Here’s how the holidays used to go for me:
- Thanksgiving – Give thanks! Be grateful! Eat until you fall over and forget what you were so happy about.
- Christmas – Give goods, get goods. Go online for day after sales to browse and buy and experience stages of grief for all the gifts you did not get.
- New Year’s Eve – Itemize all things wrong with you and all things missing from your life. Resolve to do more, buy more, and be more in the year ahead, because clearly where you are now is nowhere good enough.
- New Year’s Day – Resolution? Really? I need to sleep in.
I used to love Christmas. Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, all the year-end celebratory excuses to accumulate and to discard, to organize and to dishevel. I particularly enjoyed the holidays because for the vast majority of my life (aside from a few years spent on permanent holiday) either in school or working in schools, which meant (and still means) that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day was basically one big paid vacation. I lived for this annual slowdown, I made the most of my days off and of my curfew free nights. I decorated my succession of off-campus housing, shared bedrooms, studio apartments and extra-marital co-habitations. I made hand-embroidered wrapping paper, listened to Christmas carols on repeat, and drank eggnog by the gallon. And then the new year would arrive, the holidays would go back into a box, and life would go back to normal. Everything exactly as it was before, aside from a few extra pieces of clothing hanging in my closet or store credits waiting in my wallet.
Then came the pivot of parenthood. As a parent, there are no vacations. There is no extra money to spend on non-essential gifts for myself, no extra time to lounge in bed on those freebie days off from work. Late nights still mean early mornings and decorations just mean more things that can be broken. I had a choice – I could mope about the days of Christmas past, or I could take another look at what the holidays meant to me, and it turns out that they didn’t mean much of anything other than a bit of free time and another excuse to throw a party (which, not surprisingly, actually sort of describes most of my life pre-parenting).
It’s not that I’ve gone anti-Christmas or decreed that in my house we shall only gift presents that we’ve crafted with our own hands. I still buy way more presents than I should and spend way, way more time wrapping them than I actually have to spare. I still drink eggnog and listen to Christmas carols, eat myself silly on Thanksgiving and all the days after. But over the past few years, the tenor of it all has changed. I worry more about giving and less about getting. I focus more on what I have and less on what I want. And in this spirit, I’ve decided not to make any resolutions going into the new year. 2016 will not be a new year and a new me, but just another day in the same life I had yesterday, and instead of writing a list of everything it is I would like to change about that life, I will instead make a list of everything I’m grateful for. Top on that list, of course, will be my child – soon to be children – and my growing family that has made me rethink everything from how I spend my holidays to how best to express my love and joy, and how best to accept and enjoy all of these gifts I’m given every day, every season, every year.