Like it or not, Christmas is nearly here. The last year went by so fast, didn’t it? But here we are again thinking Christmas. Most of us are fully engrossed in the festivities…shopping, Christmas cards, baking, and Christmas parties. You know the drill. All of these things are meant to be enjoyable; And they are…in my head. You know…before they actually happen. In my delusional little fantasy they are fun, organized, whimsical, and well…perfect.  But like just about everything in life I try to do, nothing turns out quite like it does in my imagination. I really do love Christmas, but maybe I need to take my expectations down a notch…0r two…or three.

Let me give you a couple examples.

1.       Christmas Shopping

In my head: Everyone loves Christmas shopping, right?  I always have the best intentions of finding those perfect gifts and getting my shopping done early.  In the alternate reality inside my head, I wake up early one morning, grab a coffee, and head out to do Christmas shopping for my family. It is lightly snowing and Christmas music is playing in my car as I drive from uncrowded store to uncrowded store. I take my time picking out all the special gifts for everyone….and everything I want is in stock and on sale. I get to check everything off my list one by one and get it all wrapped up in one single, enjoyable day.

Reality: I wake up early and start my shopping. It is snowing, yes, causing spin-outs, collisions, and traffic everywhere. All the stores are jam packed. I don’t know about you, but nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit quite like pushing a shopping cart through a jam-packed Costco filled with oblivious shoppers.  Nowhere on earth is filled with more people that are completely unaware of anything going on around them than a Costco. Or what about fighting with other cars for a good parking spot; God forbid we walk a couple extra steps. And my personal favorite, standing in the long lines where you are forced to make the dreaded “small talk” with the folks in front of you. I don’t want to talk about the weather or the good deal you got on a sweater for your grandpa. I just don’t care. Sorry.

Phew….It’s finally your turn. Now you can get out of this hell. You lay your special finds on the counter and come to find that one of them doesn’t have a tag. The others in line glare at you with their death eyes while the cashier calls for a price check.  It’s still not over yet…Nope. More fun as you trudge through the snow back to your car…in the very last parking spot, hands and face freezing because of the below zero temperature. You load up the car, shut the door, and cry out of pure frustration. Sounds magical, doesn’t it?

2.       Christmas Morning

What is better than Christmas morning? Duh…Nothing. It is the most magical one-day-a-year. I want Christmas morning to be a time full of smiles, excitement, and maybe a little bit of magic for my children and, well, for myself. I hope our kids will remember our Christmases together as a family when they are grown and we can talk about the memories for years to come. Every year, I expect this great, wonderful, perfect morning…and each year it’s not anything like I picture.

In my head: The children quietly wake up on Christmas morning to find beautiful, white, fluffy snow slowly falling and gently covering the ground and pine trees in our yard. Excited to see if Santa came, they quietly sneak down to find our beautiful Christmas tree lit and twinkling with all the amazing, perfectly wrapped presents left for each of them. There is soft Christmas music playing in the background and the house smells of hot chocolate and fresh cinnamon rolls just out of the oven. The kids quickly run back upstairs and wake up mom and dad to come down so they can open their presents. We all sit around the Christmas tree together laughing and taking turns opening each of the gifts together as a family. Once everything is opened, the kids quietly play with their new toys while mom and dad sip their coffee and just sit back and enjoy the moment.

Reality: The over-tired, over-stimulated, sugar-high children excitedly storm into our bedroom at the break of dawn, slamming the door against the wall from the force of opening it so quickly. They startle us awake and jump and nag us until we finally give in and stumble our way out of bed…in the dark…because it is 5:00 a.m. The kids run down the stairs as fast as they can and I am heard bellowing from the top of the stairs, “Wait for mom. Don’t you dare touch those presents until I get down there” as I quickly try to get on my pants and slippers and make my way down before it is too late. I fumble for my camera and run downstairs nearly falling in hopes of capturing that magical moment when they first see the gifts that Santa left for them.  All this while yelling for my husband to hurry up and get down here so he doesn’t miss it all.

“Ok kids, just let me get a picture…” Oops…missed it. The paper-ripping, box-destroying, toy free-for-all has already happened. In a matter of minutes, the kids have torn through all the packages and their stockings without even a pause for a breath…or a single picture. The whole process lasts a whopping 5 minutes in its entirety, and there is no Christmas magic anywhere to be found. Another Christmas morning done and gone before I am even fully awake to enjoy it.

And…that’s a wrap.

So, the lesson here? I don’t fricking know. I guess all we can do is try to go with the flow and enjoy the moment (literally)…every loud, rushed, glorious moment of it. No Christmas is complete without nagging, tantrums, attitude, tears, yelling, and maybe even a little vomit. Someday, we’ll look back at these “less-than-perfect” moments and wish we could have them back. Or so they say…I guess I’ll let you know.

Merry Christmas and enjoy your shit show!