The Perfect Christmas Gift

It’s that wonderful time of year where my children view every retail destination as if it’s FAO Schwarz. Whether we’re food shopping in Walmart or making a restroom stop at a gas station, they’ll hold up some toy they’ve spied and give me their best Puss-in-Boots eyes. Usually, by the time they sit down to write their letters to Santa, they have forgotten most of the things they had pleaded for, which suits me just fine. However, this year proved otherwise.

With the help of her big sister, my five-year-old wrote out her Christmas list rather early. Among other things, she’d written down an American Girl doll, a giant Beanie Boo, a Kindle, and lots of Legos. But it didn’t end there. On and on and on it went. Everything from sneakers to pajamas to hair bows. She took inventory of her sister’s room and recorded anything she’d seen that she herself didn’t own. She wrote till the construction paper ran out and the marker went dry. She may as well have scribbled the lyrics to “Santa Baby” while she was at it.

“You have a lot of expensive things on that list.” I told her.

“Mom,” she sighed as if I were the five-year-old, “Santa doesn’t buy the presents, he makes them.”

I couldn’t help thinking that my five-year-old was outsmarting me at Christmas, a sure sign that we were in trouble.

“You know,” I told her, “You’re only supposed to ask for three things: something you want, something you need, and something to read.” I later found out that something to wear is also included in this minimalist version of the Christmas list, but she was getting the gist.

My nine-year-old was suddenly curious. “Really? Is that like, a rule?”

“Well, it’s not a rule so much as a guideline.”

My five-year-old, in all her wisdom, pointed to her list. “Something to read: Kindle.”

I’m certain I rolled my eyes.

I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the consumerism that is Christmas. This year, I felt it more than ever when I couldn’t find a single gourd for my Thanksgiving table yet poinsettias were aplenty. We hadn’t even carved our turkey and they were selling me fruitcake.

As a parent, I struggle with not wanting to spoil my children at Christmas, while still hoping to dazzle them with the magic that Santa brings. But this year, Santa was already exhausted, and he hadn’t even started shopping yet.

In an article humorously titled “Christmas is Ruined by Children,” Trevor Mitchell states, “parents these days are time-poor and over-compensate for this by indulging their offspring.”

Mitchell may be right; when it comes to time, there isn’t even a jingle in my pocket. And in Christmases past, I had indulged my offspring. While staring at the piles of wrapped boxes, I would often ask my husband, “Do you think that’s enough?” No matter his answer, I would find a way to sneak in an extra trip to Target for a few more stocking stuffers.

This year, however, I just can’t Christmas.

Sure, my tree is up and there’s lights on the house, but every time I set foot in a store, I have a visceral reaction that makes me flee.

Take a mother’s mental load and add in a major holiday where children’s happiness is at stake, and it’s a recipe for a spontaneous midlife crisis. It’s no wonder that I often find myself having a psychotic break come Christmas.

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My psychotic break, unfortunately, does not resemble this scene from Bad Moms 2.

As I tucked my kids in the other night, I pulled Once Upon a North Pole Christmas from the bookcase for their bedtime story. Dot, our Elf, had delivered it as a special treat the year before. In it, the grown-ups are grumpy and tired, “trying too hard to make Christmas too perfect or running around everywhere.”

A story I thought was intended for children, turns out, might have been for me.

Shoot, even the Grinch comes to realize a few things before his book is through.

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The truth is, when I came right out and asked my kids what they were most looking forward to this Christmas, my oldest didn’t hesitate. “Spending time with family” she said, and then after a brief pause, “and eating quiche.” Despite her long list, even my youngest rattled off a good three or four things before any mention of gifts.

And so, this Christmas, rather than going to ugly sweater parties and standing in check-out lines, I want to stay in my pajamas and abuse Amazon Prime. Rather than feverishly baking cookies to exchange and sending out Christmas cards, I want to order pizza and play Parcheesi. Rather than giving more presents, I want to give more presence. If I can figure out how to do that, I think it will be the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on my list.

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Dear Husband,

It’s been eleven years since we’ve wed and we have come to a pivotal point in our relationship whereby it is necessary to renegotiate the terms of our contract.

This morning, as I was pulling up my stockings, I let one slip. It was audible, and as I glanced at our bed, I was relieved that you had already gotten up to make yourself a cup of coffee. Our daughter, with headphones on and iPad in hand, was oblivious to my morning salute.

I grew up in a family where farts were, and still are, hilarious. I can clearly picture my grandpa, with his tanned skin and thick gray hair, asking in feigned innocence, “Who stepped on a frog?” His smile would always betray him.

My father has always been a fan of the old “pull my finger” trick. It delighted him so to simultaneously cut the cheese as one gave his pointer a tug. Long after we knew better, we reluctantly played along just to avoid disappointing him.

I know you find humor in human hydrogen bombs too. Remember the first time my mother had us over for dinner after we were engaged? She let one rip in the kitchen and gleefully announced, “Welcome to the family!” Just like that, you were christened.

Together, we laughed till we cried over a fart machine cleverly taped beneath a dining room chair at Thanksgiving or tucked between the sofa cushions in the first home we shared. Even the memory of a well-timed wind serves to amuse.

Still, despite the joy that flatulence has brought to my life, I have, for over a decade, tried my best to shield you from the gas I expel, with one exception: pregnancy.

In the nine months that my body was taken over, I lost all bodily control. I remember the night that I lumbered out of bed for the sixth or seventh time to go to the bathroom. While lowering my big belly and even bigger bottom, a toilet-bowl fart echoed through the night and roused you from your slumber. You–who have slept through earthquakes, screaming babies, and smoke detector alarms. There was a strange look on your face, a mix of horror and amusement, when you realized the source of the sound that woke you hadn’t come from your alarm clock, but rather from my back door.

A few weeks later, we found ourselves in the hospital giving birth to our first baby girl. She was so precious and tiny that it caught us off guard that very first night when we heard a man-fart erupt from our newborn daughter. We stared at each other in disbelief. How could something so small wallop with such gusto? Suddenly, those three trimesters of trouser coughs all made sense. It wasn’t me; it was her!

 As soon as I resumed control of myself again, I quickly returned to the self-imposed prison I had created. For over a decade, I have clenched my cheeks, I have stepped outside to walk Donald, I have blamed my SBDs on the dogs.

Having children has filled our lives with music, and we have found their symphonies entertaining, yet despite the few times I accidentally joined the band, I have tried my best not to toot my own horn in your presence.

Yet knocking on 40’s door, things are starting to go. I see it in my skin. I feel it in my body. I smell it in the air. These days, I find myself losing control more and more, and it happens when I least expect it: pushing a shopping cart in the grocery store, bending over to tie my shoe, blow drying my hair.

I can no longer blame my butt burps on a baby, but I also can no longer keep my bombers at bay. It’s only a matter of time before I am one of those women in yoga who applauds her own downward dog.

And so, Dear Husband, as we enter a new stage of our relationship, one that you neither asked for nor can deny, please remember: If I blow you a kiss with my bum, it’s only because I love you.

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