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‘Tis the season to slack: 10 ways I’m not quite cutting it as a mom right now

Erin Zammett Ruddy

The Ruddys love Christmas. We do not let it encroach on our love for Thanksgiving (or the month of November), but the second December hits, we break out the Vince Guaraldi Trio, the Christmas books, the red and green candles and the poinsettias and we get down. Alex and Nora are really into it this year, which makes it even more fun. But amidst all this mistletoe and holly, I’ve been noticing my parenting skills getting a bit sluggish and I hear myself thinking, “Well, it’s the holidays….” Here’s what I mean:


I’ve been saying “Santa is watchingmore than I’d like. Also: “Santa wouldn’t like that, Al” and “C’mon, dude, what about Santa?!” In other words, I let Santa do the parenting for me (I do not, however, say, “Santa only bring toys to good boys and girls” because, well, that’s just not true). Of course Alex told me all he wants for Christmas is an iPhone (don’t ask) and when I told him he should probably keep working on his list he said, “Well, mom, Santa can definitely hear me because he probably has his window open right now so he’ll know I want an iPhone.” Backfire.


My kids are watching excessive amounts of Christmas-themed TV. Because there are too many can’t-miss classics on (and because there’s such thing as DVR), my kids have tuned in for The Grinch, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, etc, etc, etc. more times than I care to count. Sure, these flicks are phenomenal (if a little creepy—um, Burgermeister Meisterburger?), but suddenly we’re all lying in my bed singing Da Who Doraze at 7:30 on a Tuesday morning.


I have Elf on the Shelf but he’s never actually been on the shelf. I just don’t feel like doing it because, honestly, it seems like a lot of work (what if I forget to move him?) and I already have Santa helping out directly with the behavior thing. When my nephew, Andrew, came over and saw the elf lying listless on the floor of the playroom he was shocked and appalled. Poor, elf-deprived Alex tried to calm him down: “Andrew, it’s just a stuffed man, it’s not real.” Oh, the horror!


I let Alex watch A Christmas Story. Nick and I queued it up with him during Nora’s nap on Saturday. Between the gun use, the bullying, the sticking of tongues to poles, the major award and the F-bombs, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be nominated for Mother of the Year. Not surprisingly, Alex has been chanting “you’ll shoot your eye out” ever since. What’s worse: I think it’s funny.  


I let Nora break a big, beautiful snow globe. I didn’t give her permission, per se, but I took my eyes off her for exactly one second while she was admiring it and, well, in her world that’s a green light. Shards of glass and water and glitter and fake snow went smashing down from their perch on my kitchen table and exploded all over the floor. All I wanted to do was reheat my coffee, which is why I’d turned around in the first place. It was a rookie mistake and I am not a rookie. But lately I feel like one.


This: Nora and Alex have a Little People nativity set that I bring out every year. Nora has taken a shine to the baby Jesus and carries “her” around and puts “her” in the stroller and the crib and also yells at it: “No kai-ing, baby, you need to REYAX!!!!” This seems wrong. It also seems wrong that Alex explained to Nora that Jesus is “that guy at church, you know, the, um, the, um, prast.” I guess it’s time to start going to church more often.


Gnomeo and Juliet. Nora has developed a slight addiction over the past week or so and Nick and I are doing little to stop it because, well, see snow globe incident, above. Nora, who will be two in January, has never cared about TV (which is a good thing, of course, and we try not to let either of our kids watch much) but with kids like ours occasionally you need a break. Especially since there’s a lot Nick and I are trying to get done around the house to prepare for all the Christmas entertaining we do. Lately that break has come in the form of two little gnomes running around to Elton John music. This morning, when Nora woke up, she said, “I need to watch Gnomeo and Julia with you Mama, it’s my favorite.” How could I say no?


I have not bought a single present for a single person. And I have to buy for a lot. I’m still hoping someone in the family declares this a “let’s just be happy to be together” Christmas, but I doubt it. Nora told us last night that she wants “a treat, a bright flashlight and a basket” so at least she’ll be easy.


Christmas cookies, cakes, pies, chocolates, candy canes and every other sugared-up treat that will pass through my children’s lips without much protest from me over the next few weeks.


I’ve been staying in bed later than I should. In fairness, I’ve been sick on and off for two weeks but I am also someone who needs eight hours. Nick does not require nearly as much so he’s been taking the kids downstairs and letting me sleep “in” a little lately (we’re talking 7:45 on a weekday). Since daylight savings, my kids have been inching closer to 7 a.m. wakeups and that’s early for us (particularly if it’s 6:58 instead of 7:01—psychologically it makes a huge difference). I didn’t realize it was an issue until Alex said to me yesterday out of the blue, “Mom, you sleep late. The other day when I woke up I thought you were behind me on the stairs but it was daddy and then we were eating egg sandwiches at the table and you weren’t there because you were sleeping.” The shame! He might as well have said I was out turning tricks.


Now, just so I don’t feel too bad about myself, there are a few things I’ve done this season that make me feel like a kick-ass holiday mom, including, in no particular order, taking my kids to the Christmas parade in our town (parades are a challenge with my two), decorating the house and adding some new flare (garland roping and lights on the fence), ordering our super-cute Christmas card and, last but not least, planning a trip to cut down our Christmas tree this weekend instead of our usual family tradition of grabbing one from Home Depot. We’ll see how this goes. It’s supposed to be cold on Saturday so we may be hitting the Depot after all….


So, do you let stuff slide when it comes to your kids during the holidays or is it business as usual at your house? Do you use the holidays as an excuse for sub-par pareting? Please tell me I’m not the only seasonal slacker!