How I'll Be Celebrating Christmas This Year

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The holiday season is coming up which is both exciting and difficult for me at the same time. The holidays are always an exciting time, add an eighteen month old to the mix and it’s a recipe for fun. Unfortunately, my family is all in another state and before we had children my husband and I decided that we would “trade” holidays. One year Thanksgiving with my parents and Christmas with his, and then the next year we would flip flop. The first time I was away from my family on Christmas was in 2015, we had been married a year and the reality of my new holiday situation quickly set in, and I’m not going to lie, I cried, a lot! I’m not sure if it was the thought of my parents being at home by themselves on Christmas that pulled at my heartstrings or if it was that I was sad for myself. I don’t think I realized how important family events and holidays were to me until I wasn’t there.

Even though I was 32 years old I had spent every Christmas of my entire life at my parents house. Which meant on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, for thirty-two years I had experienced the exact same thing. And that year, for the first time ever, I would wake up in my house that I shared with my husband and our dog, instead of in my bed in my childhood room. To be honest, most of the holiday is a blur, I don’t remember anything but crying. And as I look ahead to this year’s Christmas, my daughter’s first in our home, I am determined to create a very different experience.

Even though I have an eighteen-month-old daughter, often times (everyday) I don’t feel like I’m an adult (Maybe I’m the only one out there). I know that probably sounds ridiculous but my life just doesn’t quite seem real. So the thought of planning holidays for my own little family is nuts! I think there is something about having a child that really sets in the "Oh Shit! I’m responsible for another human now! I guess I’m adult!" feeling. The last eighteen months have been a blur and while I know I’m obviously an adult, I’m 100% living in denial. Do you remember when you were younger and you looked at someone in their thirties with kids and their own home and you thought,  “Wow, they are old!” And one day you wake up and you are in your thirties and you realize "Oh no! I’m old! I’m a grown up!" So in light of realizing and sorta coming to grips with the fact that I’m a grown up (damnit) I’ve decided to start some new family traditions for my little family. And I’m going to do my best to not compare Christmases of the past to our new Christmas.

And to be honest, our Christmas “at home” isn’t really away from family; it’s just away from my side of the family. We live in the same city as my husband’s parents and some of his extended family.  His family celebrates on Christmas Eve every year so we will be spending that time with his parents, brother, and some extended family. And I’m going to be a grownup this year and not cry because I’m away from my family (fingers crossed).

One of the easiest ways for me to forget about being away from my family, or at least not dwell in it, is to enjoy myself. Obviously! So, as I think about what traditions I’d like to begin with my own family it’s hard to not immediately want to do everything I grew up doing.

We would always open one special present on Christmas Eve and my sister and I always wore matching pajamas.  Every Christmas morning started the same way; waking up and sitting at the top of the stairs and patiently waiting until my parents come to the bottom of the stairs with their video camera. Each year they would ask us “What day is it?” and in unison we would reply “Christmas 19____”. (Yes, I did this every year until 2015) Then we would go downstairs to open all our gifts. One of those gifts was always one nice glass ornament from my mom. She wanted us to “have a nice tree” when we were adults so we got a gorgeous ornament every year. And now that my sister and I are adults…my mother refuses to let us take the ornaments to our own houses because they are each so sentimental to her. I guess moms are allowed to change their mind every once in a while.

We would take turns opening gifts and saying thank you to each other and then when all the gifts had been opened we would have breakfast casserole and grapefruit for brunch. Later in the day my dad’s parents would always stop by and see “what Santa brought us”, even today at eighty-six years old they still enjoy doing this. They have five children and three of them live in the same city as they do, and they would do this every Christmas before driving to another town in Oklahoma to see their other children and grandchildren. Later that evening, we would go to my mom’s parents’ house and have Christmas dinner and exchange gifts with that side of the family. My dad’s side of the family always celebrates before Christmas because he has such a big family; it is the only way to get everyone together at the same time. There are thirty-five of us that get together on my dad’s side, the celebration is always an absolute blast. I love seeing my cousins and spending time reminiscing about our childhood. To say that the holidays are a very important, and also always the same, would be the understatement of the century for me.

All of that to say, what traditions do I want to carry on? And what new traditions can we create? Because we will always do Christmas Eve at my in-laws when we are in-town our kids probably won’t open a “special” gift but I do want them to wear matching pajamas. This is something that our kids will be able to do if they are at home in Kansas or in Oklahoma. When I asked my husband about Christmas traditions I learned a lot about his family. I learned that they aren’t near as rigid and consistent as my family is when it comes to holidays. The one thing my husband loved and remembers is leaving cookies and snacks out for Santa and his reindeer. I’d love to carry this on and maybe even add a cute plate that we’ve painted ourselves to the mix. I will absolutely video them on Christmas morning before they see their presents. The fact that my parents have thirty something Christmases on video is so special to me.  I’d like to get my kids one special larger present that is something that will bring us all joy. The holidays are after all supposed to be about family and enjoying time together. I’d love for my kids to remember one “awesome” gift each year from their childhood. I feel like Christmas tends to get a little out of control when it comes to gifts from grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, etc. Spending a little more on one nice gift rather than a bunch of little things seems far more memorable to me. I’d like to start a “new” breakfast tradition and make Belgium waffles for breakfast in the waffle maker that we registered for, but is still in the box. It is my hope/vision that while I’m in the kitchen cooking waffles I will be able to look over my shoulder and see my children playing with each other and enjoying “our Christmas”.

Finally, in the spirit of giving, I’d also like to find a way to give to another child in need. While I know that my daughter won’t understand it right now, I think it’s important to remember what Christmas is all about. Making another child’s Christmas a little better is one way to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Whether we find an angel tree at our church or through another outlet I hope to take my kid (or kids) shopping for another child and teach them a little something about the joy that can come from giving to others.

Will I cry this year on Christmas Eve, as I get ready to go to my in-laws? Probably. And will it be incredibly difficult to call my parents on Christmas morning without starting to cry again, absolutely. (By the way, I’m crying as I write this. Damn, becoming a mom has really made me a softie). But I hope I will also cry tears of joy as I watch my husband and my daughter put together her new “special” gift on Christmas morning. Keeping in mind that life is about living in the moment, I must remind myself that I can choose to be sad and mourn the past or I can choose to be happy and embrace the beautiful changes.   
 

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