Let’s be real. The anticipation of Christmas is better than the actual experience of Christmas. For the first thirty minutes, the twinkling lights, jovial ambient noise, and surge in blood sugar are intoxicating. And, similarly like other kinds of intoxication, the shiny facade fades with time. The twinkling lights begin to twinkle a bit too brightly, a sour comment rises from the once pleasant din, and the cookies start tasting a little too sweet.
After five family holiday gatherings, I was vexed in a way that’s only possible in the latter half of December.
1. The inevitable bigoted and/or racist comment that gets tossed out like a rotting mouse carcass into the middle of the room. Keep your stinky thoughts to yourself, please.
2. The transmutation of our (still sometimes nice) toddler into a writhing, screaming, kicking Present Monster. At the sight of unopened gifts, Julian lost what little of his mind is correctly connected at this stage. He had to be physically removed early from one of the celebrations because his behavior verged on criminal.
3. Plaster smiles. Seriously. Between the camera flashes and the surface-level conversations necessitated by the chaos, my face was about to peel itself off and retreat underground to contort itself back into a neutral position.
4. Christmas as a present orgy. I really, REALLY appreciate the deep love driving familial gift-giving; each gift was chosen thoughtfully, with our kids’ interests and our wishes in mind. But, collectively, in one day we accumulated more toys than we have total at our house. To say that it was a bit overwhelming is a laughable understatement. I know I tread on fragile ground here and border on sounding ungrateful, but I tread anyway, because as a gift-giver, I want to make the recipient happy and assume others are similarly inclined.
I’m not against spending, or gift-giving. Gift certificates to museums are super (and suitcase-packable!), as are college fund contributions and books. And toys rock, but I’m thinking next year we’ll send out a short list of small playthings with a higher price tag that a group could purchase together. This sounds like a win-win-win (kids-parents-givers) situation, right?
5. Political discussions. Just don’t. Let’s just, for a second, make a totally insane assumption that our beliefs aren’t forged from the same exact mold, that a heated debate held over appetizers and beers and shrieking children is not going to change the other person’s mind. Christmas is about togetherness, so let’s be together. Let’s celebrate the food, our health, the laughter in the room, and save the politico hats for a different time, different place. Or never is fine with me, too.
Happy 2014, people. Should you need me, I’ll be in the next (and very dark) room regaining my composure.