It’s so hard for me to get geeked up about the holidays- this coming from a person who nearly pees her pants at the sight of a new US Weekly. I get excited about nearly EVERYTHING. Grocery store BOGOs, the sound of the mail truck, and the anticipation of learning which home will be chosen at the end of House Hunters all have me grinning from ear to ear. I’ve even been known to bust out into a full on jig. Don’t worry, if I didn’t know me, I’d think I was pretty annoying too.
The toughest part about acting like every day is Christmas is that I have a son who acts just the opposite. In my house you can’t make a big deal about anything. In fact, I spend more time downplaying the coolest of things more than I care to tell. Sometimes a trip to the park is just a “car ride” until we happen to end up near a park. And if all the stars are aligned, (meaning J.R. is “feeling it”) we will actually end up at the park. In order for J.R. not to act totally queer about the most normal events, the seed of excitement often must come directly from him. And that’s been hard. My typical three-year-old is probably confused as hell, thinking there mom goes again, taking all the fun out of dysfunctional.
My husband will probably read this and ask why I write things that just aren’t totally true. And I’ll admit he would be partially correct. J.R. gets better and better all the time and we are over the moon about it. In fact, we’ve been weaning him off of the general term “store” that we’d use every time a parent had to leave home. Daddy is now able to go to “work,” and the “gym,” with little protest. For all we know, J.R. was probably wondering what the fuck Publix was selling that constantly placed his mom and dad there.
Still, the not knowing which version of J.R. I am going to greet each morning, or birthday, or Halloween, or Christmas is tough on me- yet the one thought that never ceases to ground me is this: how damn hard must that kid be working (both emotionally and cognitively) just to make it through the day? In my eyes he’s an Olympian for tolerating our world as much as he does.
I’ve learned to become (quietly) excited about the little things that define our normal. The simple act of thinking back at past holiday behaviors is enough to make me want to lovingly squeeze J.R. until he can’t breathe. Three years ago I opened nearly all of his Christmas gifts on December 26, drowning myself in my own tears (and vodka thankfully). Two years ago J.R. dedicated a full fifteen seconds of attention to unwrapping (with grandpa’s help). Last year? He asked for a specific gift! To the tune of I want a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle, J.R. reminded us (constantly) that he wanted a “red Lightning McQueen car with white numbers.” I bought him six.
Without acting too Kristi-excited, I will report that J.R. is asking for a lot of things for Christmas this year. He is also asking if he can go to the North Pole, where Santa is at any given moment, and why our Christmas lights don’t always work.
In the interest of self-preservation (and the avoidance of alcoholism) I have generated a new plan of attack for this Christmas. My husband has been trying to tell me for years that when he was growing up, all of the gifts that came from Santa himself actually arrived UNwrapped. Eureka! I figured if I hauled my cookies back to Target and returned all of that overpriced paper, my kid would now have ZERO chance of becoming spooked by Christmas (or massive waste). Let’s just say I’m guardedly optimistic about “the reveal.”
And if instead J.R. decides he’s going to scream “NO SANTA TODAY!” prompting his little brother to cry his eyes out and beg “What do you mean there’s no Santa?” I will live. As much as I crave my children to enjoy “normal” events in “normal” ways, I’ve learned to enjoy cultivating our own version of normal. The one that makes me laugh (eventually). And if our Normal Rockwell portrait features unwrapped gifts, cocktails, and poor eye contact, I still choose to have a hint of excitement painted on my face.