Holiday Blues

Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels

I normally love the holidays. Like, in a really over the top, cliché kind of way. I put up lights and decorations anywhere I can (within reason for a house with a toddler running around), as soon as I can. I will accept any excuse to have a festive bev – warm and wholesome or chilled and boozy, I do not discriminate. I crank up the holiday music as soon as it’s acceptable (Thanksgiving is my stance), and I plan out our month of holiday light tours as soon as festive events in DC are announced. I research recipes and bake as many cookies as I can, starting on December 1. In short, I am the Grinch’s nightmare.

But this year, I’m really struggling to create that holiday magic, as much as I want to, especially for our two-year-old son. I keep making plans to make our house and our holiday season feel festive, but then pushing them off, asking myself, does it really matter? I feel like I’m not alone in this though. For one, there is still a global pandemic raging. Even with a vaccine rolling out, we’re still so far from COVID being gone. And in doing our part to slow it down, we’re missing loved ones, our normal lives, and, depending on your situation, space to ourselves or human connection in any form. Secondly, we have an economy that is in the toilet thanks to said pandemic. While my family is doing OK, and we’re trying to do as much as we can so that others in our community are as well, it’s really hard to feel jolly when you know so many people are suffering. And third, we just came off a really rough election season, and while I am happy with the outcome, along with 80 million+ other folks, I don’t think anyone feels great about the lead up or the aftermath (which also is seemingly unending).

I’ve so rarely had holidays where I just wasn’t in the spirit that this really stands out to me. The only other years I felt like this were when I lived in Chicago and was at my getting-out-of-bed-is-hard lowest point depression wise. I remember commuting home from work on the bus, seeing everyone else full of cheer as the holidays approached, and just feeling nothing. I was so relieved to escape that feeling when I moved to DC (NB: changing cities doesn’t solve all of your problems, but sometimes a change of scenery really can help!) that when this feeling started creeping in this December, it was really noticeable. This year, thankfully, I don’t feel nothing, but I do feel tired, and worn down and disappointed that I feel this way, especially when I really want to make it special for our son (and selfishly, for me!). 

I don’t really have a solution or a neat resolution to this blog post, but I figured I’m not the only one feeling this way. Are you struggling this holiday season or are you somehow full of your usual cheer? Are you doing anything to make it special, despite this year being extra weird?

PS- In the spirit of giving it the old college try when it comes to holiday cheer, and not ending on such a bummer note, I’ll leave you with my top seven favorite holiday songs, in no particular order. There are very few holiday songs that I don’t like, but these are the ones I never skip. Happy(ish) Holidays!

  1. “This Christmas”: will listen to pretty much any version
  2. “What Christmas Means To Me”: strong preference for the Stevie Wonder version, but John Legend’s is also acceptable
  3. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”: Darlene Love is the original and the best, but I also love The Eagles version
  4. “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”: this David Bowie and Bing Crosby song just checks all of my holiday song boxes. Also, please watch the entire cheesy skit from the 70s Christmas special to get the full effect.
  5. “O Holy Night”: any version by a powerhouse female vocalist. Partial to Christina Aguilera’s version, even if there are a few unnecessary runs in there.
  6. “Night of Silence/Silent Night”: my Catholic school choir kid is showing with this one, but it’s just so beautiful.
  7. “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”: Harry Connick Jr.’s version tops the list for me.

Can I Tell You How I’m Turning Into My Mother?

Photo by Flora Westbrook from Pexels

Can I tell you how I’m turning into my mother? 

I remember weekend mornings, my mom the first one up. Carrying a mug of coffee from room to room, her hair not quite in place, wearing her terrycloth pink bathrobe over flannel pajamas, almost year round, as we figured out what to do for the day. As we got older, Saturdays and Sundays were more scheduled with swim meets and tennis matches and dashing off to see friends, but the image of these weekend mornings at home is seared into my mind. 

Nowadays, since we never leave the house, every day feels like a weekend, and I feel myself slipping more and more into that memory. The other day, my son asked me to play and we sat on the ground with blocks, him with his water cup, me with a mug full of no-longer-hot coffee. We built a train and pretended to race it along an imaginary track, as I breathed my coffee breath his way while we giggled. 

