Seventeen years ago, a younger and more naive version of me fervently scoured the toy department for every toy suitable for a baby’s first Christmas. I must say it was a grand success. I left the store hours later with a cart heaped and mounded with toys and games and puzzles for my first baby. He was only nine-months old that Christmas, and I wanted to give him the world starting with every toy I could recall from my childhood.
I couldn’t wait to see his cute little dimpled fingers rip into each and every present. I pictured his giggly, pudgy cheeks barely visible amongst mounds of tattered holiday paper while he went from toy to toy trying to decide what to play with first.
What actually happened, it turned out, couldn’t have been further from what I’d pictured. He was terribly disinterested in the ritual I tried to force on him, and the more I pushed the more he resisted. He wanted nothing to do with the toys or the paper or me for that matter. In fact the more I tried to sway him toward my perfect, Norman-Rockwell-esque vision of what our first Christmas together should look like, the more he pouted, fussed, and finally sobbed.
So on my son’s first Christmas I was the one who unwrapped his gifts, and he eventually warmed to the toys outside their packages. I may have been mortified, but I was wiser for the experience. When I finally quit trying to force what I wanted in that situation, the struggle ended, and we experienced more happiness and abundance than a pile of beautifully wrapped boxes could provide.
Now as I prepare for my baby boy’s last holiday at home before he goes off to college next fall, I’m reminded of that frustrating first Christmas. He’s now long-legged and strong and without a single knuckle dimple, and I’m a bit different too. Our first Christmas together seemed a disappointment at the time, but it taught that young mom and self-proclaimed control freak a great deal about letting go of preconceived notions and expectations. It was then that I realized things weren’t always going to go as planned. As much as I’ve tried to steer things in a calculated route devoid of catastrophe and disappointment, there have been occasions of unexpected circumstances that veered my fairytale aspirations off course. In the end, though, it turned out beautifully, and we’re better for the bumps, bruises, and lessons along the way.
To all my friends who are facing a holiday season that is far from what you had in mind, please seek happiness in what you perceive as imperfection. You may be missing a loved one in spirit or facing yet another holiday without the company of a Waltons-esque brood, or finances may have inhibited the giving you wanted to share. Burned turkeys, altered schedules, too-short guest lists, declined invitations, and broken holiday china needn’t squelch the joy you’d like to feel this season.
Regardless of what circumstances threaten your ideal holiday, I encourage you to seek the blessings through the disappointment, and embrace what is rather than what could have been.
May your holiday season be more blessed than you ever imagined possible, and may your heart be filled to the brim and beyond with joy, love, and gratitude.