christmasHere's the thing: I've always loved the holidays. Everything is pretty and sparkly and the kitchen smells good and people give you stuff and there are way more little foil-wrapped chocolates around than usual. Oh, and peace on earth goodwill toward men and that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Here's the other thing: Holidays once you're a parent are a whole 'nother snowball fight. As soon as I had kids I realized that all that shiny happiness doesn't just magically happen. It's a parent's job to manufacture those warm and fuzzy feelings.

No pressure!!!

Absolutely every aspect, every nuance of the season is fraught with potential parental failure. And yes, I know that sounds excessively neurotic but I also know that no matter how laid-back a mom you might be, a little part of you knows what I'm talking about ...

Let's start with gifts. When your kids are little, you must avoid screwing up the presents at all costs. You just can't screw them up, because if you do, you run the risk of laying a lifelong "Santa doesn't love me because I'm not a good boy!" complex on the poor child.

It's the exact same thing when your kids are bigger, by the way, except the official name for the complex is "Mommy doesn't love me because I'm not a good boy ... and so, I will punish her with horrible adolescent antics for the next several years."

Oh, but it doesn't end there! Consider Christmas dinner. The rule of thumb, essentially, is that your kid will want you to replicate the meal served in his favorite holiday special/movie/book. "But on Caillou's Christmas they ate turkey and you made ham!" "Why can't we have roast beast like the Grinch??"

This goes for other "traditional" holiday practices that may or may not be traditional in your family but have been presented to your child, by a teacher or friends or pop culture in general, as Things Everybody Does at Christmas. Woe to the parent who unwittingly makes a choice outside of the pre-determined box! "But we're supposed to have an angel on the tree, not a star!!!"

I suppose it all works out in the end -- that's probably why A Christmas Story is such a classic film. At some point we all look back fondly at our dysfunctional childhood holidays and laugh, right?

At least that's what I'm telling myself ...

Are the holidays stressful for you as a parent?

 

Image via The Stir