I Hate Santa Claus
Today is August 26, and I just hid a package in my closet. A package containing “stocking stuffers”. For Christmas.
This is my life.
Every year in August, I start planning for a holiday that is four fucking months away. I look for non-verbal clues from my family and take mental notes about what gifts might surprise and delight them. Sometime in early September I’ll start a written list that will go with me everywhere, so I can keep a record if inspiration strikes.
I’ll visit stores that I hate over and over again to buy weird shit for decorating, gifting, eating, and even smelling. By December, I’ll be so distracted by the details of the holidays that I’ll have trouble sleeping.
We also celebrate Hannukah — one small remnant of my Jewish heritage and upbringing that remains in our family traditions. I try not to feel resentful when have to make an extra trip to the pitifully small blue and silver section at the godawful craft store to buy new candles for the Menorah. I enjoy the smell of my house after squeezing potatoes and cooking latkes for hours, so there’s that.
Why do I do all of this?
Because way back when my kids were really little, I got swept away with the notion that they needed to experience “magic.” I have no fucking clue what that even means. I was apparently in some commercialism-induced coma that I didn’t wakeup from until it was too late.
It was too late because my kids came to expect all the trappings and trimmings of the holiday season — they expected the kind of wonder and joy that takes me four miserable months to prepare. Certain traditions have become such a natural part of their Fall and Winter, they rarely think to say thank you for the bazillion little things that all add up to grumpy and tired Mommy. The few traditions I do enjoy (like gingerbread house decorating, because candy) have even turned into chores because I’m so goddam stressed.
And after the months of careful deliberation and almost painful attention to detail, who gets all the attention and praise?
Santa fucking Claus. That stupid asshole who’s been robbing parents of well-earned thank you’s since no one knew better than to think fruitcake was delicious.
Things have improved a little over the years — my oldest doesn’t believe anymore, and knows to thank me and her Dad for all the gifts, including the ones labeled from Santa. She and her sisters help with the shopping and the wrapping, and they’ve even lowered their expectation about the meals I provide and the crafts we do. It’s nice, and I’m able to hate the months of November and December a bit less.
Do I still want my kids to experience magic? I mean… I guess so? But the kind of magic I really want them to understand has nothing to do with fucking elves on shelves or flying deer. It’s the magic of loving people so much that you’re willing to do things you didn’t grow up doing and don’t particularly enjoy for a prolonged time period just to make a couple of weeks feel extraordinary and fun.
I used to like the holidays. I didn’t mind the extra work because the kids were little — they went to bed early, I could shop for them while they were with me because they were easily distracted, and they covered me in hugs and kisses and totally adorable “I wuv you mama”s all the damn time. I could even eat most of the candy when decorating gingerbread houses and no one cared.
But I think I did my job too well back then. I made my efforts invisible, and somewhere along the way, it all went from being a special treat to being an expectation.
So here I am, the Grinch of the family. I repeatedly try to convince the other adults in my family to skip most of the gifts and the baking and the giant meal (that’s almost identical to the giant meal we ate just four weeks before), and just go on a trip together instead. I try not to complain, but sometimes, when I realize the number of gifts we got for the kids is grossly uneven and I have to get more on December 22, or when I start hearing suggestions for 17 different craft projects that we “need” to do before New Year’s, I just can’t help but silently pray to a god I don’t even believe in for the season to just be over already. I also cry a lot.
We’ve been parents for almost 14 years, to three very different kids. My priorities, needs and parenting goals are different now than they were 14 years ago. I no longer need to suffer for four months in order to make it look like someone else did the work. Magic is not nearly as important to me as respect, support and compassion.
So, aside from the one package already in my closet, this year I’m waiting. I’m going to enjoy my kids going back to school, Halloween, and maybe even Thanksgiving, before starting to plan Christmas. I’m going to lower my own expectations for myself, buy fewer gifts, and have the girls choose gifts for other family members. I’ll bake less, let the girls walk to the art store and buy their own crafts (because yay! we live in Portland and can do that now), and probably even order our entire fucking Christmas dinner from a fancy grocery store.
This year, I’m my own Secret Santa.