From the Mouths of Babes

23795029_10213891041686136_3606141826897460287_nAccording to an article I read on CNN, adults have a greater chance of dying of natural causes on Christmas or the day after Christmas than any other single day of the year. The older I get, the more I get it. The Holidays have become this crazy non-stop train barreling through the months of October, November, and December like some kind of malevolent Polar Express. And, as much as I try, I am not immune to its force. I keep buying more Christmas lights for the front yard, more magical burlap-wrapped trees made by Chip and JoAnna for the mantel, more cute little signs that say “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” and “Beware: Elves on Duty” for the porch. From decking the halls Griswold style to that damn little Elf on the Shelf that keeps popping up in my Facebook newsfeed, I feel like if I’m not falalalala-ing twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, I’m a failure.

Every day I get an email from the PTA about donating wrapping paper/pies/cookies/candy/my left kidney in order to show the teachers how much we care about them this Holiday Season. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the people who teach my kids.That’s why I’ve spent the last three weeks finding them the perfect handcrafted gifts on Etsy.

That’s right. I’ve become a gift-giving ninja. I searched three continents so my kids can have the most amazing presents that stimulate both their brains and their souls. I finagled something for my husband that will blow his mind and make him marvel at what an awesomely thoughtful wife I am. I bought my dog a cute little Santa hat she refuses to wear and cinnamon Christmas biscuits she hates. Next weekend I planned on creating a Rockwellian Christmas fantasy where we carol through the streets spreading Christmas cheer to Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge screaming “Falalalala-lalalala!” until my blood pressure spikes at 210/140 and I pass out in my neighbor’s front yard.

Reality check, Heidi: These things aren’t the reason for the season. Yesterday, when I picked my kids up from school, my youngest handed me a piece of paper and said, “I made my Christmas list at school today. I wished for Avery to be alive again so she can celebrate Christmas with us.” My heart literally fell out of my chest and got stuck under the gas pedal.

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I’ve spent the last month focusing on all the materialism Christmas has to offer. I’ve spent my free time obsessing over the things some mysterious capitalistic force tells me I should care about, when all my 6 year-old really wants for Christmas is to spend some time with his dead sister. Let’s just say there were tears involved, and the conversation that ensued provided me with much needed perspective. After explaining to my son that Santa doesn’t have the power to bring back the dead, he asked if he could call Santa’s hotline and leave a voicemail. (It’s 951-262-3062, in case you’re wondering.)

“Hi, Santa. This is Preston. All I want for Christmas is for you to talk to God and see if he can bring my sister back to life like he did Jesus because I’d like to spend some time with her. Thanks.”

Sigh.

Family. Love. Togetherness. Those are the things that really matter this Christmas.

No. We don’t have an elf.

1C5225292-111223_elf_hmed_0616p.blocks_desktop_smallThe conversation went something like this:

“Brrr. It sure is cold out here. I can’t believe it’s December already!” I was waiting in the Walker line to pick my oldest son up from school when the woman in front of me got chatty.

“I know,” I agreed. I wanted to say that 45 degrees really isn’t all that cold when you spend the first 33 years of your life shivering in the arctic mitten known as Michigan, but I wasn’t in the mood for sharing the frigid stories of my past.

“And I have so much Christmas shopping left to do,” she sighed. “Plus I forgot to do our elf last night. This morning I had to put Tinsel Toes in the fridge hanging from Johnny’s lunchbox. It was last minute, but it got a good laugh!”

“Yep,” I replied. “Those elves are tough.”

“What’s your elf’s name?” she asked.

“We don’t have an elf,” I confessed, readying myself for the look of horror.

The woman took a step back and gasped, her hands clenching her chest in dismay. “You don’t have an elf?”

“Nope. We don’t have an elf.”

“Oh. Do you celebrate Christmas?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

We were magically saved by the pitter-patter of little feet lunging towards us after a long day of learning. The frazzled woman shuffled quickly away, anxious to escape the heathen family that celebrates Christmas WITHOUT an elf.

For the last few days my Facebook feed has been bombarded with pictures of those sassy little Elves on Shelves doing crazy things like taking marshmallow bubble baths and joyriding in Barbie’s Corvette. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that these red-clad sprites were traditions as old as time, rituals as deep-rooted as mistletoe and candy canes.

And I must confess – I do have an elf. It was gifted to my oldest son on his first Christmas, though I don’t remember by whom. But he never left the shelf, and, by the time my kids were old enough to understand the whole Elf on a Shelf concept, that little imp was tucked safely away from prying hands and joyous hearts.

Why, you might ask, don’t I have an elf? Well, it’s simple. I don’t want one.

(Gasp.)

I know. I’m a terrible mother. I’m reminded of that every day when I open my computer and Mr. Jingles, fresh from playing a heated game of Connect Four with Lalaloopsy, taunts meĀ from the screen.

Bad Mommy!” he yells, burning a hole in me with those whimsical blue eyes. “If your kids end up in prison, it’s because you didn’t have one of me!”

But here’s the deal. We live in this crazy world where social media allows us inside people’s lives more than ever before. As wonderful as it is, it’s also created a skewed version of perfection, a non-existent ideal that has been meticulously cropped and Instagram filtered.

