Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cliches

I love Christmas. I love all of it. And I don’t feel put upon that I try to accomplish so much at this time of year. I don't want to miss anything. I’m glad to do it all, inspired to do it. But doing it all takes a lot of energy – mental energy, like production week – and sometimes I need a breather to put the energy back. I’ll be a better Mrs. Claus/Supermom tomorrow because of it.

The only thing I don’t love about Christmas is the pressure of knowing I only have one shot at it. I only get one chance to do Christmas of Fifth and Fourth grade, just like I had only one senior year in high school Christmas and one Last Christmas Before Kids Christmas. I don’t want to squander my chance at creating something meaningful and full of light because I’m lazy or inattentive, or on the other end, too busy and focused. And not because I feel like I have to. I want to. I want to know that when this special time of year came, I was ready for it, made room for it, welcomed it and allowed myself to be inspired. I think maybe that’s the heart of it all. The love I feel at Christmastime inspires me, right down to the bottom of my soul. The love I express through the gifts I give and the conversations I have and the surge of love just from singing with John Denver and the Muppets in my car. This love helps me remember to fill the freaking elf doors every night. It makes me take the time to write the note or make the gift that will show my appreciation for the many wonders and miracles in my life, my family, my exquisite friends. And it has staying power.

Every year, we have this Christmas party. Elise and I started it during the first year we lived together, and it has grown to be a yearly reunion of our college friends. The event that we just don’t miss. We had to reschedule it two different years, and made it something else like Faux Valentine’s, but it wasn’t the same. It’s the Christmas that matters. People take that valuable last Saturday before Christmas, when there are lots of other worthwhile things to be doing, and they come to our house in the cold – bring their babies or pay a babysitter or borrow the car. These fine, fine people who are contributing to the world and being all sexy and brilliant come to my house, because it’s Christmastime, and we all belong together at Christmas. I feel so humbled by that.

And I love Christmas for the shared recognition that there really is a Santa Claus, and he is part of all of us, and that a baby was born that brought hope and inspiration to so many and made people live better in his name. That Faithful Friends Who are Dear to Us are, indeed, the dearest of all, the ones you live for, cherish, admire. These are the friends who help you be a better person, because you know they love you, and you aspire to be the best of the person they think you are.

I don’t even know if that makes sense. I only know that I honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I live in the Past, the Present and the Future, and I live open-hearted to the lessons the Universe is teaching. And every Christmas, under the spell of twinkle lights and eggnog and Hallmark movies, I reaffirm that pledge and start anew.

This is a song that I love by Nancy LaMott, called “All Those Christmas Cliches.” It’s on the mix CD I made to remember this Christmas by, along with two songs from Glee and “True Blue Miracle” from the Sesame Street Muppets…and a bunch of other stuff. I will totally make you a copy if you want one…it’s what Christmas sounds like in Kelly’s Head.

Anyhoo…here are the lyrics…

I’ve spent Christmas in Peoria, Christmas in Schenectedy, Christmas in Las Vegas and L.A.

And I always thought it couldn’t matter less, But lately, come December, I confess

I want the tree full of toys and tinsel, I want the wreath on the red front door

I want the elves in the yard and each sentimental card dripping glitter on the floor

I want a roof full of plywood reindeer, I want a road full of horse-drawn sleighs

All Those Christmas Cliches

I want the turkey with all the trimmings, the turkey mom hardly ever made

I want the gulp and tear at the moment that I hear Johnny Mathis being played

I want a lake full of perfect skaters, I want that fruit cake with sugar glaze

All Those Christmas Cliches

Not to mention the snow, not to mention the choir, not to mention the candles in the window, and chestnuts roasting on the fire

Inside a house filled with noise and laughter along a street bathed in twinkling light

I want the bells and the drums, mistletoe and sugar plums, and kids to tuck in tight

And as for that guy in the bright red outfit, instead of flying off he stays

All Those Christmas Cliches

I want those overblown, corny, heartwarming, Hallmark Christmas cliches.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Santa Struggle

My little one, my emotional, tempestuous daughter, came home in a rage yesterday. "It was a great day until I got on the bus to come come and Matthew and Emily both kept saying there was no Santa Claus and I kept telling them that I was going to write a letter and tell Santa that they said that, and then they'd be sorry!" Oh, she was in a fit. Which is sort of cute and charming, in a way, that level of belief, but also alarming in the holy-shit-what-have-I-done kind of way. While I am deeply proud of the sense of magic that we've perpetuated in our daughters for their entire childhood, I know we're hitting the end game in that regard, and I honestly am not sure how to handle it. So what have I done in that regard? I just keep repeating, "I believe in Santa. As long as you believe, he comes." All of which is true. But last week when she made me pinky-swear that I don't put the presents under the tree, I did it, with the justification that, actually, the Santa presents are left NEXT to the tree. So, it's not exactly lying. Right? I don't know. I just don't know. But I do know that the fit she pitched yesterday evening due to her frustrated feelings came out as the nasty, sarcastic, mean-spirited spitting remarks that I lie in fear of when I picture her teenage life. Managing her feelings is a life-skill that we are trying so hard to teach her. Not seeing so much success there yet.

I don't know if I'm doing her more harm by keeping Santa alive than if I just sat down and told her the truth of it all. I have listened to what other people have done with this issue, but nothing has felt just right to me. Maybe it's my own weakeness and inability to look into her disappointed little blue eyes and say the words that will break her heart. On the other hand, am I just making things worse for her as she has to fight the playground battles and gets laughed at in the process? I told her that there are lots and lots of people who don't believe in Santa, and that she should maybe just keep her opinions to herself if she doesn't want to keep getting her feelings hurt. But for all of her sometimes incomprehensible fit-pitching behavior, she has, at her core, a very strong sense of justice. That's where it all comes from, I think. She has a firm belief that she knows what is right and wrong, what is fair and unfair, and the idea of NOT speaking up about that is foreign to her nature. While it's exhausting to have a child that so vehemently sticks up for what she believes (especially when Patrick and I are often in the not-fair category, in her opinion), it's still a powerful quality to have. My job, I know, is to help her find judgement in choosing her battles, and find a balance between speaking out and listening hard to people that she can trust to guide her.

Sigh. It's really just that....parenting is hard. Even the good stuff is still hard, and takes so much energy and tact and discomfort. I am trying so hard to do the right things, and so many nights I tuck them in and just want to put my head down and cry about it all, about the possibility of how seriously I can screw up two small people in the world if I'm not careful. Or even if I am careful.

In other news, we did have a wonderful weekend in New York City with my mom. She took us to see Elf and Wicked, and we saw the Rockefeller Center tree and the amazing windows on 5th avenue and stayed at the Marriot, and really had a magical Christmas adventure. So much joy. The only shadow on things was the same parenting issue I just described, which manifests in many ways. If Patrick and I manage nothing else in this parenting journey, I want to make sure that our children have a sense of appreciation for the good things they receieve, and the good things in the world, and an understanding that everything worth having comes from hard work. I know how hard my parents, and Patrick and I, had to work to afford the special things the girls got to see and do this weekend, and I just keep hoping that the message to appreciate both the tangible and the magical becomes a firm part of their foundation.

Working on it. All we can do is just keep on working on it.