken to me at 9 o’clock on Christmas night. Exhausted by the leadup, and unstable with resentment, I usually find my ‘socializing groove’ somewhere between 8 and 9pm. Right about the time that my husband is trying to politely point me in the direction of the car while I regale him with a passionate story about some delicious potluck mystery I just fell in love with (because four glasses of wine is the magic number if you’re trying to transcend your fear of potluck-anything).
Everyone has anxiety, traffic is insane, terrible music is absolutely inescapable outside the confines of your own home (I dare you to turn on your car radio). Just when you get done with the mounting, lighting, decorating, purchasing, wrapping and bedazzling (all while working your full-time job, of course) you settle in for your 5 seconds of peace and realize – it’s over. It’s over and tomorrow real life will start again. Not an ounce of Christmas vacation, and certainly no vacation from Christmas.