It takes a certain amount of talent to get so worked up about job stress + a full social calendar + copious to-do lists + being the household arbiter of Christmas magic/cheer that one not only wakes up on a regular basis at 4am in the throes of a full-blown panic attack, but also one's face breaks out in a rash of tiny bumps that occasionally also appear on the arms and neck and feel like someone made a Braille reader on the exposed parts of one's body. (I presume these are stress-induced hives, since I haven't eaten anything different or put anything new on my skin recently -- yay!)
Before Thanksgiving, I had creeping anxiety of the OMG CHRISTMAS IS COMING AND I HAVE DONE NOTHING variety, and now I have the strange dread of having loaded up on too many gifts for Felicity (yet not enough/not the right things for everyone else, which also has me breathing into a bag and frantically searching websites for ideas in the few spare minutes I have in the evening).
Setting aside my attempts to teach Felicity about the True Meaning of Christmas (as we were reading her book "What is Christmas?" the other day, when I got to the part that says Christmas isn't really about Santa and presents and reindeer, she said, "Ha! That's silly! Why would the book say that? Christmas IS about Santa Claus and gifts!" -- so that's going well), it actively bothers me that there is a veritable AVALANCHE of stuff crammed into my closet that I've purchased for her (I think I have to unsubscribe from certain daily sale websites, because the impulse buying, even of quite inexpensive things, just gets out of hand). (To be fair, several of the things were intended as "maybe for Felicity, maybe to be donated at church or for the work holiday drive" and a few others as "maybe for Felicity, maybe for the gift closet" and still MORE of the things I am probably going to set aside for her birthday -- see? A LOT OF THINGS.)
Mind you, I think the sum total of what I've bought is roughly calibrated to the "something you want, something you need, and something to read" guideline (just repeated about twenty times) and by many standards it's not SO much stuff (by others it's a horrifying display of the evils of capitalism; depends on your perspective). It's not like I did a Supermarket Sweep of the Internet; I bought things with some care and didn't get anything that seems, like, disposable, you know? It's decent stuff. There's just a fair amount of it. Which, for some reason, has me feeling off-kilter.
Or else I'm feeling off-kilter about all the other, bigger stress I'm dealing with (must December bring work insanity EVERY YEAR?), and because this is something relatively simple that I can control, my brain is fixating on that. Hmm. A-HA MOMENT. I JUST HAD ONE.
Anyway, part of my crazy-person anxiety (which is not even really about all this, as we've just established, but that won't stop me from going ON about it) is a quite pragmatic concern about the distinct lack of space we have (WHERE WILL WE PUT IT?), and part is an underlying concern about wanting to instill non-materialistic values in my daughter (am I doing this ALL WRONG? Which is also, incidentally, how I feel anytime I read any article or book on parenting, ever), and another part is just my ridiculous brain needing to find even more to worry about than the run-of-the-mill work/busy-ness agita that is always humming at high RPM in my head, no matter the time of day, month, or year. It's all very silly.
Maybe this is it: I want Christmas to feel magical to her, and I know that the creation of that magic falls squarely on my shoulders. And I want to get it right. Yes, I want her to understand why we celebrate, because our faith is important and I also think the message of love helps to balance out the message of GIMME GIMME GIMME; but I am also totally on board with all of the Santa stuff, the traditions, and the rituals that I grew up having, which includes the thrill of surprises and a bunch of New Stuff. We're not a family that's going to disband the Santa myth until absolutely necessary (I figure when Felicity's 35 or so? Of course, by then hopefully there will be a grandchild to carry it forward).
Not that there's anything wrong with NOT doing Santa or not doing the religious part or WHATEVER other people want to do (OBVIOUSLY) (this is about me, me, ME); but for me, it's a huge part of what I want her childhood to look like, because in my own growing up it was something that was so joyous and thrilling and a little mysterious that I have always looked forward to passing that on to her.
I'm a believer, I guess, in every sense of the word, and I truly believed in Santa (on some level, I always will) and everything there is to believe in related to Christmas. I never felt "lied to" or manipulated; it was always so special and so magical, and even as an icy, introspective teenager, I got excited about Christmas by late summer and had Mannheim Steamroller playing on repeat during the early weeks of the school year.
It's just...I think life needs things like that, however you can find them or create them, and as a parent you realize that the capacity for wonder is ever-present in your child, but there are ways you can amplify it and make it stick around past the footie-pajama years, if you play your cards right. It doesn't even take all that much; one needn't be Pinterest-perfect to be a purveyor of magic. So all this is to say that I feel the weight of all this, perhaps because my mom did it so effectively for so many years, and as a result I still get breathless over Christmas lights, and I want to give my daughter that lifelong gift, too.
We seem to have gone off the rails here. I'm so tired, y'all. So stressed and tired. I don't even know what I'm saying anymore.
I don't think that Christmas magic stems from getting absolutely everything one wants, or could possibly conceive of wanting, under the sun. I know my kid expects presents and she has specific things in mind that she wants (or thinks she does). In fact, I know precisely what she plans to ask Santa to bring her when we go visit him (tomorrow!). And I know that, ahem, Santa does not have any intention of bringing her that particular toy, because it's something that she'll either lose interest in immediately (see also: every stuffed animal her father has gotten conned into buying her, which happens every time they leave the house together) or that will break in the first ten minutes and thereby shatter her little heart. So: no, on that one.
However, I also know that, come December 25, if I've done my job, she will wake up and scamper into the living room and be awestruck by whatever awaits her. I'm not talking a pony or anything. I honestly think you could wrap up a package of rubber bands and she'd find it magical. It's in the build-up, the breathless anticipation, the love and stillness and glow of Advent that culminates in the new-shininess of Christmas Day. And yes, all that excitement can leave you feeling a bit bereft when it's over, a bit unsure of what's just happened and whether it was precisely what you'd wanted or imagined. But then life picks up again, and you busy yourself with all your new things and the new year, and you tie up all those Christmas memories with a ribbon and stash them away for all the years to come.