Posted by Mrs. Wilson, Head of School –
This year, the Christmas music on our go-to radio station started earlier than ever, which made me panic a little, wondering if I was behind before the first flake of snow hit the ground and the first candle of Advent was lit. I started mentally cataloging photos of my family from my phone for a suitable Christmas card picture and began wondering how our new dog would react to a six foot evergreen stationed in our living room — all before I even knew what time we were going to my in-law’s for Thanksgiving. Now, to be fair and clear, I am a list-making planner. Deadlines are important to me and Christmas is the ultimate deadline. There is so much to do and with kids, spouses, jobs, and life events that are planned or unexpected, it can feel like we’re running a race, but with the end closer than we’d like it to be. When that panic sets in and we get a little lost, as admittedly I did last week, that’s a signal to switch gears and start thinking about traditions, meant to prepare us for the Solemnity of the Nativity, not the Procurement of the Hatchimal.
There is a pressure to make each Christmas bigger than the last and I have been trying to decide if this pressure in external or internal. Maybe one feeds the other? Social media can be a little tricky and is evidence of external pressure. Pictures of people shopping on Black Friday, getting great deals and a jump-start on shopping. Snapshots of kiddos riding the Polar Express or sitting on Santa’s knee, the antics of that mischievous Elf on the Shelf, intricately decorated Christmas cookies, and elaborately arranged Christmas lights adorning trees and rooftops, all published on Instagram and Facebook for the world to see. We take these images in and internalize. From there, we do one of two things: we compare or we admire. Since most of us are already in panic mode, I think most of us compare. Be mindful of this. When you feel yourself roll your eyes or judge (we’re all human — it happens!), realize that you’re comparing and that comparison adds pressure and subtracts joy. Consciously take a step back and admire. Admiring will multiply your joy. Or, log off all social media completely until January 2.
My children are a bit older, and I find myself excited about traditions that exhausted me previously. The house and tree decorating, the cookie making, window shopping. Why? I think because as I have gotten older, I am less consumed with making things perfect. Parenting in general is messy. Complicated. Full of doubt — for all of us, no matter how old our children are. We need to hit the reset button and recognize that messiness breeds creativity. Complication blooms thought. And if we’re open to it, hope emerges from doubt. Let’s think of the Holy Family on that first Christmas. I am pretty sure that if Mary and Joseph had their way, they would have chosen a more perfect arrival space for Jesus. A room with a view? A doting nurse? A whirlpool tub? Rather than focusing on what it wasn’t, they likely focused on what it was. No room meant no room for comparison. No room meant no room for distractions. No room meant no room for jealousy. No room meant their entire focus was on the Christ child.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about an article I had read on how to Christmas shop for your kids: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. I love this, even now that my kids are 14 and 11. This year, I started thinking of how to relate this to our faith. If Jesus had a list and we followed this adage, what would it look like? What does Jesus want for us? Faith. What does Jesus need from us? To follow His word. How does Jesus want us to show our faith? Evangelization. What does Jesus want us to read? Um, a no-brainer. In all seriousness, what gifts are we giving to Him this year and is He even on our lists?
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and abundant blessings for this new year. I know many of our families have had trying years – sickness, the passing of loved ones, financial challenges, and life taking us in directions we didn’t anticipate. Let’s collectively hit the reset button when the ball drops. Let’s admire more and compare less. Let’s take some of the parenting pressure off ourselves. Let’s celebrate the wonderful creations we call our children, the ultimate gift.
By the way. I never got around to those Christmas cards. And our sweet pup Wynn has been very tolerant of the tree, just in case you were wondering.