I love the winter holidays! I'm a "Happy Holidays!"-er, as I feel the need to wish everyone happiness for Thanksgiving all the way through to the new year. I fill my house (which usually starts feeling like a winter cave we're stuck in by the holidays) with lights and sparkly objects, the warm, yummy smell of cookies, cheerful Christmas music, and the warm glow of a fire in hopes to lift the feelings of winter gray that have started to creep on in. The holiday glitz and cheer has increased dramatically now that my oldest son is 3 years old. He jumped on the holiday bandwagon with the kind of passion and exuberance only a 3 year old is capable of. Watching him experience all that November and December have to offer was beyond fun.
My husband hates the winter holidays! He is a "Bah Humbug"-er, as he equates holiday festivities and bruhaha with stress and money leaving his wallet at a dizzying pace. Every year, the night before Thanksgiving he brings out his Scrooge-ittude, and hangs onto that sucker for the remainder of the year. He starts with a litany of complaints and protestations as I hover over the stove, working on the sweet potato casserole for the following day. The man can't even properly accept gifts from anyone. He hated making a wish list, and he did not like opening packages in front of people awaiting his reaction. This Grinchy way he had about him always lead to some holiday disasters (read: blow up arguments). I was afraid this is what my kids would end up thinking of the holidays unless something was done about it.
I had to act. Christmas for my kids had to be just as wonderful as it was for me growing up. My husband recalls arguments at Christmas during his childhood. I recall magic, fun, and how everything was just a bit more beautiful. So I decided to cut my wish list down this year to one item. I asked my husband to buy me no gifts. I wanted nothing, but one thing... lose the Scrooge-ittude. It was the night before Thanksgiving, and there I was with those sweet potatoes, and there he was with his objections to everything holiday and celebration related. So I thought fast. I told him I wanted him to slap a smile on his face for our boys, and not let them see how much he hated the holidays, so that they might enjoy them. I figured this A. Took the financial burden of buying me gifts off of him which should help with the stress associated with the big price tag from the holidays and B. Help him to see how this was bigger than him, it affected his family.
I don't know if it was my request, or if it was watching our little boy be so over the moon to participate in holiday traditions, but my husband turned it around for us. He agreed to my request, and delivered. He got into the music, raved about the cookies, and helped hang the decorations just so. It would've been very difficult for him to be grouchy with our son being so happy, so I really think that had a lot to do with it. I didn't care how or why, I was just thrilled to see my husband put aside the ill feelings and pull through for his family. It's not easy for people to overcome years of stress experienced during the holidays, or to overcome any feelings of negativity associated with any event really, but he did it for us.
This was shaping up to be the best holiday in the history of our 11 holiday seasons together. Christmas Eve is the big night at our house. We throw a party, and the guest of honor arrives in his red suit with a hearty "Ho Ho Ho", and a little present for each child to hold them over until morning. We were having a bang up time, as always, and things were going great. Santa arrived, and after he saw all the children, I stopped mid-feed with my infant son to get a picture of him with Santa before Santa had to get back on his merry little way. After we got that picture, I took a quick turn filling in Santa on my personal wish list for the year. Then I went to get the baby from whoever had scooped him up to finish feeding him before he got too angry about being interrupted. My mother in law was following close behind me. I told her I had to finish feeding the baby, so I was just getting him from her boyfriend so he could eat. She proceeded to launch into this long story about pictures on her phone and tried to show them to me. I tried to pay attention to her as I was also trying to get my son so we could finish what we started. As I was lifting him out of her boyfriend's arms, she threw her arms down at her side like my 3 year old does right when he's launching into a fit, and screamed at me "You're not even listening to me!!" I should've come right back with "No, you're not listening to me. The baby needs to eat. We can do this later.", but I assured her I was and recited the last thing she had said to me. I brushed off her outburst, and went about enjoying the party. The rest of the party was fun, and then everyone cleared out. Once the mess was cleaned up, and the playroom that had been left a total disaster (no one cleans up anymore?) was put back together, we ushered our little guy into bed and started setting the stage for the morning.
Christmas morning was a blast. Our 11 week old baby slept through the night for the first time, and we all waited patiently downstairs for his older brother to wake up and come down. We had to wake him up! (Probably the last time we have to do that, we know.) He was so excited to see Santa had come, and savored each gift as he unwrapped it. He even expressed concern for Santa when he noticed our fire was going. We had to explain we had put it out over night so Santa did not actually burn his butt. Then a family member called. We had a 72 minute conversation (gotta love the timers on the phones). The first 10 minutes were about this lovely breakfast that was served at his place of work that morning by a coworkers wife. I was glad to hear he was enjoying himself, despite working. The other 62 minutes were a rant about how he hates interracial relationships, and how terrible black people are. Fan-freakin-tastic. What a fabulous way to spend Christmas morning, hating on half of the people my family member's friend, God, made. Merry Christmas! But I just let him go on and on about that and how wonderful Fox News is, and how he hates Bill Maher and Jon Stewart (whom I love dearly, am a devoted fan of, and consider to be my extra husbands!) because they are total liars. But after an hour I'm totally annoyed and hiding that is becoming difficult, and the huge breakfast I was cooking while he was proudly proclaiming "I'm prejudice and have no problem saying it!", was now finished so I ended the conversation. Then we got to eat the yummy breakfast, and all was pretty good again.
We had to schlep it down to my grandparents' home about 45 mins away, and we were an hour late (I could've used that 62 minutes of total waste from my Dad!). I was not thrilled about that, but I figured we'd get there eventually and that was what was important. We did make it, and dinner was delicious. It was pretty relaxed as a large chunk of the family didn't show up this year. We all gathered in the living room to exchange gifts after dinner and the clean up, as is tradition. Then my grandfather started in with one of the many complaints he's come up with over the past 15 or so years. There is nothing good on television. It's all garbage. What do the poor children watch?! It's all nudity! I told him there is no nudity on basic cable and public television when children are awake (he sleeps during the day and stays up all night, so maybe some late night tv is getting risque, but not the shows on the kiddie channels during the day. That's when he proclaimed "Bullshit! I see genitals and women playing with men's dingy dings in full view on tv during the day!" (Wouldn't you like to know what channel THAT is?!) I told him he is watching a premium channel or something, and he swore he wasn't. So my grandmother indicated that he was "seeing" it because he wanted to see it, and not because it was actually on tv. So he started swearing at her. Now I'm in a bad mood. I was having a great time at home with my sons and my husband. My little boy was playing with his new toys, and he was so happy to be doing so. Here I packed us all up, made a casserole that takes me 2 hours to complete, and made the trip for him to be a grouch. (He had a previous episode of grouchiness at the dinner table when he didn't have his favorite knife at his plate, and he had a fit about that.) I had long thought I didn't understand why people talk about how family holiday dinners are stressful and everyone fights, because I didn't notice people getting upset with each other at our get togethers. Suddenly, this was my situation.
On the way home my husband stated "You now hate Christmas more than I do!" with a snarky chuckle. I explained to him that I didn't hate Christmas, but I was upset with several people trying to muddy it up for me this year. I asked him to play nice, but didn't imagine other family members being so unpleasant during the happiest time of the year. We chatted the rest of the way home about ways to preserve the happiness of the holidays for our kids, and decided on a few changes for the upcoming year. We made these decisions as a team, Team Happy Holidays! My Grinch turned into my partner in yuletide cheer. Besides my children, the best gift I have ever received is watching my husband be a good father and work to give our children a fantastic childhood. Really I couldn't ask for more. (Oh, for the record, he still bought me presents. =) )