What do you get when you mix a toddler, a kindergartener, and a Christmas to-do list?
Definitely not peace on Earth.
“Don’t step there!” My hand jerked toward my two-year-old daughter’s ankles, but too late. Her foot crunched a row of Christmas ornaments arranged meticulously on the rug, prepped for hanging.
“I sorry, Momma!” Her sock hovered over a sparkly blue star, crushed into five pieces.
“I told you to stay on the sofa! Sweetie, if you want to help Mommy decorate the tree, you need to be very careful around the ornaments. Now it’s broken.”
Her bottom lip quivered, fat tears burst down her cheeks, and she ran out of the room.
Oh, great, I thought. Way to go, Mom. Now you’ve outdone your perfectionist self.
Just then, my five-year-old started wailing, too. “I liked that ornament! It was the best one! Waaaahhh!”
Gently, I placed the shards of star in my hand and sighed.
‘Tis the season. Heaven help me.
I love December. The decorations, carols, shopping, wrapping, parties, cards, baking—all of it. I’ve always loved it. So when my husband and I started a family, I imagined double the fun. Christmas through a child’s eyes is supposed to infuse the whole house with magic, right? I pictured rosy-cheek cherubs in footie pajamas, stirring marshmallows into mugs of hot cocoa while the whole family sings Jingle Bells.
In reality, my household looks a little different.
Oh, I have a couple rosy-cheek cherubs alright. Only they prefer to eat those marshmallows straight from the bag, for breakfast.
They tangle yards of garland into a useless heap.
They poke each other in the head with spatulas.
They spike fevers on Christmas Eve.
So you see? A perfect holiday portrait we are not. I’ll bet your family isn’t, either. But then, the only perfect thing in this world is God’s love.
And isn’t that what Christmas is really about?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
A few weeks ago, I asked the women in my Bible study about their plans for Thanksgiving. Among a table of 30-something moms was one seasoned grandma. She is good for our souls.
“I don’t look forward to the holidays like I used to,” she confessed, “now that the kids are grown and gone. Most of them won’t be home this year.”
I started counting. My girls are 5 and 2. That means I have 13 Decembers left with both of them at home. Even fewer before they outgrow the magic. Before glossy toy catalogs give way to Aeropostale shirts and iTunes gift cards. Before—God forbid it—friends are more appealing than Mom. Someday, my girls won’t beg to help decorate the tree anymore. Maybe I’ll beg them.
And I’m freaking out about broken ornaments? Wow. It’s time to shift my priorities.
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90:12).
This month, I want to snuggle in front of the TV, watching the Grinch and eating popcorn. I will choose not to notice how many kernels fall onto the carpet.
I want to bake six dozen cookies and let the kids crack the eggs. Spread the frosting. Lick palms full of sprinkles. And I will choose not to mind how many shells I have to fish out of the dough, or how lopsided the snowmen turn out. We’re baking joy into every bite.
I will drop my crazy to-do list on a whim, to sit beside the Christmas tree and let its twinkly spell wash over me. I won’t scold my kids for reaching to touch ornaments, or for shaking boxes placed under the tree.
It’s December with my kids. Messy and fleeting, and so, so precious.
“Momma, I sorry I broked da ordament. It was a accident.” My two-year-old wrapped her arms around my leg and kissed my knee. My heart swelled into my throat.
“I’m sorry I upset you, sweetheart.” I lifted her onto my lap and pressed my nose into her wispy hair. “I have a special job for you. Will you help me put candy canes on the tree?”
Her face lit up. “Can I eat one?”
What the heck. It’s Christmas.
And I still love it. Do you?