It's that time of year again. The ho ho ho and the bah humbug all wrapped up together in a giant red bow. The joyful half of the Christmas holiday and the I'm-feeling-stressed-out part.
I would like to say that they land gently like Santa's sleigh on a roof. But, seriously now, we all know that isn't true. They arrive with freight-train-like force the minute Thanksgiving ends, if not before!
As the classic song goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Indeed. I love Christmas and all its trappings. Well, most of them. I could do without the tacky decorations and heavy commercialism.
As a Christian, I understand the meaning of Christmas and appreciate the holiday for its religious roots. As a mother of young boys, I play along with the secular side. Santa Claus and The Elf on a Shelf come to mind, for example.
Yet there is so much more to the holiday that bombards our senses in the month of December and earlier. Christmas items start showing up in pharmacies and department stores right after -- or maybe it's on -- Halloween. At least by early November anyway. It takes off from there.
Shiny ornaments, Advent calendars, silver garland, chocolate reindeer, outdoor lights, an oversized inflatable snow globe, holiday cookbooks, etc. You name it. Somebody has thought of making a buck out of it because Christmas is very big business for retailers.
Just like with Thanksgiving, you'd better start thinking about your plans for Christmas well in advance -- especially if you want to travel somewhere by plane or stay at a resort.
If you are married, you may get together with your relatives or your spouse's kin, the ones you didn't see over Thanksgiving. If you are divorced, you may be turning your kids over to your ex, which may cause you some stress because you'd rather have them. And if you are a single mother by choice like me, you are solely responsible for producing festivities for your children on a scale larger than one month earlier. (Actually, Thanksgiving was late this year. Make that less than one month earlier.)
This year I have something very special in mind for my sons to celebrate my tenth anniversary of full-time single motherhood. I'm not going to write about it in this post, but look for it soon. Christopher and Charlie know what it is, and to say that they are excited would be a gross understatement.
However, my happy anticipation comes hand in hand with added pressure in the area of preparation. Early preparation, that is. In an effort to have it all come together seemlessly, we are making collective sacrifices that save me time and money.
At this point in the month, I had hoped to have our Christmas photo card ready and our newsletter written. Half of the 100 mailings to family and friends should have gone out by now. Uh, can you say "wishful thinking"?! Just like last year, I am way behind. Nothing's been done yet. Nothing. I'm not sure who got cards and newsletters or just cards from me in 2012. But it was precious few, that's who!
Nevertheless, I do know how it happened. From the start of the school year, I lost control of things, including my paperwork. I had too much on my plate when September commenced, and I simply couldn't catch up. (Just so you know, September and June are the toughest months for parents of school-age kids because moms are asked to volunteer for this, contribute to that, sign up for this, and buy that. September comes with a caffeinated JOLT following summer's more leisurely pace while June is exhausting because it's the month to wrap up the entire school year.)
Today's parents, particularly mothers, are stretched way too thin. They work, take care of their families, and keep their homes in order (or at least they try). The Christmas season brings them joy and celebration, brightly colored presents, snowy-night parties, caroling, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (both the Boris Karloff animated and Jim Carrey live-action versions), and so much more.
However, the festivities come loaded with expectations -- of getting and decorating a tree, buying gifts for everyone on their list by December 24th, and whipping up a feast with flair.
Take a deep breath. One. Day. At. A. Time. And please don't forget to sip egg nog with your friends.