The War Rages On

I have a confession to make. A really awful one. Something dark, so creepy it makes my skin crawl. I pray, dear reader, that the fog of post-New Year’s bacchanalia takes the edge off for you. Are you ready? Here it is: I agree with Bill O’Reilly on something.

As unbelievable as this may seem, it’s true. There is a war on Christmas. But it’s not being waged by the Left. It’s not even being waged by the forces of commercialism and so forth. No, the war on Christmas is being waged by a seemingly much more innocent source: my children.

Christmas as a childless adult was finally getting really good. A leisurely, slept-in morning at home. Tradititional Christmas-morning mimosas (orange juice is part of a nutritious breakfast, after all). The big potluck with friends (no relatives in Alaska, and I don’t believe in traveling during the holidays, for obvious reasons!). Ah, peace on earth.

That Norman Rockwell vision (or rather, my version of it) was torn asunder about three years ago. That’s when my kids, then aged 1 and 4, really manifested the kids’ version of the True Spirit of Christmas. The mad ripping open of presents, the harried attempts to make a list of who gave what (for those thank you notes!), the complete prevention of my enjoying opening my own presents. I still recall quite clearly the sadness I felt that day. I mean, I know it’s for the kids and all, and in the big picture I’m a mom who sacrifices a lot (but not everything) for her kids. But still, I want to enjoy Christmas too! I want to open MY presents with that same sense of joy!

And while my kids don’t get up at some ungodly hour to open presents, I’m still not a morning person. Having to deal with all that energy at 7 or even 8 am is just too much for me. So long, Christmas mimosas. Hello coffee and Baileys.

Since then the girls have learned to slow down a bit. They know to make sure each person has a present, then we all open them, THEN the next round can begin. And they can read the to/from labels, so they are entertained by the “job” of passing out the gifts. This has definitely taken some of that edge off.

But no, it does not mean the war is over. They’ve just changed tactics. Now there’s the aftermath. Gifts all over the room. As if the pre-holiday clean up wasn’t bad enough, now I have to deal with the mess after! Yes, yes, I can hear you all saying that I should get the kids to clean up — and that’s definitely on the agenda this weekend. But there’s some stuff they can’t do, like process all the packaging for recycling. All those toy boxes — they all have plastic AND cardboard. And yes, we pull all that plastic off for the trash and send the ‘board to the recycle bin. In other words, chores.

Oh, and while we’re discussing packaging, I must point out that there is an ally in the war on Christmas: the toy manufacturers. Any parent needs no further explanation. But allow me to explain to those of you who may be unfamiliar; let’s use a Barbie as an example. A single Barbie doll will have no fewer than four metal and plastic twisty ties securing her in position. These may also be knotted and also taped beyond release by human hands. Additionally, her hair will be secured by some sort of plastic and thread contraption, which must be oh-so-carefully excised, less one cut that flowing mane of hers. Any accessories in the package will likewise be secured, by either the said twisty ties or invisible elastic banding. Extracting a toy from its package is worthy of a surgical certification. And by the time you’ve succeeded, the child has moved on. Merry Christmas!

This year was, for at least some of us, a four day holiday weekend. Four glorious days to spend in the company of our loved ones. Here’s how mine went:

Throughout the present opening, my older daughter pouted every time the younger got something cool. Despite the fact that she got the best haul in years.

There was plenty of sibling fighting over toys — which was completely unnecessary as they each had the same amount of new stuff. But you see, there’s only two girls in Scooby Doo and no one ever wants to be Velma. (honestly, can you blame them?)

My oldest, who has spent her seven years on this earth desperately trying to get back into the womb, nagged me all day to play Barbies with her. When I finally consented, it went as usual: the two girls were playing completely different games. The older would get all bent when the younger wasn’t following her mystical and convoluted script. What’s that I hear? It’s time for the Christmas mimosas? Hooray!

The oldest also refused to speak to her grandma on the phone. All she had to do was say thank you and merry xmas. As if the refusal wasn’t bad enough, she lied to me and said she’d already talked to her! (the phone was being passed around the family, mind you, so I didn’t know who had spoken to whom).

This sort of thing continued throughout the weekend. I’ll spare you more details and just get to the highlight: On Sunday, the oldest (again) was throwing some sort of fit in regards to her sister. She started a sort of shrieking yelling thing, and I said, go to your room. As usual, she wouldn’t go, so I held her arm and escorted her. As soon as we hit the stairs, she went limp – forcing me to drag her by the arm up to her room. I’m proud of her civil disobedience skills, but all I could think at the time was, “God, please don’t make her arm dislocate! I don’t need Social Services on my *ss!” Merry Christmas!

Don’t get me wrong. Of course I love my kids and they have their most glorious moments. And I know a lot of this stuff is just normal when you have kids. But dammit, I want my Christmas back! I don’t really like Baileys (in fact, I just skipped it this year) — I want my mimosas! And not just in the afternoon, where they’ve been relegated to. And I want at least a FEW moments of peace and happiness. Is that too much to ask?

I know, I know — all you parents out there are shaking your heads in understanding. I know this is par for the course. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

And to Bill O’Reilly: if you think people saying “happy holidays” is such an affront to Christmas, then come over to my house sometime. I give you 10 minutes before you run screaming.

