Five years ago, I had the wonderful idea to create a new family holiday tradition. My idea was pulled from my love affair with Pinterest and Instagram, and coupled with my compulsion to provide my kids with the most enchanted childhood that has ever existed. I decided we would cut down our very own Christmas tree.
This by itself was a very dumb idea, however, I decided to one-up my own, “Living our best life,” social media filled shenanigans by inviting my good friend who also happens to be a photographer to photograph the event for our family Christmas photos. Oh, and it was also our wedding anniversary. Let’s just say, I like to do things big.
I woke up early that morning gleefully excited with anticipation of our new family tradition. I filled a thermos with creamy hot chocolate, made a delicious batch of fluffy pancakes and woke my son for what was sure to be the best day of his life.
The day started a little rough. It was negative ten billion degrees, and my son wanted nothing to do with the pancakes. However, we had pictures to take and family traditions to create so we braved the freezing cold and left for the Christmas tree farm with his stomach empty.
Okay, I admit this was not the best start, but I was determined to make this work. We were making family traditions, we were living our best life, and it would be joyful… I muttered through clenched teeth.
Our trip to the Christmas tree farm was supposed to be fifteen minutes but somehow turned into a solid hour drive. We got out of the car, cold, hungry, and frustrated. Most people would have given up right there, but I’m not like most people. I have this weird desire when things aren’t going well to double down and make the best of things. I am oddly competitive with myself and if I have an idea, I am not going to stop until it happens. Instead of bailing like a sane person would do, I gave myself a pep talk: I am going to be the perfect mix of Super Nanny and Mary Poppins. I am going to make this the best day of my child’s life, I am going to make this family tradition happen.
My son had different plans, and perhaps a different motto altogether. He wanted nothing to do with cutting down the tree. He refused to pose for a photo without a dollar store plastic fish in his hand. He screamed and cried. He wouldn’t stop, and even being pushed in a big bright red sled didn’t provide any Pinterest holiday magic. The outing ended with me picking him up over my shoulder and carrying him back to the car while he was screaming at the top of his lungs and my good friend/photographer followed us to the car.
Carrying thirty screaming child pounds over your shoulder in negative ten billion degrees isn’t exactly what holiday season dreams are made of.
To make matters worse, I looked up and what I saw was every other family having the time of their life. To me, it seemed like every other family at that Christmas tree farm was making their own family traditions. Every other family… but not us.
This made me feel like a failure. My first instinct was to think, “What is wrong with me as a mother?” (My husband would like to point out that my second instinct was to take out my frustrations on him.) Negative thoughts started to fill my head.
…I am a fraud. I suck at parenting. I am a bad mom. Why do I have the kid who doesn’t enjoy all that I do for them? I am failing at everything…
Why am I telling you my tale of misery? For self-pity? To be a martyr? To give you a good laugh (hopefully, the last one is a little bit true). No, I am telling you my tale because my gut says that you have been there too or maybe you are there right now.
I feel like most of my time when I was a new mother, my outings ended in this fashion. Expectations, dreams, and failure. Now that my children are a little bit older and I am able to look outside our walking circus, I realize that I am not a fraud and I am not a failure. I realize that my child just isn’t that into cutting down Christmas trees to make family traditions and that gas station pop up Christmas tree stores aren’t so bad after all.