–by Lorraine Fuller

I used to love Christmas. I would decorate the whole house. I would plan crafts for the kids. I would buy way too many gifts. We had all these traditions. Movies and books and games. Hot chocolate stirred with candy canes. New pajamas on Christmas Eve. Everyone together for Christmas dinner. I couldn’t wait for the kids to be home. I loved it all.

Now, well, not so much. The shopping isn’t fun. I have to think about what things will be too easily broken. I don’t want to spend a lot of money when I know my one child will break things on purpose and claim not to like anything. I don’t just hide gifts; I lock them up so they won’t be stolen. The relatives still come, but I dread it. What will he say or do in front of Grandma? How do I explain the cameras and alarms? I have to find a way to slip the TV code to the football-loving uncle without my kid finding out. When I realize it didn’t work and he got it anyway, I have to remember to change it after everyone leaves. I double-check and re-clean the coffee maker before offering my mother-in-law coffee in case soap or other substances have been mysteriously added. My sister-in-law will make some comment about not being able to find a knife; it’s because I’ve had to hide them. Headache medicine? Locked up. Same with the Christmas cookies for the neighbors. I can’t use the antique ornaments or the decorations with sentimental value because they’ll probably get broken. I don’t go to parties because I can’t leave my child home alone.

What do I do instead? I focus on things that make me happy. For me, the religious part is important, so I concentrate on that. I donate to charities. I listen to the familiar music. I say “no” to activities that don’t bring me joy. I make things easier on myself by decorating less and skipping the cards. I mostly shop online, even for the gift swap. The adult kids, they get gift cards. I don’t do as much baking and cooking; instead I buy favorites from a local restaurant. It took me a while to get over the guilt of saying “no” but really, I no longer had the energy for “yes.” I did buy pretty dishes that make me smile, though. And I will wear my Christmas clothes and watch Christmas movies alone in bed, wearing fuzzy pajamas and drinking hot cocoa stirred with a candy cane. Remember, this is supposed to be a season of joy, not dread. It might not be picture-perfect and yes, my son will probably complain and sabotage, but at least this way, no one steals my joy.

What about you? What things bring you joy this holiday season? Please share in the comments below.