Guest Post by Kari Patterson
I had gotten up early. Everything was ready. The baby Jesus doll was hidden. Gifts were wrapped. Cinnamon rolls were formed, rising, ready to bake.
My 4-year-old son was the first to rise. He shuffled downstairs, carrying his new Lightning McQueen car he’d received for his birthday just four days prior.
I bound over, excited. “Good morning, sweetie! Do you know what today is?”
He rubs his eyes, scrunches up his face. “Can I play with my toys?”
I continue, “It’s Christmas! Isn’t that exciting?! And now you get to look for baby Jesus!”
He runs over to the couch, hides his face in a pillow. “I don’t want to look! I want to play!”
“But … after we find baby Jesus we can open your presents!” My mind races. We’re supposed to be at my parents’ house at 10am. We still have to do baby Jesus, open gifts, and deliver hot cinnamon rolls to a family down the road.
My son starts to cry. “I don’t want to open presents! I just want to play with my toys.”
This is unbelievable. I shake my head. What child doesn’t want to open presents? Why is my family always the one where nothing goes right?
I promise him there are more toys to be had, and we finally get him to the tree. He opens a box, a gift sent from a relative. It’s a package of socks. His face falls. Now I’m irate. Really? Come on people, I’m trying to get my kid excited about Christmas, and you gave him socks for crying out loud!
“Mommy, I don’t want socks. I just want to play with my toys!” Now he’s crying and I’m on the verge.
Eventually we make it out the door. My dear husband, wanting to cheer me up, suggests we stop at Starbucks. He runs in while I stay in the car. It takes him another fifteen minutes because the line is so long. Seriously, people, it’s Christmas! Go home and be with your families! By now we’re an hour late and it shows on my face. I’m know I’m being ridiculous, but I’m on the verge of tears. Why am I so irrational? It’s Christmas!
Eventually, we make it to the family’s house to deliver the cinnamon rolls. Their whole family comes out on the porch, all hugs and laughter and genuine joy. I notice they’re all still in pajamas. I ask about their day, what their plans are, still struck by how happy they all are.
The mom smiles and responds, “Oh, we just relax, stay in our jammies all day. We play games or do something fun. You know, whatever.”
That’s what I’m missing.
The gift of whatever. When we give our family our expectations, everybody loses. We wrap up our ideals, our dreams of the “perfect” day, and then expect them to perform according to our plan. When they don’t, we’re frustrated. All in the name of the most wonderful time of the year.
What if, instead of giving expectations, we gave the gift of whatever. If we decided that whatever happened on a holiday, we’d be happy and thankful. That the only expectations we had were for ourselves, expecting ourselves to be kind. Expecting ourselves to be gracious. Expecting ourselves to be willing to go with whatever.
The gift of whatever might be just what our families need. A fun, flexible holiday where the only thing that’s set in stone is the certainty of joy.
Kari Patterson is a pastor’s wife, ministry mommy, writer, runner, blogger, reader and frugal living enthusiast. She enjoys green tea, line-dried laundry and Alexander McCall Smith novels. Her musings can be found at KariPatterson.com.
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