I really, really wanted to write a positive, uplifting post today. But December is a frustrating month for me. People who don’t know the first thing about being busy rush around and act like assholes, wearing ugly sweaters, decorating their cars with antlers, and humming Christmas music all the while. There are two things I really struggle to have patience with: idiocy and hypocrisy.
Truthfully, we had an awesome day, filled with Christmas music, dance parties, making our own beeswax candles (they are awesome), and Christmas cards. I am not angry, even with the woman with reindeer antlers on her car who almost ran me over in a Church parking lot, as she rushed to drop her children off for CCD, and despite the ninety minutes I spent staring at my Constitutional Law outline (I had to buy old lady reading glasses at the market – they are so much worse on), it was quote lovely.
Yesterday I wrote about kindness elves over on The Feminist Rosary, and this morning I woke up to several complaints about the Elf on the Shelf on my Newsfeed.
In addition to irritating me the same way any mention of Santa or one of my least favorite elves, I also got to thinking about parenting more generally, and the way we are all living overall.
Stay with me.
The posts I read were along these lines: “Ugh, one day in and I am already sick of moving this stupid elf,” “I’m trying to find the motivation to get up to position the elf,” and “One day in and my creativity is spent on Elf.”
Pretty negative, right? Don’t worry, these posts will turn to humble brags at some point over the next few weeks before returning to complaints (I would set the O/U at around 12/18).
I’ve said before, I don’t want this to become a place where I simply complain about my life and/or all of the people in it, or my Facebook newsfeed. If I have a problem with someone or something, I want to be kind and direct. I try to be careful about using what other people say or do for that very reason. I also try not to judge others, but that seems to be a bit out of reach this week, so I’m just going to go with it, in the hope that once it’s out, it’s out.
I will be first to admit I’m not perfect.
Last year I had a conversation with an extended family member (with whom I was already annoyed) about her Elf. Her kids were getting older, and she complained that they still believed in Santa at all, and also worried that at some point, they were going to be made fun of. Given their ages, her concerns were probably valid, but coming from me that doesn’t mean much, because even my two year old knows it’s pretend.
Anyway, she went on and on about how she’s just too busy to keep moving the elf (she doesn’t work at all, her kids are in school all day, she has a housekeeper and several nannies after school, so I guess I can’t totally relate), and that other parents had taken it too far and forced her to take it there, with notes and little presents or candies. She just wanted the whole thing to stop. But really, she just wanted an excuse to bitch about something.
Setting aside for a moment that some people are just that way, and there is nothing to be done about that, it does seem like as a whole, we spend a lot of time complaining about things we have to do that we don’t really have to do.
Again, I’m not perfect, and I do it. I frequently volunteer to do things with the best of intentions and then realize I don’t have as much time or expertise as I had imagined, and I curse myself under my breath as I do it. Last year, I made each child a special Christmas present. Our oldest daughter got a giant envelope filled with smaller envelopes containing notes. The little envelopes said things like, “Open when you need to remember how much I love you,” or “Open when you want to laugh.” Our middle two each received handmade alphabet books. HW and I were up until something like 2 am drawing animals and decorating letters with glitter. The baby, well, the baby got some breastmilk and a nice long snuggle when we were finished. I don’t remember, but I’m sure I swore like a sailor when my elephant looked like a donkey and I licked envelopes that tasted like garbage water. But I wasn’t mad because I thought it was a bad idea, or because I didn’t want to do it. I was mad because I waited too long to finish (partially out of fear they would find it), and because my tired fingers were not working the way I expected. Also, I had a three month old son who was still figuring out how the whole sleep thing works.
I am sure (most) Elf mothers have good intentions. They want to create happy and fun memories for their children. But not only do I think the Elf is a bad idea (and extremely creepy), I also think we all need to learn how to just say no. I read something once that said the average person doesn’t really learn how to say “no” until age twenty-five. Most of us are at least that age by the time we get ourselves into these things.
This parenting thing is not a competition. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who baked the most cookies, or who made the biggest elf mess. What does matter is whether you enjoyed it, because kids always know. They can sense misery miles away, and they will resent you for it.
There is a simple solution. Find something you actually want to do, something that will influence your child in a positive way, and share it with him or her or them. For me, that means Kindness Elves in this case, but maybe for you it means something else. It doesn’t even have to be something you’re good at, or something you know how to do. I barely knew how to boil pasta when my oldest daughter was born.
And beyond parenting, this same idea applies. I know we live in the real world, I think we covered that yesterday. We all have bills to pay, clothes to wash, whatever. There are things in life we don’t want to do, but we have to do. That’s part of life, part of being a grown up. But every once in a while, it’s worth looking around and asking, “Is this what I want my life to look like?” and if the answer is absolutely not, figure out what’s wrong.
Life is too short to bitch about moving Elf on the Shelf his first day out of the box.