The Magic of the Holidays

You know, they say you don’t quite experience the magic of the holidays like you did when you were a child…until you become a parent and see it through their eyes. This is only somewhat true for me. I love the holiday season. From Halloween to Christmas I feel so excited to experience the MAGIC. There are SO many things to look forward to. So many amazing traditions. Unfortunately, what I also experience is anxiety about being able to meet everyone’s needs, hidden expectations that I didn’t realize I had until I feel let down, and a sinking feeling when my family isn’t as excited as I am to create these magical moments. For example, when the girls whine and cry when we are on our way to the Festival of Lights, or when they are too focused on getting a “treat” instead of enjoying the amazing lights. These are things that can ruin the moment for me. 

On Christmas morning I wake up first. Santa has come and I know how beautiful the tree looks with everything underneath and I can’t wait for my daughters to come out of their rooms and see it. I don’t want to miss their little facial expressions, so I make sure I’m first to wake. And then I sit and wait…and wait. I try to wake up my husband, but naturally he thinks I’m nuts. Maybe I make the coffee a little too loud while I wait. Finally, I hear the door open to my oldest daughter’s room as she comes tip toe-ing out. I’m bursting at this point because I can’t wait to see her reaction to ALL MY HARD WORK. She comes out, she takes everything in, and what is the first thing she reacts to? The new tennis balls for the dog, “Bindi got a new ball!!!” Meanwhile, the new dollhouse glistens in the early morning light, a cookie remains half eaten from Santa, and the gorgeous Christmas paper gleams among boxes and bags under the tree. I laugh it off and wait for her to have the reaction I thought she would have, but inside my heart deflates just a tiny bit.

It’s that moment that I realized my hidden expectation: my children will marvel at the magic I have created for them. That they will express their joy and excitement in the way I think they should. That I will be fulfilled by THEIR experience as long as their experience is what I want it to be. This is what we call an impossible expectation my friends. Why? Because my experience for this moment relies on the reaction and behavior of others. Impossible. I will always be let down if those are my expectations. 

After talking to my good friend, Annie Kendig with Mountain Mindset Counseling, I realized how I can alter this expectation to be more realistic this holiday season. I will put time and effort into things that I enjoy, not for the reaction of others, but because that’s what I like to do. I will recognize that I have absolutely no control over my family’s reaction to anything I have created, and that’s ok. The magic is still there in the moments we share together, and those moments do NOT have to be perfect or pinterest worthy for my children (or for me) to create the memory. Finally, my children are not going to behave any differently during this “magical holiday season” than they do all year round. They will still have tantrums, they will whine about things they don’t have, and there will be fights over a toy that we don’t have two of. This is my reality. It’s not changing simply because it’s a magical time of year! This is called Radical Acceptance. Accepting your situation, in all its glory, and not wishing or hoping for it to be any different. 

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want it to change. Maybe a few less tantrums would be nice and a little more gratefulness… but until then, it’s up to me to be grateful for what I have. Because what I have is an amazing family and two tiny humans to pour my love into despite what they give in return. I mean…their Christmas presents to me kind of suck, but I love them just the same. 

Stay good my friends!

Stephanie Kemme

Published by annkendig

I am a mental health and addiction therapist in Cincinnati Ohio. Happy exploring and may all beings be well.

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