Christmas is one time of the year where its easy for me to feel like a failure as a parent. For one thing, my parents never tore up our kitchen during Christmas, and for another, my parents always seemed to manage the whole advent season with aplomb and without much stress (whether or not this is true, I am not sure).
Every year, my mom made literally hundreds of Christmas cookies. We used to joke, "Have you finished your Christmas baking?" because the first year my mom was married an elderly woman at her church asked her that while my dad was around. My dad had to excuse himself to keep from laughing in her face. (Neither of my parents knew that Christmas baking would be required). It became especially funny when she actually started to do Christmas baking.
My dad wrote a chapter of a fictional novel every year. (Granted, he would force me to listen to it and edit it, dozens of time before the Christmas Eve reveal, but it was complete nonetheless).
Flash forward to this Christams. Instead of boxes under the Christmas tree, we have boxes of cabinet parts overwhelming our living room (though three are now up!). Instead of the smells of baking cookies, we have rapidly prepared stir-frys.
This year, I have managed to put out part of a nativity scene (the other part is somewhere in an automan that is currently covered with partially assembled cabinets, and put up an advent calendar (even managing to repair a few broken pieces with velcro that I found).
That's the extent of my non-spiritual Christmas preparations, and I've decided to be okay with it. I've decided to be okay with not giving Snapfish books (sorry grandparents), and I've decided that the gifts we are giving (which aren't that many) are of the lamer variety.
With so much happening in my life right now, I have chosen not to take on any additional responsibility. I cannot run myself ragged to recreate a version of my childhood Christmas, and I cannot riddle myself with guilt because I'm not planning the biggest Christmas blowout of the year (in fact, I'm only attending one Christmas party).
What it means to be present
This year, instead of trying to make a great Christmas for my family (and believe me when I say it's something that I hope to do someday), I'm focusing on showing up, and doing the best that I can. I'm focusing on being present over being perfect.
Some people get caught in the buying part of the Christmas season. Where everything gets put onto a Visa Charge card only to wake up with a debt hangover that lasts until May. Other people get caught up in family drama, and they spend weeks dreading the day that they will have to spend with bigoted uncle Eddie, or their nut job aunt, or their helicoptering parents.
Me, I get focused on the busyness of the season. In attending and hosting parties, and in creating more and more work for myself. In completing reports that must go to our CEO by 10AM (or what, a puppy gets kicked?). The stress of the season that turns my stomach into knots from early in the morning to late at night.
And sometimes, I have to say no. To take a break and a rest. Instead of focusing on all that's left to do, I'm resting in the good news of the Christmas season. The news that a suffering servant came to bear sins, and to offer peace on Earth. That I have a God who is well aquainted with the hardships of being human because he took on humanity (and all our pain and sickness and sin).
The good news helps me to say no to baking cookies and yes to loving others. It helps me grow a longer wick with my toddler who wants to get into Everything, and show more love to a husband that can't read my mind (but somehow just brought me coffee).
It helps me swear slightly less frequently when the reports that I have been attempting to run since 5 this morning fail for no explainable reason at all. It's not easy to say no. To choose being present over being perfect, but its what I'm after today. Because I wasn't going to hit perfect anyhow.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.