I’m feeling like a failure at the moment. There are so many balls in the air, demands and pressures that I’m just not keeping up. And the one area that I really feel I’m being distinctively average at lately is parenting: because I’m not doing enough to make this holiday time magical for my kids.
Where does this inner dialogue come from though? There’s a clear answer: social media. And although social media is to blame a teeny bit, I know that the primary responsibility of monitoring my usage, and of monitoring how I REACT to what I see on there, lies squarely with me. But I also completely know why I feel this way. This is how my thought process goes:
Scrolling through Instagram: Oh look, that mom has made her own advent calendar using recyclable educational wooden toys. Shiiiiiiiiit ADVENT CALENDARS – I forgot! *rushes off to Woolies on 31 November only to hear that they are out of stock. Runs to Pick n Pay and wrestles the last overpriced Lindt one from under another mother’s nose. Thinks back to the days when I was a kid and all we found behind the little windows were random festive pictures (not chocolates). And also how our parents made us reuse them, so we had to sticky-tape the windows closed again and act all surprised next year when we opened them up again.
Fast forward to the next day when I glimpse some gorgeous reindeer cookies another mother has made with her child. Baking! I MUST bake something with these kids of mine! And the Ina Paarman Brownie mix doesn’t count. Or does it?
Next day: sees multiple imaginative places friends have hidden the Elf on the Shelf, and handwritten notes and magical dust they have sprinkled. Compares it to last night when we had a few glasses of wine and we forgot to move our blasted elf, so we had to scream downstairs at 5:55am and toss her from above the stove to into the grocery cupboard.
Other days: sees pantomimes parents are at with their littles ones, mother & kid crafting tables, DIY wrapping paper, gingerbread houses people are decorating, all the festive wreaths I’m not making and table settings people are already planning for the 25th.
Why am I such a failure?
Although am I really? No. Because the mom making the cookies is probably not the same one hand-making wrapping paper. Or the same one that has made her own tree with artwork the kids produced all year. Most of the time at least, these are completely different people but they begin to form this one ideal in my mind of how the “perfect parent” is acting over the holidays, and how everyone is doing a better job than me.
But this needs to stop because it is damaging to our own happiness. Because we’ll always feel “less than”. Because we’ll cause ourselves stress, when all our kids really want is time with us, whether we’re singing a silly carol, or lying outside on the grass, or heading to the beach with an empty yoghurt container in our bags (I keep meaning to remember to buy a new bucket and spade and I keep forgetting).
Does this mean I look down on those who make an effort? Not at all! In fact, I’m clearly envious of their festive and magical skills. But I need to monitor my reaction to everything I see, lest I become confused about an ideal that’t not even real. I need to remember that we had very little of these activities or shows growing up, and our childhoods were not short on magic. Not at all.
So of course they’ll get presents – although some may be last minute Crazy Store vibes.
There will be delicious food too, planned much closer to the time, when I’m not up to my ears in work deadlines.
There may be nice table decor but there may also just be some shells the kids picked up on the beach because we’re staying in a rented house.
But there will be love and laughter. Warm days and cold drinks. Full bellies and sandy feet. A blessed life and a memorable holiday season, albeit not a “perfect” one. Who’s with me?