I always hated cramming for tests in high school and college. I knew there was probably a better way, but I never managed to get myself to do it. So every time exams or projects came back around, I found myself scrambling, yet again.
The stress would start to weasel its way in the week before. It was on my radar enough to stress me out but not enough to get me to actually start doing anything about it. About four days ahead, I’d pull out the things I needed and just stack them.
Day three, I started reading and taking notes. Day two, the stress was definitely heightened, and I cleared my schedule to cram. Day one: I gathered friends and planned for my all-nighter.
My go-to drink in college when I was cramming for an exam or finishing a project was Mountain Dew, specifically a polar pop from the corner gas station. (I didn’t start drinking coffee until after college, surprisingly, because I opened at my Starbucks job for a long time…4 a.m. wake-up times forced me to like coffee!). That huge Styrofoam cup filled with the lemon-limey fizzy goodness kept me going all night when I was writing papers, rubbing my eyes in the library stacks, or frantically printing things off and putting a project together with my peers.
I distinctly remember the stress. I remember counting down the hours, trying to keep all the different subjects straight, perfectly timing all the aspects to my projects, so that it would all culminate the morning it was due. I remember ordering pizzas at 10 p.m. I remember the open bags of candy so the sugar rush would keep us awake. I remember the plans my friends and I would make to celebrate once exams were over.
I remember walking back to my dorm, needing a shower and breakfast and my bed, but having to get ready for yet another day of classes and exams. I couldn’t wait to be done with school so I’d never stress like this again. Nobody could possibly keep up with a schedule like this, right? RIGHT?!
Ha. HAHA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. If you’re a parent, you started laughing a couple paragraphs ago.
You guys, motherhood is so much like this. Especially at Christmastime!!! Christmas is like a huge project that’s due by December 25. I get my assignment on Thanksgiving because that’s when we draw names in both families for gifts. There’s no point in even beginning before that. So the timeline checks out. Six weeks until my project is due.
Every parent also knows Christmas isn’t simple. You have a myriad of tasks to get done with different due dates! See below.
- Decorate for Christmas – This is my top priority as soon as Thanksgiving is done. I don’t even worry about the rest of Christmas until I have put up that tree and nagged the hubby to put lights up on the house. Which he didn’t. It’s fine.
- Make memories – The second order of business is to make sure I have MAGICAL MEMORIES on the calendar. I have my cookie baking days/Christmas at the Zoo/drive around to see lights memories on the schedule. Because heaven forbid we don’t do them. MAGICAL MEMORIES MUST HAPPEN.
- Elves – This one is optional and an ongoing, daily project. Is it worth it to see their
faces light up with how these little elves cause magical mischief every night? Yes. Is it like remembering right before bed each night that you have a pop quiz first thing in the morning and you need to look over your notes quick (gotta check pinterest for elf ideas!)? Also, yes. Have I scrambled out of bed in my underwear at 11 p.m. to come up with something quick? Yes.
- Christmas cards – I try and start these early because I have a handful of friends who get these to me like that day after Christmas, which amps up my stress. (Come on, people, calm down! We know you’re the best, but give the rest of us a little head start!!) Plus, I want to make the most of Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, and I want to have time to get them printed, addressed, and sent. I always order extra for people I forgot.
- Christmas shopping – This is complicated. Especially with my kids. Because I buy for them. I buy for the husband. Then I get something from each kid to each other…then from the kids to daddy…then maybe from the kids to the grandparents (we go DIY for a lot of these when we can, but that adds a whole different level to your time frame!). Then don’t forget the Secret Santa my husband drew. Then there’s the stockings. Then there’s the kids’ teachers. Which leads me to…
- Teacher gifts – My youngest has two teachers and my oldest has one. Each year, I try to come up with something really nice and thoughtful. So I do gift cards. Ha. The timeline for this is a little early too! Kids usually are on break before Christmas hits. This one always gets me at the last minute.
- Reason for the Season/Giving/Etc – As a parent, I also worry we are focusing too much on commercial Christmas and not enough on the real reason we have Christmas! It’s a celebration of the day our Lord and Savior Jesus was born! So I make sure we have Christmas devotions. We want our kids to get in the spirit of giving, so we have gone to sing carols at nursing homes in the past. We try and pass out Christmas cookies to cashiers and greeters when we are out shopping. We encourage the kids to get rid of old toys and make room for the new. We try hard and make sure they know it’s not just about the presents… knowing full well they will most likely get every single thing they want for Christmas. So it’s about Jesus, but they also get spoiled. Because it’s confusing being a person sometimes.
How do I do all this? How do any of us moms do it?
Let’s think back to college. Caffeine (I’ve graduated to coffee. No Mountain Dew anymore, too much sugar for this 35-year old mom). Baked goods. Candy. Help from family and friends and spouses. Lots of late nights and at least one “semi all-nighter” wrapping gifts. (All-nighters are physically impossible anymore). A glass of wine here or there. And lists! Lots and lots of notes and lists. It can be stressful, chaotic, and messy. But man, the joy and memories are worth it.
So see? It’s the same thing!! I may not remember trigonometry or statistics. I don’t recall much from biology or my ethics classes (I mean really, who needs ethics. Kidding). But I know how to pull off a big project.
And the biggest thing I have learned? Things don’t always go to plan! There were projects I didn’t do great on, and I even failed an exam in one of my religion classes. Am I still alive to tell the tale? Of course. Same goes for parenting. It’s all about balance. Some days will be great. Other days will be a complete disaster. Sometimes those magical memories turn into a huge fight or multiple meltdowns or just plain aren’t magical.
It doesn’t mean we have failed the class of parenting or ruined Christmas. It just means we learn to be flexible. We learn to have balance. We learn some parts of this are harder than others. We learn that while we love our family, family can be so messy!
This Christmas season, don’t forget to take a deep breath and just enjoy the smiles and laughter and mess of it all. Who would have thought those crazy college days were just prepping us for parenthood? We may not remember our exams, but we do remember the good times spent together. And our kiddos and families will do the same.
Jesus came to bring light and love into the world. Not perfection, not straight A’s, not checklists and chores and rules. But love. Focus on that and everything falls into place.
Enjoy your families this Christmas season!