Okay people, so here’s the deal. I’m going to let you off the hook and in turn, I’m going to let myself off the hook.
Hallmark holidays do. not. exist.
And you know something else? They never will.
There, it’s out there and I said it. Maybe in some small way, I feel like that terrible kid on the playground that goes around telling the younger kids that there’s no such thing as Santa. I wonder how long it’s going to take before my parents get a phone call or I get cold conked right in the nose.
But it’s the truth. The same truth that tells us that the earth is round and that the sun is the center of the universe. There were naysayers when those ideas were first put on the table… people were even killed over thinking and saying those things. But they’re the truth and have been proven over and over again through out time.
I can safely say that I might have been the one putting my own head on the chopping block when I first had children. You hold that newborn baby in your arms around the holidays, you think that the magic of Christmas has returned and every single sappy holiday special is completely accurate. This will be my life from here on out.
Then everything comes crashing down around you as your child actually begins to be… a child.
The final realization came to me at our town christmas tree lighting this year. Right before we left the house, I fell into the same holiday trap as I usually do, telling myself,
“Won’t this be a wonderful, beautiful, thought provoking holiday evening with my children, the type of night that really makes me understand what the true meaning of Christmas is about.”
Half an hour into the tree lighting, my son starts to do the jelly leg routine and my daughter has tripped over the root of a tree and is screaming in the dark. I feel like I want to join her.
We head over to the local library where they have an annual ornament making extravaganza. On the way there, I start to fool myself again into thinking that we’ll all sit together and patiently make penguin ornaments. Congratulating each other on how well he or she glued their googly eyes on this year. Every year I build myself up and every year I get tricked.
This year was especially heart wrenching as my son informed me he didn’t want me any where near him while making his penguin ornament and so I was exiled to the Beginning Reader book section with the pang of a tradition that had slipped away without me being prepared, my son’s age and questions about why this was hurting as much as it was.
There were no thoughts of Christmas and the joy of family, just yelling kids surrounding a suddenly depressed mother.
All around us the library began to look like the opening sequence of “Saving Private Ryan” as the brave soldiers begin to get picked off one by one as they struggle to the beach. There was screaming, crying, hand to hand combat and I swear I saw a toddler grab his own arm off the ground and begin to stumble around cradling it to his chest.
The hot cocoa was wearing off and the close bedtimes were taking their toll.
I looked at the faces of the other parents around me. I could tell, they had been tricked as I had been. I saw them scrapping their children from the library floor like frustrated spatulas, sighing at me as I scrapped my own children from the carpet. All of us torn over giving our children this “amazing community holiday experience” and keeping our own sanity.
When we got outside, I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was walk in the silence, hug my children close to me and look at the town’s Christmas lights, maybe even have a conversation about the wonder that is Christmas time.
Try to get that Hallmark moment.
I forgot completely I have a two year old. She wanted nothing to do with conversation and wanted to throw herself from my husband’s arms onto the frozen sidewalk.
Hallmark was dead.
We made our way to the tree sale across the street and the rest of the night was spent with our kids pretending to be Christmas trees and my husband and I pretending to buy them. For that ten minutes, I got my Hallmark moment and it happened because it was on my kids terms.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have no control, my kids have COMPLETE control. After talking about it with several other amazing parents and my copilot in all of this, Andy. I was told and am trying to learn that our job as parents is to present options to our children, what they do with those options is up to them. It’s not our job to manufacture perfect memories, it’s our job to give the time and space for those memories, whatever they may be to happen, after that life simply needs to take over.
Hallmark holidays don’t exist and you know what? They never have. They’re manufactured by script executives and production houses. I think that the reason why we watch them is because we need an exaggerated reminder of what the holiday season should be about at its core. It should be about family.
But as we all know family is only family if it’s authentic and the memories that surround them are authentic.
This holiday season I’m really going to try to remember that as I hope you will too.