I feel deep in the thick of holiday near-overload these days, somewhere between being swept up with Christmas spirit and glad for enjoyable-to-me things like gift wrapping and pine-scented candles and those powered-sugar peppermints, and humming with a low-grade anxiety about estimated shipping dates and the upcoming Visa bill and wondering, as I do every year, if it’s weird that I have no idea what it’s like to be faced with the fashion dilemma of what to wear during “holiday dinner party season.” (Honestly I can’t remember the last time I went to a fancy dinner party at all, much less closet-mused my way through a SEASON of them.)

Also, I notice that this year things really seem different in terms of being a parent during the holidays. The kids have grown so much recently, particularly Riley, and one by one, once-beloved traditions have crumbled away into Thanos dust. Pumpkin farms: no thanks. Tree-lighting ceremonies: eh. Fake snow and hot chocolate at the local mall: c’mon, Mom, that’s for babies.

We still have plenty of family rituals and things we all enjoy, but … it’s not like it used to be. It’s not quite accurate to say I am surprised by this, it’s just that you can know a thing is coming and still be thrown off kilter by it. When you’re in the midst of the magic and mayhem of the little-kid years, you understand on some level it won’t last forever, but the reality sneaks up on you. It’s hard to realize that some moments are now forever lost to the world of memories — the last time trick-or-treating, the last time enduring Christmas jammies, the last time believing with a full heart in Santa Claus.

“It goes so fast!” is such an unhelpful thing to be told when you’re, say, publicly battling with a salmon-thrashing toddler while he clocks you, repeatedly, with a well-aimed sippy cup, but god, it does go so fast, it goes ever faster with every year that goes by, and time is both a gift and a thief. It does not leave you where it found you, for good and for bad.

I am trying to remember this, to be glad for what was and to appreciate what is here now, because it won’t be exactly the same next year, or the year after that. Plus, I still have boys who are counting the days until the 25th and who exclaim with delight when their favorite ornaments come out and at least one kid who will watch the semi-creepy Burl Ives Rudolph special with me even though that “Why am I such a misfit?” earworm song is the actual worst.

Still, there is a sense of loss that seeps through, among the twinkle lights and stockings. My time of Christmas with littles is over, and now I have to hope I am lucky enough to experience it again, years down the road, if my children have families of their own.


20 Responses to “Christmas with littles”

  1. Marty DeLaney on December 9th, 2019 3:29 pm

    You will! You will! I finally have grandkids and now here we are with trees to decorate, gifts to wrap and songs to sing. It is sooooo worth waiting for, trust me.

  2. Jen on December 9th, 2019 3:53 pm

    I need tissues, AGAIN. These thoughts go through my mind so often lately. I really miss those little giggly girls who took delight in the most simple traditions.

  3. jen on December 9th, 2019 3:53 pm

    I read somewhere that most of the heartache comes from not knowing whether a thing is the last time you’ll do the thing – the heart ache comes when you lacked the foresight to savour the last time.

  4. Sally on December 9th, 2019 4:55 pm

    Jen beat me to it with her comment – pretty much word for word exactly what I was going to say! I was only saying to my now 6’8” son the other day that I wished I had known about the, amongst other last times, last time that I could physically pick him up and carry him 😢

  5. Nikki on December 9th, 2019 6:01 pm

    I felt this post so hard. My 3 sons are now 25, 23 and 22, with my youngest son freshly married this year and moved to Monterey CA after graduating basic training. I’m going to say I’m struggling pretty hard with empty nest syndrome. I don’t even think I’m putting up a tree this year. I dearly miss the kidlet years and the joy that came with them.

  6. Stacy on December 9th, 2019 6:19 pm

    This line:
    “It goes so fast!” is such an unhelpful thing to be told when you’re, say, publicly battling with a salmon-thrashing toddler while he clocks you, repeatedly, with a well-aimed sippy cup, but god, it does go so fast, it goes ever faster with every year that goes by, and time is both a gift and a thief. It does not leave you where it found you, for good and for bad.

    …. is the best thing I have read in a long time. So real. So raw So ON FUCKING POINT.

    Linda, you’re an amazing writer.

  7. Nikka on December 9th, 2019 7:07 pm

    Time going by so fast…and by the time you realize it, it’s gone. The ‘last time we went looking at lights with hot chocolate’ was LAST year, the last time. The ‘last time we did the corny meet Santa and do crafts at BassProShops’ was LAST year. Ugh. I didn’t savor it enough! I was irritated and tired, waiting to get home. Why??

