Recently, my son Robert and I were discussing our upcoming holiday plans, and he said, “I don’t know what’s happened to Christmas. It used to be so much fun. I remember how excited I used to get about presents and how much fun we had playing with our cousins and building snow forts with the neighbor kids. Now, I have to go shopping after work and buy gifts I really can’t afford to give to people I don’t spend time with the rest of the year. It just isn’t fun anymore.”
Resisting the urge to dope-slap him, I said, “Robert, do you know what happened to change Christmas?”
He said, “No. I don’t.”
I said, “You grew up!”
Rob has no memory of the year he came down with chicken pox, along with his two siblings, three days before Christmas. That same day, JC Penney’s called and told me the toys I’d ordered weren’t going to arrive until mid-January. Did I mention 20 people were coming to our house for Christmas dinner?
He has no concept of the financial finagling I did for years in order to have presents under the tree, or the many nights I did laundry, addressed Christmas cards, made cookies and candy, and wrapped packages long after everyone else had gone to bed.
He is absolutely clueless about the amount of effort, energy and stress that moms, grandmas and wives put forth to ensure their families have a happy holiday.
I was tempted to explain those things to him, because I have to admit: making Christmas special for others has not always been a holiday for me. But then I realized all of my son’s childhood holidays have morphed into one perfect, magical memory of family, food and fun.
I was so busy in those early years that I wasn’t aware I’d given my children a sense of love, joy and connectedness. It turns out that may be the most precious gift they will ever receive. Suddenly, all the pressure, work and sacrifice of Christmases past felt like it might have actually been worth the effort!
Elaine K. Sanchez is a caregiver speaker, aging humorist and co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com. She is the author of the unflinchingly honest and hilariously funny book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver.” She writes the blog "Caregiver Help Word of the Day." Contact her at elaine@EKSanchez.com if you’d like to invite her to speak at your next conference.