Saturday, April 11, 2015

Christmas, Christmas, Time is Over!

We had a lovely Christmas this year... the best of the 4 we've celebrated with our children home.

And I'm SO GLAD it's over and we have 364 days til the next one! Phew!

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas - but it is quite the marathon. And for a working mom with two adopted kids, December can be a minefield... a minefield negotiated while holding armloads of presents and hot trays of cookies. And then there of course there is the money. Sigh. My husband asked me late one night after a particularly stressful evening, Why Does Everyone In This House Hate Christmas!? He got a baleful eye in return.  I mean, he is not the one baking trays of cookies after work and wrapping up teacher gifts while keeping one worried eye on our bank account.

Jen Hatmaker wrote an eloquent and detailed description of what it can be like to celebrate this huge, over-grown holiday with children who have traumatic backgrounds. I've written about it too, every December: here, here and here. This year we managed to avoid the most obvious traps, but boy, it was a long, stressful month.  I will take 90% of the blame for it, as I am the one holding most of the stress and doling out most of the extra chores and Christmas "work".  I think Christmas, the way that it is celebrated here in America, is ghastly over-done and giving all us over-worked, over-worried parents (adoptive and biological) waaaaaayyy too much stress. Don't even get me started on the Elf thing....

Every year I try to think deeply about how we are celebrating Christmas, and why...

Here are some things we did well this year, and a few things I'm hoping to do differently next year... And I haven't given up completely on my fantasy of flying down to a warm deserted island for Christmas.

1. We didn't make any plans for Christmas Day. This was huge! We kept our day super simple. No visitors, no big plans. We had LOW expectations. Which was great, because both kids had several bad moments. With no one around to witness the meltdowns, and no schedule to keep to, we could manage their challenging behaviors with creativity, humor and (a bit more) patience.  Our son woke up at 5:30AM, opened his stocking, and then went downstairs to torture himself by staring at the un-opened presents under the tree for an hour. By 7AM he was a quivering, miserable mess. And of course, we didn't get him anything cool, he hates Christmas and wants a different family. So, yes, it's good no extended family was around to participate in that!

2. We got out of the house. Just to see a movie. (Thank you, Thank you, movie theaters for being open on holidays. And please, please pay your employees HUGELY for our privilege!) It was a welcome break and distraction from all the terribly boring toys.  And kept us parents from cleaning and cooking for 2 hours.

3. I (mostly) accepted that our house was going to be a mess for a few days and let it go. We did clear up the torn wrapping paper and tried to sweep up the breakfast-lunch-snacks-dinner crumbs from the floor.  But, yup, it looks like Christmas exploded in here and I'm going to just have to live with that for a few days. I decided one present I can give me kids that they actually want is not to have a mom who is constantly telling them to clean up.

4. We ate well. And a lot. This is a fairly common Christmas tradition for many families, I understand. In the past I tried to present the "traditional" Christmas foods to my family, only to have them cry over their turkey and mashed potatoes. This year I got smart: I let them pick one favorite food for Christmas dinner. Which is how Lily ended up with her very own personal platter of french fries and a giant bowl of ketchup for dinner.  And Daniel was given a bottle of salsa to pour on top of his mac 'n cheese and roast chicken.

5. We celebrated a simple Advent, and didn't do too much else in the weeks preceding Christmas. No visits to the mall Santa. No seeing lights. No Elf. Even so, our December calendar was very full... something I'm trying to minimize next year.

And next year I'm hoping to get smart about presents. Since we don't do Santa (gasp! It's okay, read this.) the kids know that Mom and Dad are getting them presents. And this year, Mom and Dad did only okay in that department. Lily was happy with her collection of Frozen merchandise, but Daniel was soon tired of his magic kit and was upset we didn't get him a motorcycle.

My 8 year old thinks he's 16.

Next year I'm going let them pick out their own presents. And then hopefully there will be no early morning anxious staring at gifts. No surprises = no anxiety. Maybe.

I hope all of your holidays were as magical as can be. And if you, like me, are happy to be putting the jingle bells away this morning,  Happy New Year!

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