Friday, December 02, 2011

A mom's best holiday gift: deep breaths and patience

From today's Briefing:

At the top of my December to-do list, the list with no end: Take lots of deep breaths.
Those breaths help me draw patience from what I hope is a never-ceasing well, help remind me that we can’t possibly do everything, help me focus on the whole point of the 24 days leading up to Christmas.
My holiday-related patience has already been tested by an alleged pre-lit Christmas tree.
The first two years of the tree, all 850 lights shone bright. The past two years revealed a steady decline in the quality of those lights. And this year, when the tree was plugged in, a lonely grouping of about 50 bulbs shone.
I enlisted help from a friend, who coaxed about half the additional branches to light. The rest of the tree required extra strands and lots of wrapping — reminding me of why we all embraced pre-lit trees in the first place.
After days of wrangling, short bursts of decorating and lots of deep breaths, our tree is bright and covered in ornaments representing special moments, interests and adventures in our family.

We love adventures, even when they’re just a few miles from home. And when you live in North Texas, there is no shortage of Christmas-related adventures.
Trains at NorthPark. Candlelight at Dallas Heritage Village. ICE! and sledding at the Gaylord Texan. Half a dozen varieties of The Nutcracker. Ice skating. Gingerbread villages. Tubes at the downtown Neiman’s. Holiday in the Park. Movies. Santa in a giant snow globe. Santa on parade. Santa in a faux cabin.
It’s impossible to do it all.
This year I chose two special events for our family and penned them on the calendar: an afternoon tea at a fancy hotel and a morning performance of Madeline’s Christmas at the Dallas Children’s Theater.
Then I took a deep breath and resolved to not worry about all the other adventures we’d probably miss because of school and work and basketball games and Destination ImagiNation and Sundays at church.
I resolved not to worry about some of the regrets I’d have to send in reply to party invitations.
I’ve been focusing instead on making each day of the season special at home.
We eat everyday meals on cheerful plastic Christmas plates, placed atop colorful Christmas linens.
Our Elf on the Shelf (a stuffed sprite who spies on behalf of Santa, flies to the North Pole each night to report the day’s events and returns before children awake) has returned, adding Christmasy joy to each morning. Katie spins through the house trying to find our elf’s newest perch, never failing to marvel over his magic.
We’re watching recorded Christmas specials when we have time.
We all just watched for the first time Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. Katie sobbed when the momma donkey dies in an effort to save Nestor’s life. Cooper declared the show’s stop motion animation “creepy.” I vowed to screen our options better.
Just yesterday we started opening tiny flaps on multiple Advent calendars, counting down to the big day and, more important, reminding us what we’re about to celebrate in the first place.
That’s when those deep breaths really come in handy.
I need something centering, something to remind me that we all are responsible for piling too much onto Christmas. That if we feel like we’ve failed in some way to create the most magical experiences, it’s only because we set our expectations too high.
I need something to remind me that Advent is not about being busy but about anticipating the birth of Jesus.
I’m getting closer to that calm center with each cleansing breath, and I’m even becoming more willing to knock a few to-dos off my December list.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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