Mr. Rogers - that kind spirit of a man - said that during scary times we should look for the helpers.
Christmastime can be scary because some (read: almost all) people get nutty. Normal, good, kind people get nutsos. I don't know what happens: I have visions of my own mother whipping potatoes with that crazy mother glint in her eye. I know it now because I've caught it off an appliance reflection of myself on big days, that look that reveals you're on the verge of happy and crazy or that you've already fallen into a deranged Martha Stewart. When people start trying to be people they are not, it leads to deranged Martha Stewarts and I'm pretty sure that that's a DSM diagnosis.
Here's what I say: when it all gets nuts in your head, when you find yourself cleaning the towel bars because your guests will be there in 15 minutes and you just saw that your towel bars are grubby and you're certain that your guests are going to judge you on your grubby towel bars because that's what guests do (they don't and they're not because they're too busy looking at their own proverbial towel bars), look for the children.
On Christmas, the children ARE the helpers. And by children, I mean the young ones who still remember the magic from which they came, the believers. All year long we may wish for them to be just a little older at certain points of the day, - to put on their own coats, tie their own shoes, wipe their own butts - but today and tomorrow, we win big because we have the babes. The babes are where it's at to feel the feelings of love and magic and wonder without much effort.
When they aren't crazy because of too much (sugar, events, expectations - things we gave them too much of) or too little (sleep, attention, chill time - things we didn't give them enough of because we were so busy making "memories"), they are where it's at. Get on the floor, get a bunch of books, some pillows and blankets (pillows and blankets, in my world, make everything better always), and get in their world. Chill out. Sometimes they chill when we chill (sometimes they go batshit crazy when we chill, so play it by ear here). Focus in. Watch them. Move like them. Talk to them. See them. Do what they want.
Look for the children. There you'll find the wonder. There you'll find the magic. You don't need big and the best and the most and the cleanest. They're good. They're good with small and the good enough and a little and they're grubby a lot and fine with that (well, my kids are kind of fine with that because they have a maniacal mom that makes them wash their hands after eating because I hate gross and greasy hands and so now they do, too. Passing on obsessive behaviors, for the win.)
But really, I hear people wondering how much to spend on each child, how many presents are "enough," how one parent received so much and felt magic and another parent received so little and felt scarcity and yet another received so little and felt abundance and finally another received so much and felt an absence of something and a longing. What I'm trying to say is: we should all be saving for therapy instead of buying more and more plastic junk. We should focus on what THEY are saying and not on what WE are feeling, reliving, trying to make up for, projecting onto them. My kids are each asking for two embarrassingly small gifts. And that's what they're getting. But we are with family in a beautiful place and we are together and spending time together. They are young enough to be over-the-moon excited about it all regardless of the loot that's coming.
The kids are all right. When we are chilled out. When we stay present in this day.
Look for the children. They are the helpers. They are the wonder. And for these few days, when someone tells me I will miss these days when my children are young, I will nod my head ferociously in agreement and lose the unnecessary crazy mother glint in my eye: yes, yes I will. I will miss these days. I will miss the faces of unadulterated wonder.