It took forever, but it’s back.
For the first time since becoming a parent almost five years ago (!), I’m looking forward to this holiday with a sense of excitement. Anticipation.
It’s not that I dislike Christmas … only the expectation and exhaustion that can come with Dec. 25. After getting married and welcoming our first child, the mounting pressure of the holidays — throwing the perfect holiday! choosing the best gifts! making the happiest memories! — was too much for my already-overloaded brain to handle.
Grappling with postpartum anxiety, the pressure of the Year of Firsts — baby’s first everything, all needing to be commemorated lest the memories disappear into the sands of time — felt like another way I was failing as a mom.
Also, I was exhausted. All new parents are tired, but I was not prepared for the way that would impact every aspect of my life. Ollie woke constantly, on the hour, and I didn’t feel like a human being for years after this birth.
I didn’t think I was doing things “right.” Not for a long time. But when I learned I was expecting my second child, I knew I had to pull it together. I didn’t want to focus more on documenting the moment than actually living in it … and I wanted to enjoy Hadley’s first year in a way that I couldn’t with Ollie.
And I did.
I got better.
Medication helped. Talking helped. The passage of time helped. Also: sleep helped. For the love of snow-covered pinecones, our children finally sleep through the night ( … mostly, but we’ll take it).
So this year? I’m ready. Ready to embrace that holiday spirit. The kids are at great ages — 2 ½, 4 ½ — to peer into the darkness searching for the neighbors’ Christmas lights and eagerly anticipate Santa’s arrival. We decorated right after Thanksgiving, pulling everything out after I got home from work on Black Friday.
And that’s also how I knew I was better: I was too excited to wait any longer.
So here it is: my Christmas spirit blowing through the front door on a gusty winter breeze — with advent calendars and elves on shelves, matching pajamas, hot cocoa . . . every jinglin’ thing.
As we dragged holiday box after box up from the basement, another surprising thing happened: the little hands reaching for fragile things did not bother me much.
Hadley and Ollie were so excited to start hanging ornaments that, within reason, I just … let it be.
A year ago, my compulsive need to make everything “just so” would have meant plucking those delicate bulbs to place on a top branch, far from tiny fingers.
I would have been more preoccupied with making something “perfect” than creating so much that is pleasantly imperfect.
I’ve found lots of resources on what it means to be the child of a parent with OCD, but I’ve been a little too scared to delve deeply into what it means to be the mother herself. (I do relate deeply to articles like this one.)
I’m making progress … I know I am. I wouldn’t let any of the ornaments get purposefully broken, but I wanted the kids to enjoy the decorating process. Heck — I wanted to enjoy the process. When Hadley hung a third ornament on one scraggly branch, I didn’t interfere. And as Ollie collected all the red ones into a clump, I praised his creativity. I did not tidy.
Sometimes the OCD loosens its grip and I’m fine. Most of my need to “fix” seems to revolve around right angles, of all things: if I see a book or a box, for example, I need it to be flush against another surface, never askew. (Straightening a business card-sized calendar on my desk is a particular obsession.)
The tree has few angles, so I’m happy to let it reflect the kids’ creativity. I want our family tree to be an explosion of color and memories. I love the handprints on canvas, the popsicle art, the painted preschool creations. Some of the pieces are my own handiwork (circa 1989), while others are Spencer’s from childhood. Even more precious are the pieces passed down from my great-grandmother: hand-crocheted trees with lots of memories.
That’s Christmas to me: family and festivities. Tinsel-covered bits of holiday magic.
Plus, you know … the cookies. Joyfully eaten with my kids by our lopsided Christmas tree while the Elf on the Shelf looks on.
And to all a good night.