How to be a holiday mom
FEB 27, 2015
By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register
I knew I wanted to be a holiday mom before either Pinterest or my kids came into being. Long before people were creating virtual alternate realities, I was clipping ideas and recipes for fun things to do with the kids I hoped to have someday.
Clear back in high school, I was going to post-holiday sales to spend my babysitting proceeds buying napkins, cookie cutters and little decorations for my someday life. In fact, I packed that stuff around all through college and many years after.
When one of my best friends got married, my shower gift to her was a collection of such holiday items to pave the path for her future celebrations. We were both first-generation Americans, our parents having come over from The Old Country together, and I thought Old World parents didn’t really celebrate American holidays the way they should.
Imagine my surprise to realize, decades later, that my most cherished decorations each holiday would be the ones from my Old World mom. They include a hand-painted Russian bell my dad smuggled back with some good cheese and sausage.
I actually have the same Christmas tablecloth and napkins my mom used when I was growing up, and quite a few things from childhood. And I also have a collection of items she has sent in the mail for holiday use.
I don’t honestly know how I missed the fact that what I wanted was right under my nose. Now, I make sure she knows I appreciate her myriad thoughtful gestures as I’m creating my own traditions with my boys.
Now I know that even if they don’t seem to get it, they might someday.
And really, it’s not all about them. A lot of what I do is simply because I love to do it.
Other parents get down on the floor and make silly voices to delight their kids. Or they play on the slides at the park. Or they make a hot breakfast every morning. We all have our strengths.
“You know the ones, right? They’re mamas who make heart-shaped bacon for Valentine’s Day? The ones who tape balloons outside their kids’ bedrooms while the kids sleep so they’ll awaken to discover a Balloon Avalanche when they emerge on their birthdays? The ones who hand-stamp thank you cards and actually send them with personal, hand-written notes, sometimes for no good reason at all except they’re grateful and say so with words? The ones who make every teeny, tiny holiday into a GIANT EVENT with banners and party favors? The ones who, technically speaking, make the rest of us look like lazy slugs who don’t have our crap together?
“Yeah, well. Here’s the thing about those moms: Many of them are doing all that because … wait for it … it makes them happy.”
But don’t let things like Pinterest fool you. You can nail it as a holiday mom even if not a single thing turns out the way you imagined.
Allow me to explain how this works.
If you are even considering taking on the role of holiday mom, I encourage you to begin by setting the bar low — very low. Keep reading for instructions on how to accomplish that.
Despite all those clippings and good intentions, let me tell you about how Valentine’s Day went down recently for this self-professed holiday mom. As of Valentine’s morning, nothing was decorated yet.
I planned to do it before the kids woke up to surprise them. But I overslept.
I awoke to the sound of them making breakfast. At their ages, 7 and 5, that included bread, peanut butter, raisins and baking chocolate.
But there had to be some heart-shaped pancakes, I thought. So I hurried downstairs and started making them.
Unfortunately, I burned them as I was looking for some heart-shaped cookie cutters. So I used icing to make hearts and filled them with sprinkles.
They ended up looking kind of weird and gross, though.
“Mom, is that supposed to be a heart?” asked the oldest. “Yeah, it doesn’t really look like a heart,” the youngest responded. And with that, they both commenced eating.
“Tastes good, though, Mom,” said the oldest. “Yeah, it does. Happy Valentimbes Day,” said the youngest, always including a stray ‘b’ sound.
While they were getting dressed, I made a whirlwind effort to get our heart towels up in the bathroom, along with some fun decorations I’ve collected over the years. I put some heart-shaped window clings around the house and decorated the table with a few valentine-themed books.
They came downstairs oohing and ahhing at how “amazing” and “fast” I had decorated. Then we snuggled under blankets to read some books. I thought it was pretty much perfect, despite the insipid or even non-existent plot lines in some of them.
About that collection of decorations I mentioned? Nearly all things my mother has sent me over the years.
The boys spent the rest of the day making “valentimbes” for us and each other.
At bedtime, Sam, the elder of the two, seemed sad. He asked, “Mama, how come we didn’t get a valentine from you?”
Oops. And there have been other merry meltdowns on holidays past.
We once tried to make Christmas cookies in the shapes of snowmen, angels, reindeer and the like. But by the time they came out of the oven, they had morphed into ugly, misshaped blobs, producing a flood of tears.
“But they taste good at least,” they said, munching through hiccupy sniffles. So there’s that.
We’ve made it an annual tradition. We’ve learned to make a game out of guessing which blob is supposed to be what.
I like to think all these merry-making mishaps are helping set a foundation for being resilient people who know it’s OK to be a beginner, it’s OK to fail and, most importantly, you can’t let those things hamper seeing happiness in the little things that at the end of our lives might end up seeming like pretty big things.
I have memories of spending an hour before work trying to make shamrocks out of pretzels and chocolate.
“Mom, what is that supposed to be exactly?” Well, it was supposed to be a shamrock, see? And I showed them the picture.
“It doesn’t look like that,” they said, “but it tastes good.” After all, no matter how it’s shaped, chocolate is still chocolate.
Then they sipped their green shamrock smoothies through a fun straw. They went on to marvel at the Leprechaun tinkle in the toilet.
I love food coloring everywhere but in my kids’ food. And I even let some of that slip through over the holidays, because, you know, colors and sprinkles make everything more fun.
If you’re with me on setting a low bar and having fun with your kids, odds are you will not be featured on Pinterest. Nor will you grace any Awesome Mom blogs.
But you’ll enjoy the likes of National Grilled Cheese Day. Put a candle at the top of a pile of sandwiches, and voila.
Then there’s National S’mores Day. If you have a microwave or an oven, this requires no explanation.
A simple Google search will reveal all kinds of other simple, random and fun days to celebrate as well, with suggestions. You might try baking half a cake to celebrate half-birthdays, for example.
Why? Well, why not?
Childhood is the shortest of all seasons. Cherish it. Better yet, delight in it.
And if your kids are all grown now? Well, who wouldn’t love getting a bag of chips in the mail on March 14, in celebration of National Potato Chip Day.
While you have your calendars out, National Columnists Day rolls around on April 18. Now you know.
The best way I can think of to create an extraordinary life is to treat the ordinary as the gift that it is.
Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They said there would be bon-bons,” which is available at local bookstores or online. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.