The most wonderful time of the year also can be the most stressful time of the year for moms.

The to-do lists between November and December can be endless. Mom’s brain has transformed into a time stamp of tasks.

There are hours spent shopping contemplating if teachers get too many coffee cups or maybe they would like a candle better? Does she even drink coffee? What if the Balsam and Cedar scent makes her gag? Maybe I should go with Winter Candy Apple? All teachers like apples . . . right?

Would the bus driver like fuzzy socks? Should I try to make that casserole that everyone liked last year? Oh, wait . . . I will need to make an extra trip to the grocery store for sour cream. 

Do the kids all have an equal number of presents? Do we still need to make reindeer food for Christmas Eve? (Ugh, glitter.) Does the tissue paper match the gift bag? Will they notice it is reused tissue paper? Is the house clean enough for guests? Did I move the elf? Is the elf in a magic-inducing position that they will remember for years to come? Did we watch enough holiday movies together? Is Uncle John allergic to tree nuts?

After I lost my mom last year, I began to put a lot of this holiday stress into perspective. And the perspective is that none of this extra stuff matters.

I remember my mom being stressed around the holidays. I also followed suit and had my own anxiety about not just getting everything done, but getting it done perfectly.

This was how it went until last year when my life was shaken up by loss. This is when I learned to sift through those memories and what was left after being filtered were the ones that truly mattered. 

Looking back to my own childhood, I don’t recall many of the gifts I received. Just like the phases you are in for a small amount of time, those gifts don’t have long-lasting meaning. I don’t remember if the packages were beautifully wrapped or if the ornaments were perfectly spaced out. I’m not even sure what we had for Christmas dinner. 

What remains after sifting is quality time. The quiet moments we spent setting up the nativity together. The moments at my grandparents’ house making Pizzelle cookies when my Grandpa would eat all the burnt ones. The smell of anise still makes me think of him. The memories of my mom videotaping our Christmas plays and reading The Night Before Christmas. When she would point out lights in the sky she was sure was Santa on our way home on Christmas Eve. 

All the other stuff is just “stuff.”

It may have seemed important to her but I wish she had the time back that she spent stressing during those days. All those hours spent in stores. The rushing through traffic. The time spent in line. The driving around looking for a parking space. Just buy the fuzzy socks or first candle and be done with it. This is time we can’t get back. Time here is short. Time with our loved ones is short. We are not promised more time. 

RELATED: Nothing Tops Christmas As a Mom

This Holiday season, try to sift through what truly matters. Create memories that your children will take with them long after you are gone. Nothing you can possibly get in a store will create these for them. Time spent together will give them the continuous gift of precious memories and I am so thankful to have these still with me. 

PS – Everything I do to make Christmas magical for my kids is because my mom made it magical for me first.

Kristie Reitz

I am a mom of 3 kids and a teacher of the visually impaired in Cranberry Twp, PA.