This Christmas will not be perfect.

Despite the lofty goals I set for myself to have everything in order and looking like a Nancy Meyers film before my in-laws and mother come to town, my housekeeping skills will not be lauded. My garage will not be sparkling clean, a place where one delights to go forth and breakdown boxes. In fact, the boxes will likely not be broken down at all. They will likely be tossed into the garage with a toddler on my hip, waiting for the “someday” when that seems like the best use of a naptime. 

My pantry will probably not get the scrubbing and organization I was hoping to give it in order to make the cookie baking process more beautiful. No—I, along with my in-laws and mother, will probably stumble around, spilling the basket of prune pouches while I try to delicately maneuver things with the use of only one hand in order to get to the flour. I will feel embarrassed when nobody can find the bread and can only get to the peanut butter by moving the dog’s water bowl, which was placed up on the food shelf to keep the baby out of it. 

Presents will not be wrapped in a timely fashion, in the beautiful wrapping room that I suppose I was planning on building for myself before Christmas gets here. They will be done through bleary eyes late one night after I get my toddler and preschooler to sleep. 

Our halls are certainly decked, but some of the finishing touches I had dreamed of doing probably just aren’t going to happen at this point. The homemade Christmas card display? Not going to happen. In fact, I haven’t even ordered my family Christmas cards yet. I suppose that task can also be filed under the “good intentions but won’t happen” category. Ornaments have been taken from the tree, re-arranged and broken. My tree skirt won’t stay straight. The lights on my garland are already out, and I doubt I’m going to make it to the hardware store again before Christmas to replace them. 

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I’m already feeling stressed because aren’t my in-laws and mother expecting a perfect Christmas? Isn’t the perfectly organized pantry crucial for everyone’s Christmas enjoyment? Don’t they want to open my garage and see a sparkling, neat area? Don’t they need to be able to easily look into my kids’ drawers and find their Christmas pajamas? Surely they will be disappointed if they have to dig them out of the dryer like I do every other day!

I have been running through the mental ropes of how to get all of this done by Christmas, hold space for the magic that exists each December, teach my kids the true meaning of Christmas, be present for every moment, and not be a complete Grinch. 

The conclusion I came to this morning was it’s not going to happen. Christmas will not be perfect. It won’t.

There will be moments of struggle, when the prune pouches fall for the third time and the dog’s water gets poured out by the toddler for the fourteenth. There will be sadness, as my mom and I grieve the empty space where my dad should be sitting. I will feel overwhelmed and tired and not enough. Menial things will feel like a big deal, and I won’t appreciate every moment. 

If I can hold a little space for these feelings and simultaneously accept the lack of perfection, I truly believe I can tap into the magic of Christmas.

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I will soak up my toddler throwing sprinkles all over the kitchen because she is delighted in the shiny, sparkly goodness that she is getting to dust on her Christmas cookies. I’ll also be OK when said sprinkles stick to my feet when I walk through the kitchen hours later

I will bask in “Mama” being said over and over and over because my preschooler has so very many things to tell me about Rudolph and the abominable snow monster. 

I will find beauty in our Christmas tree, with the unbalanced ornament spacing and the rumpled skirt because my kids find magic there. 

I will let my preschooler eat the chocolate from his advent calendar in my bed each morning at 6 a.m. because his excitement is contagious. I will not judge myself for being unable to keep up with the laundry that inevitably follows chocolate in bed.

The garage and the pantry will be unorganized because I am playing with my kids next to the Christmas tree. The laundry will not be caught up because I am reading Christmas stories. The kitchen will not stay clean because we are baking Christmas cookies.

I am setting an intention right now to marvel at the paper snowflakes stuck all over my windows. That sticky icing with sprinkles handprint on my cabinet will not be as tiny next year.

My heart drips with love for these tiny people, and I refuse to let this season pass me by while I am striving for a perfect Christmas.

I’m pretty sure I already have it. 

PS – Just let that holiday stress go, mama . . . you’re doing great.

Jamie Stephen

Jamie Stephen is a 30 something living in Austin, Texas. She is happiest when reading, writing, or hiking with her Australian Shepherd, Possum the Dog. She is a practicing Speech Language Pathologist, but spends most of her days at home with her two precious kiddos drinking way too much coffee and pushing them on the swing.