Taking Stock of the Holidays

I've always had a love/hate relationship with this time of year.  For many years, the ache of infertility cast a shadow on the festivities.  I overcompensated by filling my time with decorating the perfect tree, buying gifts and wrapping them with elaborate bows, and planning a fabulous feast. When the kids came along, I transferred my attention to them, and to making all the memories that I had long wanted to pass down.

This year is different.  This year, I'm navigating our first Christmas as a divorced family, unencumbered by the expectations of others.  I get to call the shots, which means that I've spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about what this holiday means to me, and what I want it to mean to the boys. As a secular humanist, Christmas for me isn't about religious rituals or a deeper spiritual meaning.  It's simply about the people I love, and celebrating them in a fun and festive way.  It's about tradition, about passing on pieces of my childhood to my own children. And yes, to some extent, its about the presents: at least, the looks on my kids' faces when they unwrap them and wonder at the magic and the mystery that surrounds this particular celebration.

I want my kids to remember not only the magic of Christmas morning, but the fun and celebration of the weeks leading up to it.  The anticipation, the excitement, the preparation and the planning.  To that end, I created an advent calendar of our own this year, filled with simple activities we could share each day that would hopefully cement the joy of the season in their tiny, wonder-filled brains. 

And then I got the flu.

I couldn't get out of bed, let alone oversee the creation of Pinterest-worthy holiday traditions. We missed one activity, then two.  Then a week went by, and our calendar was practically moot. 

And you know what?  It was okay.  We didn't manage to make all our ornaments or see all the lights, but the kids got to sleep over with their grandparents and their cousins.  They got to play and make memories, even if they weren't the ones I had planned.  We did a few crafts, and we baked some Crockpot Candy.  We decorated (and then undecorated!) the tree.  We watched oodles of Christmas movies and we danced in our Christmas jammies. With just a few days left before the Big Day, I'm actually really satisfied with the way that our season has unfolded.  It was far from the perfection I once imagined: it was messy, and tiring, and a bit haphazard. We diverged from our plans - a lot.  But, in spite of that, we continued the important traditions.  We spent time with family, and we had fun.  And for me, that's exactly what Christmas is all about. 

Family.  Tradition.  Fun.  And, under all of that, lots and lots of love.

Here's to a beautifully messy holiday season - and learning how to let go.


  1. Beautiful Jo. Minus the flu (stupid flu). May the rest of your holiday season be one filled with love and wonderful memories.

  2. Sorry you were sick... I have a cold right now myself so we are at home for New Year's Eve. My mother was sick last Christmas, and my dad was laid up with bursitis this year. But, as they say in the story of the Grinch, "It came, just the same." And it was still good. :) Glad to hear it was that way for you too!

  3. Do you...
    1) love God?
    2) love thy neighbor?
    Cya soon Upstairs.

  4. Hey Jo - Um... Wondering how to connect? I'm working on a book to open up communication between moms about things we aren't usually "allowed" to talk about, and your very first blog post on your mo jo working blog totally hits it - no matter how we're loved, if someone hasn't been through our experience, we still feel alone.
    You were one of the bloggers that I hugely lurked on over 7 years ago when I was doing heavy fertility treatments and having a really hard time - so aside from everything else, a huge thanks for that.
    Anyway, if you're open to connect, or want to find out more about me, you can find me on Facebook or email me at tamsen@momtellectual.com.
    Either way, thanks a ton for your contribution to the conversation.


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