Flynn (age 9): “Mom, Um…remember you said we could put Christmas up today. Can we?”
Me: “Geez..I’m so tired, Flynn. I spent all day taking down the fall decorations.”
Flynn: (very disappointed) “Aw, really? That stinks. You promised Mom.”
Me: “I know I did. I’m sorry. I’m exhausted! Can we do it tomorrow, please?”
Flynn: “What if I help? I promise I’ll help. C’mon. I’ll get all the stuff out of the attic for you.”
Molly (age 8): “Me too, Mom. Pleeeeaaase.”
As a parent, I try to have some integrity and let’s be honest; I’m always exhausted. I feel like I could fall over from exhaustion every…single…day. The ever present mom guilt gets the best of me and I reluctantly agree. I’d rather be a zombie than a liar.
Me: “OK, let’s do it. Go get the decorations.”
They take off for the attic and Maggie (age 2) and Teagan (age 5) are holding hands chanting “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!”
The giant bins of Christmas decor make their way down from the attic. Every year I have to mentally brace for the most exhausting month of the year. The last one. December. It’s the way I would imagine mile 26 to be in a marathon if I ever got off my lazy duff and ran one. Exhausting, long, and busy yet fulfilling in some demented way.
Flynn: ( looks at the eight plastic bins full of Christmas decor )“Alright. Looks like we have everything. Can we open everything up now?”
I realize that it’s just me with four excited kids. Someone is missing from this “family” scene.
Me: “Wait. Everybody slow down. Where’s Dad?”
Flynn: “I donno.”
Me: “Well, we aren’t decorating without Dad.”
Molly: (screaming) “Dad!” (louder now) “Daaaaad”
Maggie: (Running in circles clapping her hands) “Daddy! Daddy!”
Teagan and Flynn run to the top of the basement stairs and scream together “On three. Ready. 1-2-3 DDAAAADD!!!”
Me: “Can you please go look for him rather than scream?”
Ming: (annoyed) “What? Why is everyone calling my name?”
Flynn: “Mom says we need you.”
Flynn: “We are putting up Christmas decorations and Mom says we can’t do it without you.”
Ming:“Alright. I’m coming.”
They hear his footsteps walking upstairs and they can hardly contain themselves. “Daddy is coming! Daddy is coming!”
Ming opens the basement door and all of our offspring cheer like royalty has entered the room. Let the festivities begin, the king has arrived! Ya know what’s annoying? I set him up for that entrance and I didn’t really mean to. I suppose I could have decorated without him but I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the “Let’s Be A Perfect Family” handbook; Christmas decorating is in there and daddy contributes. Anyway, Flynn and Molly rip into the organized bins and quickly turn the room into a disaster zone. There is tissue paper flying and fragile ornaments being man-handled by an eager 2-year-old. I have an incredible tolerance for chaos but this was too much.
Me: “Whooooooa! Everyone stop!”
They all freeze and stare at me like a pack of deer in the headlights. I can’t believe they actually listened to me. The only sound that can be heard is Ming stirring his coffee in the kitchen.
Me: “I want this to be fun but we need to have a system. I don’t want all of these ornaments to break, do you? Now, everyone line up and pick one ornament at a time.”
They quickly filed into a straight line the way big families do. Youngest to oldest and nobody disputes it. Maggie looks up with a big smile and eagerly points to the one she wants. She is quite pleased that she picked one with a little puppy on it.
Me: “Good girl Maggie! That’s perfect for you! Now go find a special spot on the tree to hang it.”
She waddled over toward the tree and hangs it on a branch that already has an ornament on it. Her ornament is squished and barely on the branch. Every single bone in my body wants to move it to a new branch but I resist the urge and tell Maggie “great job!”
Teagan’s turn now. She picks her ornament and finds a spot on the tree. Oh look. Somehow she managed to squeeze one more ornament on the exact branch that Maggie picked. I want to get up and move it. I want to tell her it looks terrible but I don’t. I say “Great job Teagan!” like a big liar. Then in a passive aggressive motherly sort of way I remind Molly to “spread the ornaments all around the tree.” I say it loudly so Teagan can hear. This is the way I have to deliver my message while keeping peace. If I told Teagan directly, we would have tears and the night would be ruined. There are a lot of logistics to decorating with four small children. Ming; however, is completely oblivious to all of this.
He enters the room with his cup of hot coffee.
He sits in his favorite chair…
And he watches the show. Christmas is unfolding before his very eyes. The holidays must be very enjoyable for my husband. The royal treatment begins on December the first and continues for the entire month. He watches the tree getting decorated. He enjoys the cookies that are baked for him. He eats the delicious meals that were carefully planned.
He watches the children unwrap the pile of gifts that Santa Claus researched, purchased and wrapped. He smells the aroma of various Christmas candles placed strategically around the house. He exclaims “You’re Welcome” when guests thank him for the perfect gifts he didn’t know he sent. He smiles when he learns that his annual Christmas Card made it into the hands of relatives that he hasn’t spoken to in years. His robe is always clean. He walks down a red carpet that has been vacuumed daily and drinks his hot coffee from a clean chalice all season. This season I am leaving a message for all of the kings loved both near and far. Remember, you’re only as strong as your people. That is all.