Hello everyone! As we gear up for the holidays we are so happy to help our friend Lisa Nolan promote her new anthology, Mom for the Holidays: Stories of Love, Laughter, and Tantrums at Christmas and Hanukkah. We recommend using these stories for medicinal purposes as you catch a break from the holiday craziness. Grab a copy for your friend, neighbor, teacher, sister-in-law. Enjoy!
Christmas with my young kids is a lot like a death metal concert. They both involve copious amounts of controlled substances (e.g. sugar!), music of questionable quality, bright lights, screaming, body slamming, mess making, and the occasional dirty protest. As the proprietor and organizer of said death metal concert, it’s my responsibility to ensure everyone gets what they want and that the evening doesn’t end with a trip to the emergency room or police station.
Sounds simple enough, right? They’re just kids, not hard-core metalheads. Wrong.
Holidays are harrowing acts of self-sacrifice and martyr-like suffering, yet for some reason I welcome them back into my life year after year. Why do I do that?
Take last year, for example. My three-year-old son was disarmed by the shock that Santa had been in his house on Christmas Eve the night before, so he waited patiently while I posed him and his baby brother by the tree in my desperate attempt to capture their growing excitement—the boys actually managed to hold still during said photo shoot, but smiles, was that asking too much? The best I could coax out of them was stunned silence and wistful longing for the packages sitting tantalizingly close, but just beyond their reach.
The three-year-old opened the first few presents slowly and thoughtfully, still in disbelief that these beautifully decorated boxes had materialized overnight, without the slightest effort from Mom or Dad.
I made sure to hide the multitude of paper cuts and tape burns on my hands, just in case the three-year-old was feeling particularly inquisitive.
He even agreed to neatly stuff the wrapping paper into the recycling box I laid out.
Gleefully, the baby watched his brother, and then grabbed for every discarded item and covered it with drool. Why did I buy him actual presents again?
By 10:30 a.m., the three-year-old had hoarded all the packages and half unwrapped them before tossing each aside and searching for more. The baby was eating wrapping paper, and the dogs had raided the candy stash from the stockings and subsequently threw up under the tree. Ho ho ho.
No matter how angelic my family was in the first hour or two of Christmas morning, we couldn’t make it to lunch without a meltdown (and it was mine).
The temptation of diving headfirst into a box of crumpled up wrapping paper, and then swimming around Scrooge-McDuck-style, was too much for my impulsive three-year-old to resist.
Of course, once the baby saw how much fun his brother was having, he insisted on being allowed to wade into the once neatly stored garbage box as well. However, the world of garbage-swimming became fiercely competitive, and soon a Highlander-style battle to the death ensued.
Suddenly, I knew that all my defenses were down. The children realized that I wasn’t really in charge anymore and jumped on the opportunity like rats on cheese. The baby, stinging from his recent failure to usurp the garbage box from his brother, began searching the house for new territory.
Within ten minutes the three-year-old had chased the dogs and tried to stick bows on their heads; the baby had pulled half the ornaments off the tree—then wailed because the tree wasn’t pretty anymore; and the dogs had sought refuge under the sofa.
Nevertheless, I promised myself that my kids were going to have happy, magical memories of their family Christmases, and I was not going to let them take that away from me. So, instead of diving for cover under the nearest piece of furniture (or in the nearest bottle of alcohol), I pulled up my tattered, over-washed maternity panties and threatened to donate those little darlings’ new toys to every charity I could think of. Of course, I did it wearing a Santa hat to soften the blow. It was Christmas, after all.
Thankfully, it worked—three time-outs, two bribes, and one weakening threat to cancel the rest of Christmases later—but who’s counting?
Somehow I made it to the end of the day, limping across the tinsel-laden finish line, bruised, bloodied, and wondering what the heck just happened.
Once the kids were in bed, I finally had a chance to sit down in the dark among the broken ornaments, scattered wrapping paper, and the dog poop I hadn’t noticed until just then. After cleaning up my final present from my fur-babies, I reflected back on the day.
I’d been up since 6:00 a.m., wrapping dozens of packages, suffering countless paper cuts, posing for way too many Christmas morning photos in my pajamas (before coffee or a shower!), cooking an entire turkey dinner, averting several meltdowns, drying tears (both theirs and my own), and eating about 10 pounds of butter—in the form of Christmas cookies. When I finally dragged my exhausted body to bed at 2:00 a.m., after building bikes and setting up tents, I passed out without so much as brushing my teeth. (Christmas is also about cavities, by the way.)
Was it all worth it?
Of course it was worth it.
Are the holidays still a time for overindulgence and relaxation? (Relaxation? What’s that?)
What was once a great excuse for sleeping in, drinking wine with friends, and spending far too much money, has now become last-minute shopping, crowded toy stores, “batteries not included,” and toys that require “some assembly.”
Somehow, those little maniacs (who passed out clutching their new toys in the same clothes they’d been wearing all day) were perfect. They were the only forces on earth that could have dragged me through the day I’d had, and leave me wanting more.
Seeing my sons’ joyous faces, before they were covered in chocolate and glitter, was the best Christmas gift I’d ever received.
There was nothing quite like watching them squeal with delight when they discovered that Santa really did get their letter; capturing the rare moments of brotherly love when the three-year-old brought the baby his next present; and feeling the sincerity in their hugs when they told me what a great day they’d had before going to bed.
Hey, look at it this way: when Christmas Day was over, no one had been arrested. Merry Christmas.
“Ho Ho Ho-ly Crap, Where’s the Tylenol?” is an excerpt from the new anthology Mom for the Holidays: Stories of Love, Laughter, and Tantrums at Christmas and Hanukkah. Visit them at momfortheholidays.com! You couldn’t ask for a better gift to a fellow mom!
Mary Widdicks, Outmanned: Mary is a 32-year-old mom to two boys and a brand new baby girl. She started Outmanned so she’d have a place to escape the testosterone and share her hilarious life with the rest of the world, but is now drowning in a sea of pink and loving every minute of it. Mary’s writing has been featured on great parenting sites such as Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Mamalode, In the Powder Room, Pregnant Chicken, and BLUNTmoms, as well as several anthologies (including our own It’s Really 10 Months Special Delivery: A Collection of Stories From Girth to Birth.) She has been honored as a Voice of the Year by BlogHer in 2014 and 2015, and 2014 Badass Blogger of the Year by The Indie Chicks. (outmannedmommy.com)