The other day, I ordered my second pair of flannel PJs for the holidays, after slipping into the first pair early, in the midst of my election anxiety, and discovering what a comfort they were. I also ordered a plush bathrobe for myself for Christmas (which my husband has agreed to wrap so I can pretend to be surprised and delighted in December), though mine is chenille and gray, because the idea of donning what amounts to a wearable blanket, during these months of endless, dayless days, sounded pretty good. Maybe Mom had the right idea. 

As much as I’m looking forward to a return to normal (whatever that will mean), with activities and restaurants and daycare, I’m trying to soak these mornings up, where I feel at least a little like my mom, and wonder if she felt like me, watching her children grow and figure things out as she sipped her coffee before really starting the day. 

I don’t know if this is just the circle of life doing its thing, or if I’m turning into my own special iteration of my mom, but I’m holding my lukewarm mug of coffee and these memories close.

Why I’m Not a Mommy Blogger

When talking both about my writing and about things I’ve learned about parenting, I’ve had a few friends say to me, “OMG, you should be a mommy blogger!” I do love to talk about motherhood, including birth stories, nursing/feeding, sleep schedules and tricks, and the weird things that kids love to play with that are not toys. I’ve recommended tips, tricks, and products that my friends who are parents or parents-to-be have reported back on, saying, “this saved us! Thank you!”

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

But I am not going to become a parenting blogger. A few reasons:

  1. My kid has been (so far) pretty easy. I do not say this to brag, but really, in his whole 22 months of life, he has had maybe 4 weeks of really bad sleep. And with the exception of when he is teething, he eats like a champ and is pretty happy. We have some toddler meltdowns over here, but they really don’t seem like anything out of the ordinary, and once he lets it out, he’s back to playing happily. He has not yet faced any developmental issues, and he has been on track (if not well ahead of the curve) on growth milestones. I’m not saying he’s perfect by any means, but with the exception of the funny things he has started saying or doing, or the dumb parenting mistakes we’ve made (ahem, being smug about how easy your kid is? IDK), it’s not that interesting! He eats, he sleeps, he poops, he says funny things, he’s fine and pretty delightful! But what I’m more interested in writing about is how parents’ identities (especially moms’) change when they welcome a child into their lives, and the conflict there, not what I fed him for breakfast (oatmeal, for the 243rd morning in a row).
  2. I’m not a “stuff” person when it comes to my kid. This child outgrows things in mere weeks sometimes, so we tend to not buy him a lot if we can help it (hand-me-down clothes and toys have been our saving grace here). This is not to say I don’t like stuff. I am not immune to the high that comes with the perfect new pair of booties or the random kitchen gadget you didn’t know you couldn’t live without (that my husband makes great use of). But I can probably count on two hands the number of things that I felt were must-haves for my son in the past almost two years of his life. Will I maybe do a roundup of those things at some point? Sure, why not? But could I talk about a product or service I liked for my kid every week or even multiple times a week? Probably not, and I don’t want to force it, when there are so many people who are already good at it and who do it genuinely. But for those curious, I will say: Taking Cara Babies, Peanut changing pad, and maternity leggings worn well after your baby is born for those who hate nursing tanks but also dislike being cold.
  3. I want to write about other stuff. And not have to tie it back to being a mom somehow. When I’m writing, I first and foremost think of myself as a writer, as a person who tells stories and works through things with words. And sometimes, those stories are about my son, or I work through my complicated feelings about motherhood in my writing. But my writing has never been about one thing, and now that I’m a mom, I don’t want that to change. So while I have huge respect for the women who have carved out a niche for themselves in the parenting space (and I have benefited hugely from your recs and experiences!), that is likely never going to be me. I will write about being a mom, but I will also write about high school and college memories that I’m excavating and examining later in life and about the struggle to determine what exactly I want to do with this life I’ve been given. For some parenting bloggers, writing about this one, somewhat broad topic is so freeing and life-affirming. For me, it’s limiting. Both are OK.

So being a mommy blogger is not for me, despite being a writer who happens to be a mom. But bless the moms (and dads!) that can write about parenting and their kids every single day, when I can barely get out a post a week about whatever the hell it is I think about on a daily basis.