I have established a pattern for myself as a mom. Whenever there’s an opportunity for joy in abundance, I stir up the darkness and create boundary after boundary. Christmas, then, is a wonderful time for me to spread misery and attainable, stale prospects. Every parent, if, she or he follows these guidelines, can do his or her part spread uniformity, realism, and tedium during the holiday season.
1. The Christmas List- When helping your kids write their letters to Santa, make sure you devote at least 75% of the time to managing your kids’ expectations. When your child brings out an issue of Popular Mechanics to facilitate his wish list, let him pick out one item before telling him how awful you heard the Nintendo Switch is as you throw the magazine in the garbage. Tell your kids the sky’s the limit, but consistently let them know that the sky you’re working with has a very low ceiling; it’s about as tall as the kitchen table, max. When in doubt, tell them that the item they want more than anything in the world won’t fit in Santa’s sleigh.
At some point, try slipping in a few suggestions for reasonable gifts. If they’re under the age of six, they will think the inexpensive, small gifts were their idea so they won’t be too disappointed when they get a walkie-talkie instead of the $100 Hatchling.
2. Desserts- Spend most of your time baking sweets with your kids, but only allow them small portions of the dessert you’ve made. Eat most of it yourself that night after they go to bed and throw out the rest before they wake up the next morning.
3. Holiday Apparel- In the beginning, you might be tempted to let your kids pick out their special, holiday outfit. When whatever they want to wear is a white t-shirt with brown, circular stains down the front of it and basketball shorts with bleach stains, intervene. Force them to wear the pants that button up and the shirt that feels itchy. Never mind the fact that you never wear any pants that zip or button and you only wear shirts made of muslin or clouds, it’s Christmas, and they need to look like Prince George and Princess Charlotte. God forbid anyone finds out you’re not related to royalty.
4. Visit with Santa- Spend more time worrying about the people behind you in line than you do trying to make this experience joyful for your kids. In line, reprimand them for playing and messing up their picture-perfect looks that you forced them to wear. When they finally reach him, give them less than five seconds to tell Santa what gifts you want and then make fun of their choice to Santa Claus because you want the guy in the costume to know that you’re not the kind of parent who buys a preschooler his own iPhone or television.
Every year, I endeavor to loosen up, and every year I get more and more rigid. It’s hard to overlook years’ worth of anxiety just because it’s December 1st. I’m hoping that every other parent spends a lot of time sucking the fun out of the holidays because it will make it a lot easier for me. That way I won’t have to hear about how wonderful and carefree all the other families’ holidays were.