Normally I love the holidays. I'm not sure why I "love" them, except that when my kids were little it was SO much fun to bring the magic of Christmas and presents and cookie baking and crafts and toys to their little worlds. As they get older, there's not as much magic. There's too much busy-ness, not enough time, cookies are generally baked from some prepackaged dough ON Christmas eve because there's nothing to leave out for Santa, no one is interested in crafts anymore (and who has time?) and it really does seem to be all about the gimmes.
Sure, the kids "love" Christmas. But I'm not sure exactly what they "love" about it. Is it the gifts? The anticipation of the gifts? Watching Christmas movies? Decorating the house? This year I was sick right after Thanksgiving which is when we traditionally decorate the house. I was in bed for five days and actually felt disdain from my kids for not putting up the tree. In the end, Jeff bought a new tree, and two of the four kids have still not put their decorations on it. Arlie ended up doing most of the decorating herself. When I was finally able to hobble from my deathbed to check the progress I was horrified to see the kids had put decorations out on dusty shelves and filthy floors that had not been vacuumed. I was too sick to care and it was days before I felt like things were sort of "done" being decorated.
Tonight I came home from being gone literally ALL day, working, running errands, mailing Christmas cards and packages, and driving Arlie to dance to find the kitchen a total disaster. Hayley had made cupcakes with her friends and neglected to clean up the mess. She just left it all over the place and went out to party with some more friends. Cupcake batter in the bowl tossed in the sink, un-rinsed, on top of a pile of other dishes. Both sides of the sink FULL of dirty dishes. Dinner food left out (no one ever bothers to put the food away after dinner - it's either Jeff or me - never anyone else). Counters are covered in sticky stuff, kitchen table covered with crap including a plate from LAST night's dinner that I reminded Hannah to pick up. But she ignored me. They all do. I post chore lists, I remind, I ask, I nag, I scream, I yell, I ignore. Nothing changes. No one does anything. If they do anything at all, they do it half-assed and never with any intention of doing their best.
Many times I've watched a piece of trash get kicked around the kitchen floor for days. It will migrate up the hallway, ending up in a totally different place, because NO ONE will pick it up. EVER. I've purposely not picked things up, just to see how long it will sit there and get kicked around. And the record is.....two weeks. And then I couldn't stand it anymore and picked it up myself.
Today my son ran out of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom. He was within calling distance of anyone who was downstairs and could hear him, never mind he's glued to his cell phone at all times, so he could have easily remedied the situation with a text. Instead he used a roll of paper towels that was sitting in the bathroom (likely still there from the last time someone cleaned up dog pee, which seems to be a daily occurrence around her because ....guess what? No one lets the dogs out!). Any dummy knows you don't flush paper towels down the toilet, but he did. And then he threw the rest of the roll in the garbage! Jeff found it and wondered what jackwagon would throw away perfectly good paper towels? Harrison's explanation was that because he used them for toileting purposes he didn't want to touch them again because they were "germy". WHAT THE EFFFF???? He cares about germs? Then, why does he never change his sheets, or leave piles of dirty laundry stacked up in his room for months, or think tossing a paper towel over a saturated carpet of dog pee is adequate to sanitize the spot? These are the things that make me want to poke my own eyes out with a fork.
And what have I been doing every single day for the past two weeks? Shopping for Christmas presents. Agonizing over whether I have "enough" for each kid, worrying that I don't have the perfect gift for their "big" present, buying extra presents for them to unwrap along with their advent house openings because candy doesn't seem adequate enough. So far they've opened two movies, a Wii game, a coloring book and a CD of Christmas songs. Why? Why do I think they need more. More. More.
They don't even take care of what they have now. Their rooms are piled with dirty laundry and "stuff". They have so many clothes, they can go without doing a load of laundry for weeks before they run out of things to wear. The girls have jewelry they never wear. There are games that are never played, iPods that can't be found because someone was too irresponsible to take care of it, and more than once, I've found Christmas gifts on the floor of their closets months later with the tags still on them. They want for NOTHING.
And yet, every year I buy them a treasure trove of gifts. I try to stick to a budget, but with the expensive electronics that top their lists, it's hard to get more than one thing within the budget I can afford. I try to keep up the magic of a tree overflowing with packages that seems to double in size on Christmas morning. I spend, quite literally, DAYS buying and wrapping gifts only to have them opened in a half hour of frenzied paper ripping, then put into haphazard piles while they go on with their day. I have to nag them to take their piles up to their rooms. And they sit there. Forever. They pull things off the pile bit by bit - clothes they want to wear, body wash they want to use, but most of it gets buried under dirty clothes and forgotten. One year, after spending several weekends cleaning their rooms, I found a whole shoe box full of beauty products, jewelry and makeup that had never been opened. I put it all in my "gift" box for birthdays and such and doled it out over the next few years whenever the kids needed a gift for a birthday party they were attending. They didn't even remember it had once been theirs.
And now. It's December 14 and I cannot remember what all I've bought. I thought I was "done" shopping days ago, but I keep remembering something or someone else I need a gift for. I could not tell you everything I've purchased for each kid. I have no clue how much I've spent. I started out keeping track of everything down to the penny. And then things got crazy and I got sick and I simply ran out of time to keep it up.
I mailed packages to my family minus the home-baked treats I wanted to include. The only Christmas baking I've done is to bake up some of those preformed and stamped Christmas tree cookies from Pillsbury. I have big plans to make homemade Bailey's and treats for the neighbors but I have no idea when I'll have time to do that.
One thing that normally gets me in the spirit of the season is holiday gatherings and attending the kids' holiday concerts and performances. I missed Arlie's band concert and both of Hannah's choir concerts (one because I was sick, the others because Hannah was sick). I missed the one holiday party we were invited to. I'm missing my work holiday party because I've already committed to something else the same night. I also enjoy receiving and reading Christmas cards. I've received exactly four cards this year. I'm guessing either everyone is as behind as I am or people just aren't sending cards this year. Maybe I should take a cue from them. I spent twice as much on our holiday card this year because I went with a different printer and I wrote our Christmas letter in about ten minutes and it wasn't funny or clever or witty as I hoped it would be.
I have a whole list of holiday activities I want to do but no idea when we'll fit them in before everyone goes to their other parents' homes for the remainder of the holiday. We only get the first week of vacation with them, and really not even the first whole week as my kids go to their dad's on the 23rd and don't come home until late on the 24th. I get cheated out of a whole day of "my" week which makes our family time together even shorter. We always run out of time to do all the fun things I've planned and then they're gone. It's so much stress and not enough fun. Every year I say I'm going to do something different......cut back, do something meaningful, spend more quality time, not get caught up in the craziness. And every year nothing changes. I feel like throwing in the towel. It's not like we have a big, extended family celebration. We rarely have visitors at Christmas time. We could do anything we want and no one would care. We could "skip Christmas" and go on a vacation. We could spend more time doing things together and less time shopping and spending money we don't have. But we don't. And I'm not sure why. Nothing changes because I don't change it. I'm the keeper of the traditions and if I change things, I, alone, will bear the wrath. I feel stuck and I don't know how to change things. But things....they need changin'.