When it comes to the holidays and having the kids decorate, I’ve heard empty nesters crowing “When they’re grown and gone, you’ll WISH you had a house with lopsided, drooping, falling down, uneven holiday decorations!”
But here’s the thing: I won’t.
Call me a control freak, but I take pride in my Christmas décor. I planned it, I shopped for it, and I like it when it all looks just-so. I like the perfectionist version. I know I’m not alone. I see the Type A’s on social media talking about sitting on their hands and biting their tongues as they watch their kids toss decorations haphazardly on the tree or around the house willy-nilly with nary a sense of balance, organization or symmetry. Is this what rum and eggnog was really created for? To keep parents like myself from snatching ornaments from our child’s hands before they even get hung?
As much as we all enjoy a beautifully decorated home, we also have very real fears of stomping on our kids’ self-esteem. The studies haven’t been released yet on how much damage we might be inflicting if we instruct our kids on how to wind garlands all the way around the tree, but I’m pretty sure nobody wants to take that chance. Nobody likes a critic and our kids probably get enough constructive criticism in other areas of their young lives. The holidays are supposed to be about having fun as a family, not designing a set for a home style magazine, right?
Some moms actually enjoy the topsy-turvy trees and chaotic decoration placements that kids come up with.I bow down to your carefree, nurturing spirits. I’m not one of those moms, and there have to be other killers-of-joy out there who stand with me.
In my house, the way we deal with it is by having two trees. We have our big tree in the front window, twinkling bright with pre-lit lights that don’t require strategic stringing. This tree wears only evenly distributed Christmas balls that my husband and teen stepson enjoy hanging each year as they compete to crack the best ball joke or pun. This tree is store-display perfection that can be seen from outside our home or from our front entrance area. It’s the social media version of Christmas trees; the best version on display for all to see.
At the back of our house, however, stands the mini-tree. It’s an apartment-sized tree I have had since I lived in a tiny condo as a single woman. My stepson enjoyed it as a kid and now while the adults work on satisfying my obsessive tendencies in the front room, my daughter dons a Santa hat, belts out Christmas carols and flings decorations on her little tree to her heart’s content. Sure, the final product looks like drunken elves did it after a heavy night at the club, but I don’t change a thing about it once she’s done. I leave her little tree as-is until we take it down, and just do my best to avoid letting my eyes settle on the sight for too long.
Our big tree is a different story. I have been known to take my morning coffee break sitting in the armchair across from our tree to scout out any shortcomings in the placement of the trimmings and make required adjustments. Branches not fully fluffed upon set up receive attention, and gaps without ornamentation are soon righted with reassignment of ornaments from overly-crowded areas.
Generally, nobody is the wiser to my shuffling of the decorations, but one year, my savvy child noticed that a number of items had new locations on the big tree, and just like that, the “Decoration Fairy” was borne unto us.
That’s right. Another way we learned to deal was by creating a special fairy who visits during the holiday season to check our décor and ensure it’s all done the “right” way. If we have made a boo-boo, she moves the ornaments to the correct placement on our behalf, to help us improve our holiday decorating skills. The added bonus? The Decoration Fairy never touches my daughter’s tree, so my child magically assumes she has it all down pat. Boom. Self-esteem off the charts, and at least one perfect tree in the house.
I bow down to you parents who truly enjoy the bedlam of your kids’ holiday decor handiwork, I really do. I don’t knock your ability to treasure your kids’ efforts, no matter how it looks. I’ve just accepted that I’m not that mom and never will be.
So, until my daughter starts reading “Style At Home” magazine and understanding its concepts, our house will continue to have a tree just for her, and a Decoration Fairy to cover for me.