Making a List, Checking it Twice

Posted: December 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Holidays, Kindergarten, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Mom, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Scary Stuff | 4 Comments »

I was a little late to the game this year, but last week I finally put in my order for our Christmas cards. All 265 of them.

When did I become this person?

I mean, how could it be that we send out so many cards? It’s not like this was something my mother ever did. She had an aging trove of Christmas cards stashed away in the bottom drawer of her roll-top desk. (The same desk I use today.) Cards with cardinals and pine cones on them, and sometimes an old-school dusting of glitter. And she’d send out maybe nine or so each year, and write personal notes in each one.

She was far from gussying us up in velvet headbands and fair isle sweaters for holiday photo cards. (Like I do—sometimes at gunpoint—with my girls.)

And in her crusty New England way, she found it tacky for people to send holiday cards to local folks they see all the time.

Well, clearly she’s never met my dry cleaner.

Okay, so I only wish I was kidding about sending our dry cleaner a card. It’s actually the first year they are on Our List. The thing is, they’re just a few blocks from us—the sweetest Chinese family you’d ever want to meet—and they do that thing where they display all their customers’ cards in the store. It’s so darn neighborly. For years we’ve been looking at our friends’ kids pictures under the glass on the counter. Hell, this year we’re getting in on the action too.

Along with sending a card to our pediatrician who also showcases them, but in a much more taped-to-the-walls shucks-we-love-our-patients kinda way. Every winter when I’m in the office for some inevitable kiddie illness I scan to see if our card got good placement.

I know. Pathetic, right?

But kinda true. Even though I know some secretary is just taping them all up like a zombie in no particular order, and getting paper cuts and complaining under her breath that it’s not part of her job description. Still, I want to feel like my kids aren’t hidden behind a pile of back issues of Highlights magazine.

My from womb-to-tomb friend from home, who I’ll call Adeline, well, her parents had a hard-core Christmas card system. When I was at their kitchen table once around the holidays I noticed a long list of names. There were check marks by some of them. Turns out that if Adeline’s parents didn’t get a card from someone they’d sent one too, that person got cut from their list next year.

Seemed kinda harsh to me at the time. But really, that might be a good way for me to whittle down my list a bit.

Anyway, about the cards. I insist on sending ones with pics of the girls. I love seeing my far-flung friends’ kids who I rarely get to lay eyes on. And even though Mom would call me gauche, I even send cards to our neighbors who live RIGHT NEXT DOOR. (And yes, I send them through the mail. So sue me.)

I have the good fortune of having an amazingly crazily talented photographer amongst my nearest and dearest amigas. And even though my brain tells me I should not constantly hit her up to take pics of my kids—even though I know I should respect some sort of separation of church and state in our friendship—I just. Can’t. Help. Myself.

So despite how madly busy and in-demand she’s been, and despite how she even kinda sorta outright told me she wasn’t doing holiday card shoots this year—and despite the fact that I know she hadn’t even had time to take pics of HER OWN KIDS—despite all that, well, I showed up at her house with the girls. With their hair all neat and combed. And their Christmas dresses. And even a wreath to use in the background in case she didn’t have any decorations up yet.

When did I become this person?

And if that weren’t already obnoxious enough, I then had to plead and beg and whine and bribe to get Kate to take off her paint-splattered school clothes and put on the dreamy Christmas-in-Norway dress I bought for her. It was hot, it was itchy, it was miserable, she complained.

But I was blinded by my vision. She would wear that dress, damn it. We would take the picture.

And you know? She did. And Mary, bless her heart, took the picture. And I likely alienated both my daughters and my friend. But damn, did I get a cute photo.

You’ll see. You’re probably getting a card from us.

My holiday mania knows no boundaries. Or decorum. Last week, like some lunatic mother hopped up on spiked eggnog, I approached the two kindergarten teachers on the front steps of Kate’s school. In the swirling chaos of afternoon pick-up I huddled them together and asked, demanded, interrogated them: Why in all that is fun and good and festive, is there no holiday pageant or party or play at the school? No musical medley? No special assembly? No small child wearing a poorly-adhered white cotton-ball beard who charmingly forgets his lines to the delight of all the adults?

The thing is, I think I KNOW why. Though those poor parent-pecked teachers don’t make the policies, I think the reason no one’s makin’ merry ’round Kate’s school is in our Northern Californian politically correct overdrive, there’s some fierce anxiety about not representing every possible religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, hair color, shoe size, and holiday.

Of course, the nice scared-of-me teachers did not tell me this. While likely beckoning to security to have me dragged away, they kindly informed me that there actually IS an event. A small celebration that no one needs to dress or bake for. Parents don’t even attend.

