Imperfect Moms

I have a confession, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get judged by more perfect parents, but I confess that doesn’t bother me.

My kids get one gift from Santa each year. Just. One.

I’ve done this for a number of years and for a number of reasons. My kids have learned to whittle down their lists to what they really want, and I’ve learned to whittle down how much I care about what that gift is. You want 50 shades of glitter? Perfect. Some ridiculously loud light show disguised as a rescue helicopter? Bring it on. It’s how I keep their belief in Santa alive–because my kids know there is no way on this blue-green planet I would ever spend money on such things. Plus it cuts down on stress and saves money (two things on MY Christmas list, right up there with a visit from these folks).

I have several lovely stories of how this has worked to everyone’s benefit. This blog, however, is not one of them.

My brilliant idea has only backfired on one occasion when my oldest daughter’s only request was an RV (big thanks to my brother, who took us camping in one) and my son’s only request was a dog (he’s allergic). My youngest daughter was very worried about whether Santa would be bringing her anything at all; she had been in trouble several times at school for sneaking stones from the playground into the classroom (her affinity toward geology notwithstanding, it was the disobedience that was the larger issue). When she confessed her naughty list concerns, I reminded her what Santa brought kids who didn’t behave. To my dismay, her eyes lit up, and I kicked myself; what sort of “punishment” is coal for a kid who loves rocks?

Alas, that year Santa did not come through with their heart’s desires, and sadly-but-not-sadly, my kids learned the limits of the Big Guy in Red. They got other toys that weren’t quite as impossible, and miraculously survived.

And that’s when the stomach virus happened.

There are worse things than not getting what you wanted for Christmas and throwing up constantly for three days while everyone else plays in the snow, but that list is short. (I would argue that short list includes being the mom who has to clean up after three sick kids while being sick herself.)

And that’s when I burned the turkey.

I learned – very quickly – that cooking turkey at a higher temperature to save time is very effective, especially if you’re reducing the time between the oven and the trash can. Not that it mattered. It was destined for somewhere worse, given the state of things.

And that’s when the dryer broke. And when I gave up.

For the rest of winter break, we ate rice and sipped the broth I was going to use for gravy. We drank ginger ale in fancy glasses. We cranked up the heat and hung sheets up to dry like tents.  We laid around and watched movies and had wretchedly valid excuses for missing out on hayrides, holiday get-togethers and choir concerts. We stayed home, huddled but out of hurling distance, and we commiserated.

While none of us got what we wanted that year (a new dryer certainly wasn’t on my list), we were given a gift that keeps paying it forward. Not the spirit of the holidays or the feeling of family – we have those in plenty – it was the gift of comparative awfulness. From that point on, anytime something would be horrifically-messy or miserable at home, someone would invariably say, “At least it’s not as bad as last Christmas.”

So, yes, having what feels like the worst behind us is one of the best gifts ever. Just. One.

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