I think I say this every year, but I remember when Christmas was fun. Decorating the tree and the rest of the house, going to parties, baking cookies, dreaming in front of the fire, making lists, shopping, getting cards in the mail. Everything about it was fun, something to look forward to the rest of the year, something to be terrifically sad about when it was all over and back to regular old life in the middle of winter, no end in sight. It doesn't seem like so long ago, but it really was. Because Christmas was the most fun when I was a kid--when I wasn't in charge of the whole extravaganza!
That is not to say that the holiday season isn't wonderful. I love my kids' excitement, I love seeing their faces light up when we turn the Christmas tree lights on for the first time. I love that they look forward to our first fire of the season, drinking cocoa in front of it or spreading out a picnic dinner. I love that they want to collect kindling together, that they squeal with glee when the ornament tubs are dragged from basement storage and they see all the things they love. Hanging the stockings, cutting holly to decorate the table. Baking cookies with them and tasting the dough. Dipping gingerbread in dark chocolate and making plates for our neighbors. Hearing Christmas music playing continuously. The first day we can go ice skating, watching their improvements from the prior year. And on the day itself, watching them enjoy their stockings, their gifts. Watching "A Christmas Story" time and again on TBS. Spending time with Grandma and Poppy on Christmas Day, when the rest of the extended family is off with inlaws (we have our huge family celebration a day or two later), so we have them all to ourselves with the gifts, a huge dinner, board games and movies and long walks with the dogs.
I guess my problem is the extended lead-up to Christmas. We start school in September, and from there it's a quick slide into October and Halloween fun--and after Halloween is over, BAM! Thanksgiving is upon us, our annual trip to Boston, Rachel's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and there's no catching of breath till Christmas. My to-do list is packed to the gills, and with four kids there are constant parties and outings and activities--not to mention the gifts and all of that that need buying. Every year I try to simplify--we just don't NEED anything! We all have lots of nice clothes for every season, enough books to read, a closet full of games, rooms full of toys, and don't even get me started on stuffed animals! Of course the kids love new toys--but trying to buy for them is practically impossible. As I search stores and catalogues, I constantly think, well, we HAVE that....we had something just like that and nobody played with it....we had something similar to that and it broke immediately....well, do they need more dolls, stuffed animals, action figures, puzzles, outdoor toys? Rachel is the easiest one, finally, after years of being in-between...she sort of played with toys but you didn't want to get anything that she'd consider babyish, and yet wasn't old enough to want teenager-ish stuff like makeup, jewelry, designer clothes, etc. Well, now that she has a phone she wants phone cards! She'd be perfectly happy if she got nothing but phone cards, I think....well, maybe with a sweater and a few books thrown in! But the younger kids...impossible.
And then there's buying gifts for adults! At least with the kids, I know they will love the things I get them, even as I grumble that I shouldn't be spending so much money on things they so don't need. But adults are tricky! On the one hand, I love new clothes, jewelry, books and movies, pretty things, kitchen gadgets, perfume, handbags, and all that good stuff. But when I am shopping for other adults, my thoughts just go to how much we don't need any more THINGS, or I am panicking about whether or not this is something they will like or use. It is just stress piled on stress. And somehow I am the one doing most of the shopping! Why is it that women do 95% of the holiday preparations--yet men get kudos if they go and buy a couple of gifts for their wife and mother?? It's just like the whole barbecue issue....sigh.
It all boils down to the fact that being an adult is tiring! Just another ironic facet of life--as kids, we focus on wanting to be grown up, because look at all the fun they have. They can do whatever they want! They don't have a bed time! If they don't want to eat broccoli, they make a salad! They can buy whatever they want without asking permission! They're allowed unlimited computer time! Well, if there are any kids reading--enjoy it while you can because once you're an adult, you also get to be stressed out and too busy to enjoy all these freedoms you have. I'm beginning to think Scrooge was right on the money, at least about some things.