    I appreciate your insights and the way you word them! When I get notification you’ve published something online, I immediately stop and click. :)

  8. Justine on December 9th, 2019 11:46 pm

    I am still in the throes of ‘littles’ Christmas, and this is such a beautiful reminder to enjoy their giddy, happy little faces as Christmas draws near ( although I could have done without the crocodile tears pouring down my face after reading this! ) You know, I’ve been reading your words since you were pregnant for the first time, and have watched your ‘littles’ grow to their current ‘medium’ sized status, and it’s always been such a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into your life. You are an amazing writer, and I feel that my life and spirit are better for reading your thoughtful insights into many things. Merry Christmas Linda – I hope that even though it may not contain finger painting or macaroni necklaces, it still brings you much joy and wonder xxx

  9. Sande on December 10th, 2019 8:20 am

    I’m waiting for the squirrel ornament picture….. That brings me joy when I get to see it on your tree.

  10. Michelle on December 10th, 2019 8:32 am

    My midlife crisis baby is 3 now, my older child 9. I had forgotten the utter and complete enchantment with Christmas at 3 — the way she throws a fit (because 3) when we go upstairs, away from the Christmas tree at night or the way when nothing else can get her out of bed, the promise of her Advent calendar can.

    One of the things about having such an age difference with my kids is that the things that seemed to last forever with the first, seem over in the blink of an eye with the second, and even the things I swore I’d never forget slowly fade from memory.

  11. Abby on December 10th, 2019 2:34 pm

    As a mother to one of those salmon-thrashing toddlers, I really appreciated this. We are preparing for a 2 week cross country trip in just a few days and I am currently at peak dreading it mode. While I may never wish for the hours I will spend on a plane with a toddler to come again, these years really do fly by.

  12. Amy on December 10th, 2019 3:52 pm

    This reminds me of something that I just read on the Kottke blog: “[Thinking about how his kids have outgrown read-aloud picture books] reminds me of one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard about parenting: one day you’ll pick up your kid, put them down, and never pick them up again…and you won’t remember it happening. *sobs*”

    I adore your writing and always look forward to new posts. You have a lovely way of perfectly capturing all these messy emotions that come with each new stage of parenting.

  13. Belle on December 11th, 2019 8:42 am

    “That semi-creepy Burl Ives Rudolph special
    “…….hahahah. He is a distant relative of mine and it was required watching my whole life. But, my kids liked it, so that is what counted. And I am thankful my 39-year old daughter still wants to do our traditional things, still wants to see the old ornaments on the tree.

    I think “Time is a gift and a thief” is the most insightful sentence I’ve ever read in my life. Thank you, Linda, and enjoy the holidays!

  14. Mary Clare on December 11th, 2019 1:58 pm

    I get this so much. I think this’ll be our last year anyone in the house believes in Santa and that magic is fading. On the plus side, I won’t have to move an elf every goddang night.

  15. Lisa on December 11th, 2019 6:45 pm

    “Time is both a gift and a thief,” – what a profound way to put it. I’m child free by choice, but I think about this in terms of spending the holidays with my parents and in-laws. They are all in their 70s, and in okay health, but I’ve had several friends my age lose parents in the past couple years so I know we won’t have them forever. Definitely a reason to make sure the memories count, and to take time off work to spend with my family at the end of this year.

  16. Sara on December 16th, 2019 5:27 am

    Legit just about burst into tears reading ‘Christmas jammies.’ Same story over here, friend. A twisted part of me wants to drive both kids to the mall and force them to sit on Santa’s lap because BE CHILDREN, gah dammit!

  17. Alex on December 16th, 2019 10:36 am

    I love how relatable you make life. This is beautifully written and got me right in the feels. Even without kids of my own, I know all too well the sheer magnitude of realizing certain beloved rituals will not be back.

  18. Stace on December 17th, 2019 12:50 pm

    OMG don’t i know this!!! This was likely 11’s last year of lunch w/ Santa, and I’m SO calling it the Elf’s last year of Shenanigan’s (we’ve had him since 11 was four).

    It’s so hard to know a thing is looming and then they’re over all those little hokey traditions and you want to just rewind those memories just a teeny bit please!

  19. Em on December 18th, 2019 11:47 am

    Thank you for the reminder to enjoy my littles while I can (6 and 8). It already feels like time goes to fast, and this time of year it can be hard to remember to enjoy it.

  20. Kelli on December 19th, 2019 8:23 am

    I have always loved your writing so much Linda – and you have many times over been able to capture thoughts swirling in my head with your words. “Time is both a gift and a thief” is one of the wisest and most true things I have ever read.

    Thank you for writing, for sharing your insights for all these years. I look forward to every post – and I’ve been reading since Riley was a baby!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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