Christmas tree night is a big deal to all of us. We blast Christmas music, make hot chocolate and cookies, pull dusty tubs out of storage, scratch up our arms straightening tree branches, and end the with an imperfectly perfect tree production. It is a magical night.
Except when it isn't.
I have learned that my own expectations for this night can sabotage my own joy and make me grouchy or sad.
Last night was Christmas Tree Night at the Fry house (November 11)! We've always put our tree up early, but this year we decided to do it maybe even a little earlier - before the Christmas Crazy hits - so that we have more opportunities to spend quiet nights around the tree. There aren't too many quiet nights in December around here, so we're getting a head start.
I dragged 6 kids to Walmart, and bought cookies and hot chocolate mix and potatoes. I put the hot chocolate in the crock pot and had the kids do a 15-minute boogie and light candles so the evening would start off tidy and peaceful.
We started the evening several hours later than planned, but I rolled with it. David got home from the office late, we got home from Walmart late, David had to do some work with the dogs. I ran out to drop off something for a student and get a Christmas movie while David pulled out the tree.
Then David called me while I was out an told me that he had an emergency hospital call to make in the next town (which meant an hour driving, plus hospital time.) I was disappointed, but knew he needed to be there an wanted him to be. So I keep on trucking like a good soldier. When I got home, the kids had already put up the tree so I was encouraged that we were still moving forward. I worked on the soup and decided to make the best of it without David.
Then we pulled out the lights and realized that I had bought the wrong kind. So I had to run back to
Walmart and get lights. I was still holding steady. But when I got back from Walmart and no one was around and the living room was dark and David was home but upstairs, I didn't feel so brave anymore. I imagined that he was up there reading or something (instead of remembering that he probably had to change out of his suit.) And I started feeling sorry for myself and irritated.
We sat down for supper - our favorite potato soup and sparkling juice - and in the middle of the meal David and I had a "marital misunderstanding." Then I was really in trouble. We apologized and talked it out, but by then I was really struggling to feel the warm happy Christmas Tree Night feeling.
While we put up the tree, I was easily irritated at David for taking too long to pick music on his phone or not helping the kids with the lights enough or for breathing wrong. And Karissa was distracted with her own intensely creative ideas and wasn't engaged in the tree decorating like I wanted her to be and someone dumped hot chocolate on the freshly shampooed carpet and the 3-year-old disobeyed me and lied about it and had to be disciplined and we couldn't get the Christmas DVD to work so the teenager spent the whole time trying to solve that for us....and I was just not feeling the Christmas Tree Night peaceful fuzzies I dreamed of.
I had to keep telling myself to choose to be happy. I kept watching to see who was engaged and who wasn't.
I'm a real treasure when it comes to high expectation for an evening, yes?
So I had to let go of my high expectations.
And here's the other big thing - I had to let my family be themselves. To let go of micro-managing their involvement and analyzing their enjoyment levels. I'm working on that. And I'm making progress, but I have yet to arrive.
But in the end....the tree turned out really, really gorgeous. And although we never could get the DVD to work, we ended the evening sitting together in the living room. And one kid fell asleep on the couch an slept by the lit tree all night. And we had warm, happy fuzzies after all.
And if David had found it necessary to stay at the hospital and hadn't been able to come back home to us in time to work on the tree, I would have had to adjust my expectations even more.
I reminded myself through the evening how blessed I was to have a husband and daddy in there helping get the lights just right. And I reminded myself that my perceptive kids were watching me, and if I sunk into a mood of disappointment or sadness, it would affect them!
So I guess I'm just confessing that I'm still growing up. I'm 39.5 years old. And I'm still growing up.
And now - it's Christmas Tree Morning. And I'm letting the kids watch a Christmas video BEFORE they've even finished their Saturday morning chores! And I've brought my book and my blogging down in front of the gorgeous tree. And it's kinda nice, being a grown up.
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