My feelings about the season of Yule and its accompanying tidings of joy are well documented. It is only the beginning of October, Christmas is still three months away, yet ‘tis has started to precede ‘season‘, decorations are creeping into window displays, shopping countdowns have started. The season is bearing down upon me with the force of a tinsel tornado. A hygge hurricane is headed for Denmark and there’s no way I’m going to get out of its way.
My real life friends tease me mercilessly. If you think that seeing ornaments and brown paper packages all tied up in string in October is annoying, try being mocked daily on social media sites by your friends for your general grinch-ishness and allergic reaction to all things red and green.
“But why, why do you hate Christmas so much? ” My friends ask.
I didn’t always dread Christmas. Once upon a time I was a kid too; a kid who made lists, a kid who struggled to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, a kid with nutcracker visions of sugar-plum fairies and all the rest. Yes, Virginia, there was a time I enjoyed Christmas.
Then I had kids. Then I had kids and all the responsibility for creating a mini Magic Kingdom in my living room fell squarely onto my shoulders. You know the Elf on the Shelf? That annoying little creature who is supposed to represent all that is fun and magical about Christmas? Well, I AM THE ELF ON THE SHELF.
Forget Santa and his elfin minions. Forget Dasher and Dancer and their exclusive Reindeer games. You know who makes Christmas a magical time? Me, that’s who. You know who makes the lists and checks them twice? Who manages expectations and drops hints that no, Santa is not going to bring them a puppy? Me. You know who does the majority of the shopping and the hiding and the wrapping? Who strives to find the right balance between magic memories and spoiled kids? Who makes sure batteries are included, all necessary parts are assembled and the handwriting on the notes is different enough to affect a wiling suspension of disbelief? Me, me, me, me, me. And me.
I am the Elf on the frigging shelf.
It’s not just Christmas, though. You know who goes out of their way to make magic childhood memories? Me.
I’m the one who remembers to put the right amount of currency under a pillow when a tooth comes out. I’m the one who hides Easter Eggs. I’m the one that makes sure that birthday gifts are ready and waiting, that parties are thrown, that favorite dinners are made. I’m the one that attends every half-assed assembly at school and bakes appropriately and ridiculously themed food for PTA events. I am the one who moves like a ninja in the dead of night to make sure that my kids have a few fond memories of childhood, which as we enter the ‘tween years, I am reminded is not a magical time at all, but one of hormone riddled angst and weepiness, bruises, scabs and general anxiety about what the hell is going on. And that goes for both of us.
I bake the silly cakes and set an alarm to remember to sign up for popular, over-subscribed after-school activities. I spend a stupid amount of time covering cupcakes in fondant so they look like Ninjago heads. I spend even more time trying to figure out how to get them to school without a car or one of those fancy Tupperware cupcake carriers which always seem like a waste of money…until I’m rigging some contraption of toothpicks and Saran Wrap five minutes before I have to go. I am the buyer of birthday and Christmas gifts for other people’s children so that those kids can have a few good memories too.
I sit on hard backed chairs through boring meetings at school. I stifle yawns through off-key and out of tune holiday concerts. I arrange rides to and from sports practice in the rain. I go to all the class open houses to see the presentations of guinea pigs and reports on tin. I draw the line at pretending they’re good if they’re not, but I read them!
A friend and I were talking recently about assemblies and concerts and dance recitals and the mind numbingly boring events that dot the landscape of parenthood. We agreed that although we park a rear on the chair for almost all of them, the only one they will remember when they’re all grown up, the one they will talk about, is the one where Dad showed up. My own mother ferried me to and from dance lessons for thirteen years, sat through countless time step tap routines and muddled Chorus Lines in church halls and high school auditoriums. She purchased enough sequins and applied enough blue eye shadow to make Dolly Parton jealous. Do you know what I remember? I remember my father sitting there with flowers.
I am far from the only mom who engages in stealth activity to give my children a little magic to offset all the baggage they will undoubtedly carry with them into adulthood. We don’t have to do it, but we do it all the same. Despite all of it, I don’t hate motherhood. Far from it. I love being a mother. I feel incredibly blessed that life has given me this opportunity and I try pretty hard not to screw it up too badly. There will come a time when my kids won’t want anything to do with the childhood magic I worked so hard to perpetuate and I too will be put away with the other seasonal decorations. I’ll be relocated to a different kind of shelf then, waiting and watching until they are ready for a different kind of magic; magic that comes in the form of advice or shared experiences or even a ride home when their best friend is puking up peppermint schnapps in the bushes.
I hope that far enough in the future, they will rediscover “Mom” and examine me in some sort of pseudo retro “Ah-NOW I GET IT!” kind of way. It’s possible that by then they will have children of their own and will understand that sometimes you willingly don stripey socks and cram yourself onto an uncomfortable shelf for no reason other than love. If and when they do, I will happily relinquish my place on the shelf for a place at the dinner table. Preferably with a big wine glass in front of me.
By that time, maybe I will even have started enjoying Christmas again.
Until then, though? Ain’t gonna happen.