And the event is for—get this—Festivus! Yes, my child’s school is borrowing from a time-honored Seinfeldian tradition and celebrating the for-the-rest-of-us holiday. I wonder if they’ll be incorporating the traditional Airing of Grievances. Or the Feats of Strength in which the host is wrestled to the ground and the celebration isn’t over until he’s successfully been pinned.

Maybe, if the kids are lucky, they’ll also get to not decorate the Festivus pole. (It’s traditionally left bare.)

Actually, the teachers explained that in their interpretation of the anti-holiday, the kids will go from classroom to classroom where multiple craft projects will be set up.

Who knows, maybe they’ll do a Jell-o shot in each room too, like some college dorm party.

Well, what can I do? Is there a small part of me that thinks a school’s homage to Seinfeld is funny? Sure. I mean, I had a crush on George Costanza just like the next gal. But this Festivus work-around still doesn’t satisfy my need to gather as a community and get into the spirit. I guess I’ll just have to loiter around some Catholic school pageants to get my fix of Gloria In Excelsis Deo.

In other holiday happenings, I have managed to show some restraint. For years I’ve spearheaded day-long nap-robbing family field trips to scenic far-off Christmas tree farms. We’d spend $120 to chop down runty picked-over trees, buy hot chocolate for the kids even though it was 68 degrees, and inevitably someone would barf on the drive home. But this year I’ve tossed my Norman Rockwell tree-fetching fantasies aside. On Saturday we went to—wait for it!—Home Depot for our tree.

It was close by and convenient. The tree was $35. And it’s hands-down our biggest and best-looking tree yet.

This was a breakthrough for me.

Mark was thrilled.

And while I’m on a roll, I might as well brag that I’m also NOT taking my children to sit on Santa’s lap. Nope, not this year, or possibly EVER AGAIN. (Unless of course they beg for it.)

I have a friend who lines up wonderful pictures of her kids with Santa along the top of her piano. She’s had them taken every year, and I’m so deeply jealous of the freakin’ consistency and tradition and keepsake-ness of it all.

But my kids fear the man in red. One year when Kate was about 14 months, I waited in an endless Santa line with a Mama friend and her son. I’d just finished telling her how I’d weaned Kate. And then, when we finally stepped into the tool-shed-like roofed Santa nook, Kate took one look at Santa, then clutched me in a full-bore panic. She started balling, screaming and pumping her fist open and closed, signing for “milk.”

So we detoured to a red velvet-ish settee surrounded by poinsettias, where I caved on the she’s-finally-weaned thing I’d just gone on and on to my friend about.

Eventually Kate was willing to have her pic taken, but only if she stayed on MY lap. I kind of held her over towards Santa, and leaned back so they could crop me out. It’s a wonder my bare boobie wasn’t in the picture too. (Now THAT would have made a memorable card.)

Anyway, to punish me, Kate puked all over me in the Safeway parking lot later that day. To such an extent that I drove home in my bra.

Good times.

And, undeterred, I actually tried AGAIN the next year. And lo! I got a really cute pic of Kate. And the rental mall Santa even had all his teeth!

But the year after that she lost her Santa shit again. So last year I finally decided to do what mothers are supposed to—protect their kids from un-due trauma. I laid to rest my dream of a piano lined with darling Santa pics through the years.

In fact, we don’t even own a piano. So that makes it easier too.

I mean, I can’t be the only Mama who wrangles with an irrational desire to do up Christmas in all its perfection, can I? Even when it means traumatizing my children, their teachers, and my photographer friends?

How many of you are planning to drag your unwilling kids by their ears to sit on Santa’s lap? It appears some other Mamas are discussing this on Motherboard. (God bless the Internets for always proving you’re not alone.)

I may have cut corners on our tree selection process and visits to Santa. But my Christmas spirit is unwavering. I have every intention of keeping in close contact with that jolly old soul.

And to make sure that happens, I’ve added Old Saint Nick to my Christmas card list.


4 Comments on “Making a List, Checking it Twice”

  1. 1 Jeff P said at 1:38 pm on December 14th, 2010:

    The Prentice Family
    1157 Norval Way
    San Jose, CA 95125

    Can’t wait to see it! =)

  2. 2 Drea said at 1:41 pm on December 14th, 2010:

    And oh, how Seinfeldian it would’ve been for you to do a holiday photo with a bare boobie showing…or at least a nipple, a la Elaine Benes!

  3. 3 kristen said at 2:06 am on December 19th, 2010:

    Drea: I actually DO have some cards with topless pics of me that I send out–just to a select few friends, of course. Won’t you be running to the mailbox now?! (Your boys, btw, are GORGEOUS.)

  4. 4 Drea said at 9:24 am on December 20th, 2010:

    And your girls—or should I specify your DAUGHTERS—are precious! Love that card!

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