Friday, December 17, 2010

'tis the season, of terrific and terrible

What started out so precious and sweet, with me drafting posts in my head about how wonderful the holiday season is with a toddler who gets so blissfully excited about traditions like pumpkins and going trick or treat, soured from fun to busy and then stressful as the season evolved. Halloween truly was a riot. And Thanksgiving still allowed us to focus on a few precious things, like it's about being thankful, coming together, different people sharing and learning from one another, breaking bread together. But just as we'd finished preparing for, hosting, cleaning up and recovering from a week-long Thanksgiving holiday, things spun out of control into this crazy daze of getting ready for Christmas.

With Christmas, there's just so much more to teach and include her in, carols to be learned, traditions to be told, decorations to put up, cards to send out. And then the cleaning, baking, and ah, the shopping. With the ensuing gift wrapping, with the paper cutting, folding, taping, and labeling, all with a little toddler who seems intent to undo, I mean help, with each step of the process.

It's really really hard to stay calm in those situations. And there has been a surge of moments lately where I don't feel particularly proud about myself.

It doesn't help that the academic in me has taken on the gargantuan task of researching the Norwegian history of Christmas, or yuletide, that is, in order to teach my child AND our friends the right stuff. We're hosting again, this time to some friends of ours with Norwegian ancestors. They're excited to take part in a traditional Norwegian yule celebration, and not only do I want to do with them what I grew up doing in Norway; I want to trace each tradition's history to its roots and provide a rich commentary to the various ornaments and decorations and things we eat and do as the evening with our friends progresses. Seriously, I've started taking lecture notes, using Keeping Christmas, a researched account of the history of yuletide in Norway and among Norwegian-Americans in the US, as my primary source. Sounds like a fun Christmas eve to you yet?

I hope it will be, though I've come to see I need to slow down. I can't get as much done as I set out to do with Lilly in tow. And I won't be able to teach her or my friends all I'd like for them to learn. I mean, we'll be lucky enough if we get some sort of meaningful exchange of words in between the toddler care and play. And that's ok, at least for the kids it will be. Just bringing up the tree we're going to dance and sing around gets her tickled silly. And even if we bake just one kind (and not the traditional seven kinds) of Christmas cookies, and it's Hershey kiss cookies and not something traditional Norwegian because I think it'll be easier, and she'll have fun putting the kisses on the cookies (while eating some as well), she'll be giddy with that too. And if we don't get to move on from "Jingle bells" and "Jul med din glede" ("Yule with your joy"), she'll probably be happier with those two than if I keep sitting down with her going through my selection of seven carols to sing around the tree on Christmas eve, after dinner and desserts and before we open gifts.

Yet it's hard for me to let go. With her recently intensified insistence she "do it myself!" it feels like we're back to doing one thing a day, whereas it seemed for a period that we could do more. I got kind of fond of being able to get more things done in a day and I'm resisting the change of entering a new stage. I find myself still pushing for more while instead I need to remind myself to stay present and calm and just do less.

Some things are worth pushing through for though. I'm glad we went to see the Holidazzle parade in the cities, despite the wait and crowds. Hearing her "wows!" and seeing the expression in her face was just so precious. And I'm grateful we made it to the last ten minutes of the Norwegian Christmas service in town, which got her super excited about Christmas trees and decorating the tree with Norwegian flags and heart shaped baskets. And I am glad that we braved it to the winter walk downtown, despite the freezing cold; watching the horses with their sleighs to the sound of people caroling was even more fun than seeing the historic train models set up indoors at the city library (which was pretty cool too).

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