Every year about this time I start thinking about writing the Christmas Letter. You know, the letter that you send out with an adorable picture of your kids telling all of your near and dear just how fabulous your family is. The Christmas Letter is sort of like a resume, you dig out all of your collective accomplishments of the past year, polish them, and then play down the unsavory stuff to prove that you are indeed supermom of a near perfect family. You top it off with just a touch of appreciation and humility so that the people you send it to will give you their stamp of approval and not think you too full of yourself.
The Christmas Letter is written partly as a misguided attempt to prove to the world that I’m striving to live up to the Savior’s call to “be ye therefore perfect” as well as a defense against the letters I know are coming my way from my truly talented friends. It’s important to make sure that I’m performing at a level similar to them or I lose the game, and as a competitive soul I hate to lose.
The letter I send out usually goes something like this:
Dearest Loved Ones,
What a blessed year we have had as a family. My hubby Buns and I have been working hard, volunteering in the local schools, supporting our talented and brilliant children in their pursuits, serving faithfully in church callings, and going to school ourselves with amazing results.
Our eldest son is 16 this year and the star of the football team, son number two is 15 and a bona fide prodigy at the Baritone, our beautiful daughter is 9 and a straight A student, and the baby of the family is in Kindergarten and is unusually talented in scientific pursuits.
We wish you and yours a wonderful New Year and appreciate your friendship more than we can say.
All of that is mostly true with some literary embellishment thrown in, but if we are going to be 100% honest it should read something like this:
Holy Cats! Is it really time to write this stupid letter again?
Anydoodles, it has been a busy year. Buns and I are keeping this whole operation going with sweat, sheer determination, and a whole lot of divine intervention.
Unsurprisingly, we were both roped into time consuming volunteer activities at the kids’ schools and motivated to accept the positions mostly out of guilt. That’s what good parents do, right? It’s fulfilling to help create a better school but most of the time it involves working at the concession stand for home games. Popcorn anyone?
Along with full time work, school, being the town taxi, and trying intermittently to have Family Home Evening and scripture study, I cling to sanity and from time to time actually get everything done. Buns and I both have church callings that require copious amounts of prep time but mine usually gets about 30 minutes of attention early Sunday mornings followed by prayers of repentance that “next week I promise to spend more time on this Father if you will only help me out this one time”.
The kids are great. Son #1 plays football but has spent most of the season with one sort of injury or another; injuries that make his mother hyperventilate to the point of unconsciousness. I am proud of him for sticking to it, but spend abundant amounts of time trying to figure out what will happen if I tell my kid it is ok to quit something he has committed to. Will it teach him to abandon any difficult situation that comes up for the rest of his life, dooming him to live as a slacker in a van down by the river? Will it destroy his future as a competent member of society?
Son #2 is a phenomenal baritone player in the band and spends ridiculous amounts of time practicing with them. All of which is required by the band teacher who seems to have no idea that parents actually want to see their children more than 10 minutes a week. I am proud of him and excited the band does so well but once again feel miserable for whining about the schedule they have him on.
Our daughter is a straight A student. This happens despite the fact that I forget on a regular basis to have her study her 3nd grade spelling words. I also allow her to watch idiot cartoons from time to time that will reportedly “rot her brain”. On top of this she basically lives on mac and cheese and grapes and I am too tired to fight her into eating her green vegetables.
Son #3 is adorable and bright even though we are not teaching him Spanish or tutoring him in quantum mechanics as Sesame Street informed me is required. We try, but like everything else it is an uphill battle. He is obsessed with tornados and draws a picture of one in school every morning. His teacher is convinced that we regale him with scary stories of storms all the time since he is so worked up about it. Really I think it comes down to the fact that we let him watch “Storm Chasers” with us, another parenting no-no. I’m sure in the official handbook it says something about not exposing 6 year olds to high drama reality TV even if it is somewhat scientific in nature.
Hope you are all surviving. Can’t wait to get your letters so that I can compare my life to yours and realize even more acutely that I’m a terrible mother. Merry Christmas!
Obviously, when my brain takes me on this little adventure every year I have fallen into one of the great traps of the adversary. It is designed to get me to body slam my own psyche with piles of guilt and focuses me on all the wrong things. The Lord never said perfect meant that every minute of every day we have to live like a family of airbrushed catalog models. What He asks is that we follow His commandments which all comes down to loving others.
Does the Lord want me to have the figure of Heidi Klum, an IQ of 212, as much money as Donald Trump, and never ever make a mistake? Does He expect me to parent as if I had a PhD in Child Psychology, keep a spotless home, have perfect kids, and be the most amazing Sunday School teacher the world has ever known? Of course not.
What He wants me to do is love my family, neighbors, and even my enemies. He wants me to spend time serving them. He wants me to strive to do that perfectly and even in that effort I am going to come up short.
Elder Nelson helps with this.
“We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments.”
So note to self: drop the guilt, stop running yourself into the ground for not being June Cleaver and just do what you can do. Your kids are going to turn out alright even if you’re not Wonder Woman. Your family and friends will still love you if you’re human from time to time. If your friends and relatives are phenomenal feel blessed to have them in your life and stop comparing yourself to them. The Lord loves you and with His help you’ll get to perfection eventually, and it is going to be awesome.
How do you keep from focusing on worldly expectations?
In what ways can we be more authentic with others?