For my family, this week began with Halloween, continued with two kid birthdays and will end with back-to-back parties on Friday and Saturday. And, as we all know, it only gets crazier from here.
I have, pretty much every year, dreaded these busy months of travel and connections, of events and hosting, of anticipation and tears and excitement and exhaustion. But this November, I am trying something new. For the next nine weeks, (till my kids go back to school on Jan. 4) I am vowing to reject perfectionism and unrealistic expectations — along with the anxiety, discouragement and short-temperedness that go with them. In their places, I’m choosing to embrace whatever comes my way. Maybe I’ll even go on a few hunts for silver linings.
Because, with my oldest turning 15 this week, I can see all-too-clearly that the number of years I’ll have everyone sitting in front of my living room fire in their footy pajamas is few and getting fewer.
Will there be tantrums and bickering this holiday season? Yes and yes. But so what if someone is impatient with the ornament hanging or rolls their eyes at hearing the same Christmas carol for the 53rd time. It’s what I’ve got. I can’t change what is. I can only change how I choose to see it. This year, my glasses are showing me that we are all here together, making memories, even if what we remember is how the car wouldn’t start or the pipes froze or somebody gave somebody else a bloody lip.
Fortunately, at this moment, the kitchen is our happy place. It’s where all five of us can crank the tunes (a lovely cacophony of Hamilton show stoppers, Meghan Trainor ear worms and the 2014 Annie movie soundtrack) while we stir and pour and bake, wash and stack and dry, then repeat, pretty much all day.
This is also the first year in a long while that I’ll be hosting both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each will be a smallish affair, nothing fancy. But I do get to pick the menus and oversee the productions and have that feeling of satisfaction when the meals (hopefully) come together and the laughter and conversation served up is just as tasty as anything I’ve put on the table.
So as I warmed up the chili on Halloween and baked birthday brownies and scones and stirred batch upon batch of my family’s favorite homemade mac and cheese this week, I promised myself: Rather than feeling disappointment at what doesn’t go my way, I’m going to focus on enjoying it all, no matter how loud or messy or disastrous.
Just saying those words somehow eased the knot that typically forms in my stomach every November.
This is going to be fun, I allowed myself to think. And if it’s not, well, that’s okay too. At least we’re all here. Together. Making memories.