For the first year and a half of my son’s life, we didn’t really decorate for the holidays because we had no space to store the decorations in our apartment. The summer before my son turned 2, we moved to the suburbs and into our first house. I suddenly had closet space, a basement, room to stuff things away when they weren’t in use. Summer turned to fall and Halloween turned into Thanksgiving and, as the holidays approached, I realized there was a part of myself that had been held back while I was living in that tiny apartment. It was like my inner soccer-mom was finally ready to bust loose and run through the aisles of Target with abandon, suddenly blessed with all the space in the world to store the holiday decorations and ridiculous kitchen gadgets that no one ever actually needs. Basking in the glow of Target’s fluorescent lighting, and filling up my cart to the strains of Mariah Carey, I found I had come home: I am a Basic Mom and goddamn it, Christmas is my time to shine.
My love of Christmas has always been pretty strong, but the passion has multiplied exponentially since I became a mom. My birthday is the day after Christmas, and so the month of December is basically what I spend the whole year preparing for. I get 48 hours to open as many gifts and eat as much cake as I possibly can because I have to wait a whole other year until I have a reason to be festive. Couple that with my background as a preschool teacher and you get a super-festive mom who knows how to make nearly any Christmas symbol you can imagine out of a child’s handprints and some pipe cleaners.
My son’s vocabulary grew to include the words 'decorations,' 'mistletoe,' and 'crafts' (which he adorably pronounces 'cwafts').
I started decorating our house two days before Thanksgiving. The day kicked off at the Starbucks drive-thru (✅), where I got an almond milk latte in a cup covered in Pointsettas (✅) and headed to Target(✅). I could not have felt more basic if I tried. I got a wreath for our door and some crafting must-haves and skipped out of the store ready to deck the halls harder than Martha freaking Stewart.
Since we didn’t really own a ton of Christmas decorations and didn’t have a ton of extra money to spend on them, I set out to DIY a lot of our decor. I scanned Pinterest for fun (and cheap) DIY ideas and studied tutorials on how to make your own outdoor Christmas trees using tomato cages and garland. I bought dozens of foam ornament kits from the dollar store, and my son and I started making ornaments every night before dinner, hanging the finished baubles on the mini tree I set up on our kitchen table. My son’s vocabulary grew to include the words “decorations,” “mistletoe,” and “crafts” (which he adorably pronounces “cwafts"). He woke up every morning singing “Jingle Bells” in his crib. My excitement about the holiday was contagious, and my son had contracted it — even if he didn’t quite understand why our house was suddenly covered in tinsel and red glitter.
As my house became more festive, so did my spirits. I ordered a new record player to replace the one I accidentally broke when I tried to turn it into a spin-art station ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), and we could once again crank out the Christmas records, because if you are not listening to Christmas music on vinyl, are you even listening to Christmas music? Every night when my husband came home from work, there were more ornaments on the tree or more decorations that we had inherited from my mom or grandmother (his least favorite being a fleet of creepy faced nutcrackers that I arranged in height order on our staircase).
I finally settled on 'I heart Santa,' threw my son in the car and headed to the Dollar Tree for a festive hat.
My proudest mama moment in all of this holiday hustle and bustle had to be my impromptu Christmas card photo shoot (OH YES). I imagined a family photo shoot in matching Christmas pajamas, but when mid-December was approaching and we still didn’t even own matching pajamas, I realized I needed a plan B. In the most challenging game of Boggle I have ever played, I spread the letters to my letter board (what basic mom does not own a letter board??) around my kitchen floor and tried to spell out whatever Christmasy phrase I could with the letters I had available. I finally settled on “I HEART SANTA,” threw my son in the car and headed to the Dollar Tree for a festive hat.
We picked out a pair of sparkly reindeer antlers and headed to the local nursery where I plopped him in front of a display of Poinsettas (and later a display of elves), put the letter board in his hands, and tried my best to get him to look at me and smile. Employees from the store looked at me like I was crazy as I threw my coat and backpack on the floor and kneeled down to get the angle just right. I was determined to have this photo exude Christmas Spirit and all the joy and pride that I felt in the moment that I was taking it.
As I snapped his photo, I realized how truly magical this time with my son really is. In all the craziness of decorating and crafting, we were starting family rituals that will set the stage for Christmasses to come and maybe one day be something he shares with his own children. I feel like we really hit our stride in my son’s second year. After the hazy fog of the first year of parenthood had lifted, all this Christmas preparation in some silly way feels like it has brought my son and I closer together.
And as I sit here, addressing my Christmas cards in my flannel PJ’s eating limited edition holiday mint M&M’s, I can’t help but think that there is literally nothing better than being a mom at Christmastime.
Especially if you own a letterboard.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.