Great Expectations

My home would not have made it into a Norman Rockwell scene this Christmas. No Christmas tree because twin toddlers would have pulled it down. Instead, we had a handful of evergreen boughs on the mantel, with eight ornaments and battery-operated lights. The fireplace doors beneath were duct-taped shut, since two small babes like to slam them on each other’s fingers. I made one meager batch of cookies, didn’t put any lights outside, and only played Christmas music (to protests) three days out of the entire month because the eldest child likes “Wheels on the Bus” better. I can’t wait to make holiday memories with my kids, but accepted that this wasn’t the year! However, we did have a fine Christmas morning, with enough gifts to make everyone smile, and we spent happy time with family and friends. (Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?)

My past self would have been appalled at this lack of holiday spirit, but she also didn’t understand the things that three small children have taught me. Life no longer meets my expectations. It’s an adjustment (okay, major personality overhaul) for a control freak to suddenly gain three more control freaks who have a say in how the day goes. Resistance is futile because I’m outnumbered, but choosing our battles saves energy and sanity, and occasionally teaches all of us something about compromise. Thus, we chose not to battle over a Christmas tree, and gained a memory when Miss Big Sister was asked if we had a tree, and she replied, “No, but we have branches!”

Expectations are rigid, whether it’s something as big as a holiday or as small as what a child will eat. They’re great for feeling in control (until you’re not), but they don’t allow room for experimentation, observation, and growth. I want my kids to be independent thinkers, and able to see a situation from all angles before making a well-reasoned decision. That means they have to practice on me, which means I need to let go of my former rigid order and accept some chaos.

Of course, some expectations ARE rigid and should remain so, like not jumping on the furniture, hitting people, or picking our noses at the dinner table. (A well-timed burp can be funny though, and it’s a great responsibility to teach our kids appropriate timing for body humor. Daddies are especially good teachers in these matters.)

So, this holiday season wasn’t intended to make memories, but we did after all. I’ll cherish the memory of three kids dressed in their finest, who amazed us with their patience and manners on Christmas Eve. And of three kids in footy pajamas Christmas morning, while Big Sister helped smallish twins navigate the pile of gifts and figure out what this business was all about. And of time and energy saved to notice and enjoy the people and the simple joys of Christmas. Perhaps we’ve even started some new holiday traditions.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Unca Phil
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 14:37:03

    Somehow I missed this one.

    The kiddo’s were great Xmas day. I thought Big Sister was quite the elder and did a great job with he younger siblings. Twin She and Twin He were in rare good form with only a little confusion as to who’s present was who’s. I think it will be another year before they get the “ripping the paper is funner than the present inside” routine down. All in all a great time!!!!!


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