The holidays come around every damn year. Yeah I get it, “No shit Sherlock.” But for many, myself included, the holidays mean a spike in anxiety. Holiday decorations show up around September and so does my dread. The intensity of that dread dramatically increases after Thanksgiving.
I honestly love a lot of what the holidays symbolize. I love the music (the political incorrectness of Baby It’s Cold Outside does not lessen the joy I feel when it comes on), the lights, the constant stories of giving, and my children’s uncontrollable anticipation.
It’s that same anticipation that is my trigger. I’m an admitted perfectionist. I also have an anxiety disorder that makes anything less than my own perceived perfection seem incredibly inadequate. I plan everything. I have an internal checklist of what needs to be accomplished to make the holiday great. Surprise! Nothing I do is ever good enough.
I want to cherish the holidays. I want to create an experience and tradition for my family that they will cherish through their adult lives. I am so focused on manufacturing their experience, that I am missing it. I am allowing my anxiety to steal my holiday experience.
I grew up away from immediate family. I had limited access to big family traditions and celebrations. This limited experience exacerbates my desire to establish traditions for my own children. I want them to feel the external warmth of the holidays and remember what their Mommy used to do that made everything feel so special.
I find myself spending money that I shouldn’t, making plans that do not matter, and over-extending myself to the point of exhaustion. All of this is a function of my anxiety. I anticipate the consequences of not performing specific holiday rituals and I find myself panicked that my children may not remember a “perfect” Christmas.
But what does that even mean? What does a “perfect Christmas” look like? I can guarantee it does not involve an overly stressed mom yelling and/or in tears over a holiday plan that fell apart. There is no child in the face of the planet that has not thrown an ill-timed tantrum during an attempted Christmas experience.
For example, my family’s Christmas tree disaster. My 6-year old son was in a mood. The kind of mood where you seriously consider checking his birth certificate for a return policy. Every part of the Christmas tree process was a fight. Every aspect of the experience was stressful. He lost control of his behaviors and emotions leading my husband and I to lose our tempers multiple times. At one point he shoved his younger sister off of the step stool because she was hanging an ornament that he had “dibbed” to be his item. You don’t expect tears to be shed over Christmas ornaments, but here we were.
The night ended and I needed a drink. I reflected on the failure that was my Christmas tree plan and analyzed what had happened. I wondered what my son’s memory of the day will be like. Will he remember the holiday fun or will he remember a stressed out mom at her breaking point? Sadly, I am fully aware of the likely answer.
I am forcibly taking a step back. I am working towards modifying the holiday so that I can truly be a part of it. I owe my children a Mom who does not have to feign happiness throughout the holiday season.
For me, that looks like store bought cookie dough, carefully selected but minimal decorations, Amazon Prime, and gift bags. My hope is that I can let go of what I want Christmas to look like and soak in what Christmas actually is. I am striving to embrace imperfection and not just “get through the holidays”, but truly enjoy them.
Kira Gilbertson is generally awkward, uses too much dry shampoo, and is likely to avoid eye contact with you at the grocery store. As a wife, mom, nurse, and farm lady it is likely that she is sporting some bodily fluids that are not hers at any given moment. Kira has been farting around with the whole writing thing for a few years. Check out her work at http://tirednotdead.com under the pen-name Rnplusmommy and on all those social media sites at https://www.facebook.com/tirednotdead/ , https://www.instagram.com/tirednotdead/ , and https://twitter.com/imtirednotdead