A year or two ago at Women’s Bible Study we were talking about why we love the holidays. It was a discussion question we went around the circle answering. Something like, “What’s your favorite part about the holiday season?” I heard woman after woman describe the magic of Christmas and how they love creating these prefect moments for their children to enjoy— an afternoon of hot chocolate and cutting out snowflakes, perfectly wrapped presents and a fire in the fireplace Christmas morning, watching “Elf” and eating endless candy, driving around to see Christmas lights in their pajamas with special homemade goodies, baking plates of cookies for the neighbors. . . they went on and on about the precious, sentimental moments and how much they enjoy sharing them as a family.
And that’s when it struck me.
I’m a Moment Ruiner.
Just talking about those Special Moments made me feel anxious. I hate them. I avoid them. I dread them.
I have no crafting skills, minimal baking skills, and I don’t notice or remember things I think you have to notice and remember to be a good Special Moments Mom. I can’t remember what “traditions” we started last year. I have no idea if they liked that movie about the Christmas train or if they found it terrifying. I forgot to buy more cocoa. I’m forever out of tape, which is surprisingly necessary for good gift wrapping. I hate the excess of packaging things. I always MEAN to buy more Christmas decorations for next year when everything is on sale after Christmas, but by then I’m just so relieved the holiday is over, I can’t bring myself to shop.
Mostly, I hate failing. These Special Moments feel like a recipe for failure EVERY TIME. We went to see Christmas lights last year and had to go to three different coffee places before we found one that was still open so we could get hot drinks and then McDonald’s was out of their Holiday pies we promised the kids (who am I kidding? I needed that pie), and there was a line several blocks long to just see the house with the best lights and we got lost multiple times trying to find other lights and the kids cried for all the random reasons you can imagine when they’re strapped in for an hour or two driving randomly around town WITHOUT THEIR PROMISED HOLIDAY PIES.
This is but one example of a million where I feel like the harder I try to make something precious happen, the worse it goes. Then I just end up saying (either in my head or out loud), “SEE?! This is why I don’t try.” I’m forever forgetting that ONE gift they said they most wanted. I didn’t remember to make the birthday meal they told me a month ago they were hoping for. I regularly give people gifts that are still in the bag from the store where I bought them. I can’t remember the last time I sent a card to anyone for any occasion.
I have wondered if my inability to harness a special moment with my family is really about how much I hate hope. It would require an incredible amount of hope for me to believe we could have a fun time making Christmas cookies together. I would have to willfully forget all the other times we’ve tried corporate baking that have ended up in tears and massive messes. I would have to choose hope in the face of all the evidence to the contrary and sometimes, especially around the holidays, that just seems like too much. It’s easier to let those special days be just another day. If I don’t try too hard, I can’t fail too hard. If I keep my mom expectations low, then I can’t be hurt. If I go into each birthday knowing my kids will end up disappointed because the cake wasn’t exactly what they were hoping for, we couldn’t afford that present they really wanted, or I don’t decorate and throw parties like the other parents, then I’m less likely to feel like a bad mom.
I don’t need the special moments for me. I’m not that kind of girl. They make me feel awkward and it’s too much pressure. But this is not how God made my kids. They DO love the special, the precious, the magical. As does my husband. It is hard to make peace with this constant tension in the holiday season of knowing my family is not just a reflection of my priorities, but of how God made them. There needs to be a place for the precious. We keep trying the Christmas light trip. I am now wrapping some of their gifts. We put up decorations and maybe this year we’ll even put lights on the front of the house. We watch “The Santa Clause” (for them) and “While You Were Sleeping” (for me) at some point during their break from school. I’m TRYING as much as it feels unnatural and even unsafe in some weird way, I keep trying.
If you’re a mom who finds herself unintentionally ruining the moment or avoiding those special moments, SOLIDARITY, SISTER. You are not less of a woman or a bad mom because you can’t Pinterest your way out of a paper bag (which would then be glitter covered and an awesome tea light holder to put on your front porch). But it’s good for us to try. There’s beauty in risking that failure to attempt the special. Find the small things you can do to harness the magic of the season to create memories for your family. Those special times aren’t about perfection, but about togetherness.
As much as that Christmas lights trip seemed like a disaster to me, the kids seem to only have fond memories of it. They want to do it again. And I almost do, too. Maybe we’re making progress after all.