Happy Holidays!

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You are the parent- and thus remember you do have some measure of control. Kids always want to play with you to have your undivided attention- which is pulled in a million directions at the holidays- so kids and parents freaking a bit at the holidays is a given, but manageble by expecting it, and with a little flexibility and planning. They KNOW they can get your total focus by acting out, so if you can try to give it to them on a schedule so they know it’s coming and when- they may not feel like they have to grab it on the way up the steps! I can say this because I too am a parent of two daughters- now grown and recent college grads. Of course no one is the expert for you and yours but you! …but FYI- and for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts. My adult girls planned to come back for Christmas this year- and were aghast that I didn’t understand that OBVIOUSLY meant they would spend the night on Christmas Eve for heaven’s sake. How else could we have Christmas morning right…and Dad’s Christmas pancakes??? Well- I stood corrected. They loved the day afterall- even though my memories of their younger years were much different. As a part-time college student for years, working 30 hours a week- Christmas cheer was hard for me to come by sometimes. Final exam week went to the third week in December- and ONLY THEN could I think about putting together a holiday festival and feast with all the trimmings. So, I was what you call ‘a last minute shopper’; I also had to prioritize, sometimes I just couldn’t get it all done. As a student- I racked up more than I’d like to admit on my credit card…and each year it added up since I really couldn’t ever catch up. I went from all-nighter studying/writing to all-nighter shop and wrap sessions- including finally trying to clean up the house, decorate, dealing with family stress, traditions, and pulls (you know the line in the song ‘everybody wants you’)? Well- if there is one thing I love it is a Christmas tree- so about 3AM on Christmas morning was when it was up and lit, and everything was finally ready (ready as it was going to get)…and well, I just had to stare at the tree for a half an hour…and remember to bite a cookie and take a sip of milk. That was my quiet time, and I needed it. Somehow I ended up in bed and 3 or 4 hours later, (which felt like 10 minutes) the little peeps were up and could hardly contain themselves. I asked them to wait until I could get in position with the camera- and not to peek, etc. I honestly admitted to them I was excited to see their faces seeing the tree! The honesty I think helped…and I have years of pictures of them making goofy awestruck faces towards the tree- it turns out most were totally posed. Now that they are grown, they admit they took a peek now and then- but they never wanted to ruin it for me. I am sure my fatigue led to me not noticing clues! They tell me, as they got older and understood more- they could resist the urge to peek before I got into position. This year- my youngest was up early Christmas morning- her sister works a night job and never gets up early- so I offered for her to come on out and have a cup of coffee- which would mean she would see the tree. Heck- she’s all grown now, right! She was apalled at the suggestion, and went back into her room with her cup until her sister woke. I had no idea the traditions I was making when they were little at home- or that they even were traditions (one is me ‘getting into position’!)- or how much they meant to my girls. The years zoomed by. Talk to your girls, respect that they can ‘get it’. They love you and want you to have a good Christmas- but understanding how others feel, and how their actions my feel to others is learned. The fact that they are doing better at opening the presents says that…they just didn’t know! Raising kids for me was all about having this completely dependent bundle given to me on day one- that every day needed me less and less, and who needed to live their life as their own more and more. Give them the responsibility (and respect) of doing the recycle sorting- they can totally handle that! It would mean a lot to them, and speak volumes to them about what you think of them and their abilities. Pick your battles. How bad really if a bit of plastic falls in the cardboard? I work in environmental area and have worked years teaching kids your daughter’s ages about recycling. Number one, they can handle it, and number two- recycling centers do not get the material in sorted perfectly! Maybe you can do it together- (time to focus on them) but do let them do it. They will feel important having a role in the holiday, and less needy for having a ‘real job’ and get something back for helping you- that’s what it’s all about. Resist the urge (as I often had especially at the holidays) to make sure everything is perfect and on time, and therefore only able to be done by you. Let go and share. Then you can enjoy Christmas (or any day). But, for Christmas- as the mom you still won’t get any sleep- and if you want a mamosa- find your time to have one! (Maybe my tree staring time is your mamosa time!) Happy New Year!


Wow. I appreciate the support….but honestly, I was just trying to be humorous! I definitely have learned not to expect everything to be perfect. I think my “problem” is that I still seem to hope for a reality that is unlikely. The “can’t we just have ONE day without fighting” mentality. Actually, New Year’s weekend was wonderful. The girls were great — they actually did extra chores! Maybe they were making up for the weekend before…….

I like your point about getting the kids to help w/ the recycling sorting. I hadn’t thought of that — at least in terms of processing all the plastic/cardboard. They do sort the wrapping paper and bows.

Maybe also some part of me is hoping to create some good memories/traditions for them — maybe that is the source of some stress. In any case, I’ll survive!


I have to tell you- your post and my reply really got me thinking…the is a substantial list of things I ended up doing ‘just to make it through’ and that I (until NOW) wished I could have done better or at least more joyfully over the years (sans the holiday stress), that were not stuff- but treasures to my kids!

Go figure! Thanks for the prod!