Maybe I’m the only Grinchy Scrooge around here, but lately I’ve had trouble liking Christmastime. A few years ago when I was feeling tired and overwhelmed, I realized that apparently one of my jobs as a mother is to be the Event Planner of the family. I mean, I love cooking and eating and wearing ugly sweaters and I’m handy to have around when someone needs music, but I’m really no good at all the other stuff, especially if it involves garlands or ribbons. I was starting to resent the expectation that I manufacture a magical Christmas year after year after year, and sometimes that led me to resent my children (or at least their expectations…or maybe just my assumptions about their expectations) just a teensy bit, which is not good. I needed to change a few things.
First, I decided I needed to sharpen the saw, secure my own oxygen mask first, or whatever other metaphor you want to insert here. For years, I have wanted to attend the Lower Lights Christmas concert in Salt Lake, but have put it off because of time or cost restraints. Every time I drive past the Masonic temple or listen to one of their albums, I promise myself I’ll buy tickets for the next Christmas and this year (because it was a blog assignment), I actually followed through. I missed my chance to go to the Masonic temple, but Kingsbury Hall’s pretty cool too.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Lower Lights, you can learn more here or here. Basically, it’s a supergroup made up of many local musicians who gather every Christmas to perform together. They have two Christmas albums and several hymn revival albums out which you totally should check out. The concert was big (every available spot on stage filled with performers and every available seat filled with audience members), beautiful (the set and the music), and fun. So much fun, in fact, that I’ll be dousing this post with a whole lot of their music.
Once I had gotten my own dose of Christmas, I had a bit more energy to haul out the holly and deck the halls (or hall out the hauly and deck the holls). I enlisted my children’s help to set up the tree and get out all the decorations to surprise my husband while he was out of town. Somehow making it a surprise and a way to take the load off of Dad helped the work seem less workish. My youngest two were great helpers and they started to see that it can be as much fun to do acts of service within the family as it is for strangers. Who would have guessed? The lights and ornaments weren’t set up exactly as my husband or I usually do, but that didn’t matter.
Another way I found more joy this year was to actually sit down with my kids and read to them from our big basket of Christmas books. Yes, I know that good moms already read to their kids even after they can read to themselves, but for me this was unusual. So unusual, in fact, that my youngest seemed embarrassed by it at first: “Why are we doing this? I’m too old for this!” My 12-year-old didn’t seem to mind at all. This new nightly ritual is my new favorite thing. I might just become a good mom yet.
I also found extra peace and goodwill toward men this year by shopping online. Completely. Exclusively. Except for groceries, I have not set foot in another store since Thanksgiving. Not one single visit to Walmart or anything. It makes me so happy.
One unexpected way our Christmas has become better this year is that we have a house guest from Chile staying with us until he finds a place to live. Not only is he polite and friendly to us and the boys (and even our annoying dog), but when he’s around our boys are polite and friendly as well. They’re much better behaved when there’s someone else around. We should invite strangers into our home more often.
And the absolute best part about this Christmas has to be having a first grader in the home. First graders love everything about Christmas. They believe every story, they want to sing every song, they bring home a new art project or ornament every day. They are bright eyed and excited and happy and sweet. It makes every effort seem totally worth it. Older boys might be jaded or seemingly ungrateful, but not my first grader. Older boys might want me to turn off the Christmas music, but not my first grader. And the best part is that his enthusiasm is contagious. His excitement is rubbing off on the rest of us, which is exactly what we needed this year. Maybe if you’re very good, Santa will bring you a first grader for Christmas.