There I was, sitting next to another mom in yet another school party planning session. We were talking about the upcoming party (honestly, I can’t even remember which party it was…Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter, 50thday of school, 100thday of school, end of school. Are we not always celebrating?). People were giving ideas, and this brave mom just blurted out, “No, NO! These kids don’t need all of that. Y’all, we need to TONE DOWN THE MAGIC.”
I often think back to that moment and laugh because, while I was totally thinking the same thing, I typically just nod my head and placidly agree to wrap 15 lattice fence panels in gift wrap to look like giant presents for the Christmas party. I go along with it all to keep the peace and look like a good mom while giving myself stress fever blisters and a racing heart at 5 a.m. when I wake up and realize today is the day of the party.
The last few months, I’ve experienced the joys of the first trimester of pregnancy all over again while simultaneously trying to raise three very energetic and busy boys. We’ve had birthday parties and holidays and I’ve been hanging by a thread while trying to keep ALL the things in orbit. I’ve had no energy, constant nausea, and no ability for magic making for my kids. I wanted to have it in me. I wanted to give them the world’s greatest autumn and to have the house perfectly decorated and the pumpkin patch agendas laid out, but instead I slowly got out a decoration or two and the pumpkin patch…didn’t happen.
I’ve been getting by on minimal magic that has felt like it has taken maximum effort. And you know what?
They haven’t noticed!
One night, we loaded up and drove over to Mobile to see the dancing Halloween lights. I only had to sit and ride and listen to their oohs and aahs. Another day, I bought them a bunch of cheap Halloween decorations and let them decorate the heck out of their swing set while I sat on the back porch and drank ginger ale, and they have not stopped showing it off to every person who comes by our house. We’ve cuddled in skeleton pajamas and watched “spooky” movies while eating popcorn, and they have squealed with delight. I actually did Amazon Prime some legitimate Halloween costumes, but they all changed their minds at the last minute and put together some pretty cute homemade costumes that they LOVED and proudly strutted around the neighborhood in. They passed out candy for a little while and were SO happy to participate in the other side of Halloween. They literally had the best Halloween ever and I did almost nothing to facilitate it. In fact, as the perfectionist and overachiever in me had to step down with this pregnancy, I learned quickly that she has been sort of in the way to begin with. She’s been complicating a pretty timeless and uncomplicated thing.
Here’s the good news… you don’t have to get pregnant and be miserable for 14 weeks to learn from my mistakes (unless, of course, you want to). Here is my call to arms for you as the holiday season approaches:
I give you permission to tone down the magic.
If your child shows up to Christmas Eve without a smocked Santa outfit, an adorable handprint reindeer craft, or unable to recite ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ let it go Mama. Take the day to choose to be grateful for the wonderful gifts in front of you and delight in all the carbohydrates and sugar that your stomach will allow. Let yourself off the hook to just enjoy time with your family and friends.
If your Elf on the Shelf needs to stay in the North Pole to help Santa build toys this year, then, by all means, don’t deprive Santa of the elf. If you need to volunteer to send the juice boxes to the school party instead of the Pinterest-inspired Santa hat snack, then you send those juice boxes with pride. If you need to take a year off of Christmas cards for your own sanity, guess what? No one will notice! Feel free to cross it off your list.
Instead of sending yourself into a tizzy wrapping 25 books to open every night leading up to December, allow yourself to put on your coziest pajamas and read whatever book they want by the light of the Christmas tree (assuming you’ve got it up…but, hey, if not- there’s always a lamp). Instead of fighting the crowds at the biggest, best light show in town, maybe settle for a bike ride around your own neighborhood or a drive around town while loudly singing Jingle Bells. Instead of panicking over how to become a professional cookie decorator, buy the refrigerated pre-sliced cookies and take a load off.
We can tone it down.
Life doesn’t have to be so complicated. Our kids want our time. They want the quiet snuggles and carols sung while scratching their backs at bedtime. They want to help wrap presents and hang all the ornaments in the worst possible places, and they want you to stop the madness and remember that less is almost always more.
Because what this blessed fourth baby boy has shown me thus far is that when we tone down the manufactured magic, our children show us that the true magic was within them all along.