Christmas was wonderful. It was full of family and food and presents, and a spoiled 4 ½-year-old… as it should be. A truly magical time.
Christmas also nearly killed me.
There are many things about parenting that no one warns you about, and holiday stress is one of them.
The past few years we have gone to a relative’s house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This year, however, Mike and I decided we didn’t want to have to go anywhere on Christmas Day. We wanted to wake up and open presents, have breakfast, and just relax at home all day without having to keep a schedule. We could watch some holiday movies and play with Mikey’s new toys.
So, I told my in-laws that was our plan, but – knowing Nonno and Nonna may want to see their grandson on Christmas Day – I said that anyone who wanted to stop over was more than welcome to.
Fast-forward to the week before the holiday, and I had 13 people planning to come over for Christmas dinner.
I spent the days leading up to Christmas baking and cleaning and shopping. This was the first time I ever bought filet mignon, and it wasn’t cheap. But, hey, it was a holiday.
By the Friday before Christmas Eve the refrigerator was packed, cookies were iced, and the house was spotless.
Then we had rain, high winds and frigid weather, and we lost power for about 12 hours. We have a generator, but without knowing how long we would be out, Mike wanted to wait to power it up. And with each tick of the clock all I could think of was the $130 worth of filet sitting in the fridge, heating up by the second.
We also had a spiral cut ham, but I’m pretty sure that thing could survive the apocalypse.
When my anxiety couldn’t take it any longer, and just before I left to pick Mikey up from pre-kindergarten, I made my husband power up the generator. And when he did, he had to make a couple trips to the utility box in the basement and in the process tracked mud through the house… which I had just vacuumed and mopped.
Then, when Mikey got home, he was excited that a “tormado” had apparently swept through the neighborhood and wanted to build a fort in the living room to hide in. To do so, he tore off all the cushions from the couch to use as walls and unfolded every throw blanket he could find to use as cover.
Just when the house started to heat back up again and the beef was safe from fermenting and the living quarters were a mess, the power was restored. Phew!
The next morning – Christmas Eve morning – Mike and I woke to, “Momma! Dada! The sun’s out – it’s wake up time!” and we found Mikey standing next to our bed. No matter how many times this happens, it’s never not creepy.
He has done it a few times, but usually he calls for us from his bed. And, of course, he waited until Christmas Eve morning to do it, so all day I was stressed that he was going to wake up the next morning and go find his presents and have Christmas without us.
This thought lingered with me all day, as we went to my in-laws for dinner and gifts, and when we came home to put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. In fact, I hung a jingle bell on his doorknob so if he left his room in the middle of the night or early morning we would hear it.
But that’s not what kept me up at night. What kept me tossing and turning all night was thinking that Mikey had too many presents under the tree; that he had too many from us and not enough from Santa; that maybe he didn’t have the right presents; or maybe we should have splurged for things we consciously decided against because, well, he can’t have it all.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
In the morning, Mikey did not get up and have Christmas all by himself, thank the Lord. In fact, unlike last year, he took his time opening up his gifts. Last year, Christmas was over in about 7 minutes flat as he tore through all his presents without even registering what he got.
This year, he wanted to play with each item as he opened it, and it was lovely. It gave Mike and I time to sip some coffee as we sat around the tree and played with Pokémon and the Batman cave, and exchange gifts of our own.
Then it was time to clean up some of the wrapping paper and start preparing dinner. The ham went in the oven, along with the potatoes and asparagus. Antipasto platters and other snacks went on the table.
I got a text from my sister-in-law saying her son felt a little warm, but I said that as long as the rest of the family was comfortable with it, we had no problem with them still coming.
As family started to arrive and the kids started yelling and tearing into more presents – gift wrap littering the living room – Mike went out into the freezing cold to grill the filet.
And, you know what? It was perfect. It was chaos and crowded. My 7-month-old nephew projectile vomited over Nonna’s shoulder onto the hardwood floor, but managed to miss the carpet. The scalloped potatoes came out chewy, but everyone ate them. And the Christmas tree only fell over once.
And… my little family of three managed to avoid the case of strep throat that swept through the extended family a few days after the super-spreader event.
I do believe in Christmas miracles.
I hope your holiday was as magical as mine. Here’s to a happy and health 2023!
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Press/Times and mother of a 4 ½-year-old. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.