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Imperfect Christmas

When Sam found out that Santa wasn’t real, he was so mad at us I thought he’d hate Christmas forever. Natalie didn’t exactly tell him. She sort of hinted with a wink and a nod, prompting Sam to ask “Mom! Are you and dad really Santa?”

I tried to dance around without continuing the lie as it had worked with Natalie by asking, “Do you want Santa to be real?” That was the difference between my kids. Natalie liked the magic even when she began to catch on. Sam wanted the truth straight up and hated feeling deceived.

Soon after, we attended a Christmas party with a bunch of other families and guess who showed up to hand out personalized ornaments? The jolly fat imposter. Sam disappeared. I searched the house to find him and when I did, he refused to be near Santa and said,

"I don’t like to be near people who pretend to be someone they’re not."

He was 5.

We were parenting during the beginning of the we’re not doing Santa trend where believing in Santa became as philosophically important as whether or not to spank. With Sam, we might have made a mistake. But I love that story so much I’m grateful for the mistakes. Sometimes they make the best memories.

Yes. The holidays are tough. I’d rather skip over them than try to figure out how to be festive without Sam. I did some shopping yesterday and met my sadness again, wishing I needed to buy something for him. Christmas rituals continually expose the pain of knowing there will not be any more memories of Sam made. Memories are limited, and I have to delight in the many we have. I thank God for giving us such a memorable kid!

I now realize that often the best Christmas memories are not the ones that happen when everything works out beautifully, when the kids are dressed just right and the gifts are received with gratitude and everybody loves Jesus, uses their manners, and gives generously without being greedy. Those moments seem to blend together in my trauma induced brain fog. Life was rarely picture perfect and sometimes I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.

Today, my fondest memories come from those clumsy, imperfect moments we experienced along this challenging journey through life.

The photo attached was my favorite family Christmas card photo, taken at a U-cut Christmas tree farm. Sam wanted to cut down the largest tree in the farm and we said no. Of course, Sam had an aversion to the word no, so the rest of the U-cut Christmas tree adventure included a very unhappy kid who neglected to hide his feelings well. I mistakenly tried to capture the family Christmas photo after cutting down the much more reasonably sized tree. Sam refused to smile and this is what we got. It’s my favorite. My grumpy boy was always dreaming big and negotiating hard to make big things happen and he was often disappointed. It was exhausting, but it created one of my favorite Christmas memories.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas and allow room for things not quite right. It might be the gift of a wonderful Christmas memory.

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