The fear of a bad Christmas; or, not another “the real gift isn’t under the tree” post

IMG_2371.jpgAround this time of year I tend to catch myself acting weird, and realize in astonishment (every year!) that I’m feeling some low-level anxiety about Christmas. Consistently and inexplicably, I worry that The Kids Will Not Have A Good Christmas.

Where does this come from? Why does it not collapse under the weight of its own complete improbability? I mean really, what kid ends a morning of opening gifts and says, “that was the worst”? OK, I realize this is a hugely privileged statement; obviously families that struggle with abuse, poverty, food/housing insecurity can definitely have a terrible holiday season. But that’s not the situation for my kids, so why do I keep telling myself the story that Christmas is a time that I’m in danger of displeasing them? I don’t seem to worry about this at breakfast on Jan 11, for example.

Giving gifts is weird. When you give someone something, you make an anticipatory decision about what they want or what they might enjoy. It’s a strange kind of defining action, a test of the gift giver’s knowledge of the gift getter. To excel (because I love to excel in all things), you have to go deeper than what the person *says* she wants, into the depth of her unexpressed desires. I get it, it shows connection and intimacy. It’s also an exercise in deep vulnerability. “I think I found a material object that will please you,” says the wrapped package. “Let’s see how right I am.”

So yeah, the holidays — if you celebrate them with a raft of material-gift-giving like I tend to — is a vulnerable time, with multiple chances to love your loved ones in the wrong way, or with the wrong thing. (Whose idea was this, anyway?) I want it to be fun and relaxed and exciting and fulfilling. But at the same time, I carry all these expectations and fears and they make it hard to do the fun stuff because my hands are already pretty full. Also, dread makes me hungry so my hands are also full of cookies, argh.

I hope this year (and every year) that I can put down the fear of failure long enough to embrace the vulnerability and accept the chaos. I hope you can too.


  1. Andrea_R says:

    I too have this fear creep up on me. Smushing it down though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Does it help to smush it down with cookies? Because maybe I’m not smushing it right. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, yes, yes. I vacillate between the “it’s not enough” feeling and the “my kids are spoiled rotten with stuff, I’m going to turn them into brats with all these gifts” feeling. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I swing between those extremes too, and it’s really hard! But this might just be the way it is, I don’t know. I mean, if gifts are an expression of love, then no collection of gifts will ever be enough because my love is inexpressibly deep. But if I’m so deep into the gift giving that I’m too stressed to show any other kind of love this time of year (I’m not; also there are the aforementioned cookies), then I can see how the kids could come to value only the physical gifts and not the special togetherness time, which for adults has such richness.

      Liked by 1 person

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