The Happiest Times aren’t the Happiest. Now What?

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”

I mean, that’s what the song says, doesn’t it?  But what if it’s not?  Like so many other things, what ought to be, isn’t, and we wonder where did we go wrong?

 I recently heard of a mother that was seen crying at her high schooler’s graduation ceremony because her child was acting out with an attitude.  The child that she had poured hours and hours into, years actually, was ruining the day.  The child had only applied to out of state and elite colleges, and thus, when her acceptances came in, her parents could not afford any of those schools.  Not having applied to her very excellent state schools, she was left with no options.  And she blamed the parents.  What should have been a celebratory day ended in tears for her mother.  Her mother didn’t deserve that.  And a young mother of two stood by watching and wondering if that would be her in 14 years!  It had her worried.

 So many occasions risk the same fallout.  Weddings, holidays, births, even sports team banquets risk the same moments of disappointment because of the number of factors involved.  When you have a gathering of so many people, each with an individual emotional investment, the stage is set for upset. 

 For a wedding, there are so many moving pieces. It’s hard to keep up.  Remember, all the pieces have never been put together before the actual day of.  I tried to tell my daughters, “In our minds, we each have an idea of how it is all going to look; tomorrow we will find out how it actually looks.”  The day ends in a blur with you remembering the most outrageous comments to come at you. 

Holidays happen so frequently, and the people seem like they change yearly. It sometimes seems like you are sitting on the outside watching the twilight zone. 

How can perfection reign?  It can’t and what is it, anyway?

 All of the advice and self-help books in America cannot solve this dilemma; because there is really nothing to do.  My only advice to parents on this is to try to relish the entire span of time of the event.  That means: enjoy the planning, enjoy the time that you spend with each child getting ready for the event, and enjoy the anticipation of the milestone.  When my oldest graduated high school, I really enjoyed planning an Open House at our house for that day.  We contracted a caterer, had a special welcome drink, printed special invitations and set up a display table.  It was a fun time for us both.  So many came by to give her a gift, even relatives from out of town.  So even though the graduation ceremony itself may have had its glitches, when we think back on the whole of the time, it has good memories.

 Nothing spoils a Christmas morning like a child who doesn’t get what he wants, whether Santa knew about it or not.  Trust me.  No matter how perfect and grateful your children are (and I know they are), it’s going to happen.  Just so you know, I’m here to assure you that your child is not a selfish, self-centered ingrate and Christmas is not just about Christmas morning.  It’s the sights and sounds and smells.  It’s the worry and expectation and anticipation of what to give and cook and decorate.  It’s the actual decorating, and wrapping and cooking, worshiping and so on.

It’s the SEASON.  That’s a good word for it.

 Look at the whole.  Leave out the bad.  Remember the rest or remember what you want to remember.  Some holidays go better than others.  Do what YOU can to make the holiday or event fun and inclusive.  Include everyone.  Especially in pictures. Try to engage everyone and let him or her know you are happy they are there. Delegate others to take the load off of yourself, like make a dessert; take the kids to the dollar store to buy gifts; do a craft together; give a new game for everyone to play, take the kids to a special movie on Christmas night or the night after.  Get the kids involved.  Moms are not the only ones in charge of an event.  Tell everyone to do something!

 As in a recent blog regarding teenagers and drinking, any discussions you may want to follow up on with your children, I would hold off until the next day.  In the heat of the moment is not the time to chastise.  But, it is well within your rights to let them know how they made you and others feel, and discuss where those behaviors were coming from.  Let them know that you don’t appreciate their behavior, but it hasn’t ruined the entire event.  After all,

The Happiest Days are really the ones that are just that.