It’s the age of PTA supermoms and Pinterest perfection. Moms today are supposed to be manicured marathon runners who make their kids gluten-free quinoa nuggets with kale fries and fresh-squeezed milk while crafting seasonal BPA-free wreaths for the front door and knitting chevron infiniti scarves for the homeless.

I’ve fallen into that trap of trying to do it all, and it isn’t pretty. But lucky for me, I saw the light before I was institutionalized. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of things for my kids every day of the year, and Christmas is no exception. We have a magical holiday filled with decked treesĀ and sparkly lights and cookie baking and Santa parades. We mail our wish lists to The North Pole and get something special for a child on the Angel Tree. We watch Frosty and Rudolph and The Grinch and deliver tasty holiday treats to our favorite friends and neighbors. But these are all things I want to do. The elf thing? Not so much.

I truly admire all of you who have added an elf to your family tradition, but our Christmas is plenty magical without one. I promise. As simple as it may be for you, adding a Tinkles McKringle to our family for the holidays would put me over the edge, quite possibly ending with the brutal toilet drowning of our beloved pixie long before Christmas Day. My kids don’t need to see that.

So each day I’ll chuckle at the precarious situations of those silly little elves on Facebook, but please. Cut us elf-less moms a little slack. And remember, if you start getting a little too stressed this holiday, it’s never too late for your elf to move back to The North Pole.

Just Say No

1C5225292-111223_elf_hmed_0616p.blocks_desktop_smallThe conversation went something like this:

“Brrr. It sure is cold out here. I can’t believe it’s December already!” I was waiting in the Walker line to pick my oldest son up from school when the woman in front of me got chatty.

“I know,” I agreed. I wanted to say that 45 degrees really isn’t all that cold when you spend the first 33 years of your life shivering in the arctic mitten known as Michigan, but I wasn’t in the mood for sharing the frigid stories of my past.

“And I have so much Christmas shopping left to do,” she sighed. “Plus I forgot to do our elf last night. This morning I had to put Tinsel Toes in the fridge last minute hanging from Johnny’s lunchbox. It was last minute, but it got a good laugh!”

“Yep,” I replied. “Those elves are tough.”

“What’s your elf’s name?” she asked.

“We don’t have an elf,” I confessed, readying myself for the look of horror.

The woman took a step back and gasped, her hands clenching her chest in dismay. “You don’t have an elf?”

“Nope. We don’t have an elf.”

“Oh. Do you celebrate Christmas?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

We were magically saved by the pitter-patter of little feet lunging towards us after a long day of learning. The frazzled woman shuffled quickly away, anxious to escape the heathen family that celebrates Christmas WITHOUT an elf.

For the last few days my Facebook feed has been bombarded with pictures of those sassy little Elves on Shelves doing crazy things like taking marshmallow bubble baths and joyriding in Barbie’s Corvette. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that these red-clad sprites were traditions as old as time, rituals as deep-rooted as mistletoe and candy canes.

And I must confess – I do have an elf. It was gifted to my oldest son on his first Christmas, I don’t remember by whom. But he never left the shelf, and, by the time my kids were old enough to understand the whole Elf on a Shelf concept, that little imp was tucked safely away from prying hands and joyous hearts.

Why, you might ask, don’t I have an elf? Well, it’s simple. I don’t want one.

(Gasp.)

I know. I’m a terrible mother. I’m reminded of that every day when I open my computer and Mr. Jingles, fresh from playing a heated game of Connect Four with Lalaloopsy, taunts me from the screen.

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Bad Mommy!” he yells, burning a hole in me with those whimsical blue eyes. “If your kids end up in prison, it’s because you didn’t have one of me!”

But here’s the deal. We live in this crazy world where social media allows us inside people’s lives more than ever before. As wonderful as it is, it’s also created a skewed version of perfection, a non-existent ideal that has been meticulously cropped and Instagram filtered.

It’s the age of PTA supermoms and Pinterest perfection. Moms today are supposed to be manicured marathon runners who make their kids gluten-free quinoa nuggets with kale fries and fresh-squeezed milk while crafting seasonal BPA-free wreaths for the front door and knitting chevron infiniti scarves for the homeless.

I’ve fallen into that trap of trying to do it all, and it isn’t pretty. But lucky for me, I saw the light before I was institutionalized. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of things for my kids every day of the year, and Christmas is no exception. We have a magical holiday filled with decked trees and sparkly lights and cookie baking and Santa parades. We mail our wish lists to The North Pole and get something special for a child on the Angel Tree. We watch Frosty and Rudolph and The Grinch and deliver tasty holiday treats to our favorite friends and neighbors. But these are all things I want to do. The elf thing? Not so much.

I admire all of you who have added an elf to your family tradition, but our Christmas is plenty magical without one. I promise. As simple as it may be for you, adding a Tinkles McKringle to our family for the holidays would put me over the edge, quite possibly ending with the brutal toilet drowning of our beloved pixie long before Christmas Day. My kids don’t need to see that.

So each day I’ll chuckle at the precarious situations of those silly little elves on Facebook, but please. Cut us elf-less moms a little slack. Christmas is not a competition; motherhood is not a competition. And remember, if you start getting a little too stressed this holiday, it’s never too late to drown your elf.