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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

The Wonder of it All

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It’s Christmas morning. We are blessed with soft falling snow flakes. A white dusting coats my front porch. I can see the red, green, and yellow lights hidden beneath the cold, white blanket. The air is cold and still. My girls are still warm in their beds, but it won’t be long until they wake with excitement to see what surprises are in store beneath the Christmas tree.

Having two small children around the holidays means an even amount of gifts, color-coded wrapping paper, and a conservative budget. My husband has a good job. I do fine working roughly 35 hours a week. But it’s important to us both to teach our girls about the value of a dollar.

I hear mothers talk about buying their children 20 plus gifts. I try hard never to judge others, but purchasing 40 gifts in total is just not possible for me. Nor do I think it’s setting a good example for my children. I don’t count the number of gifts - I place more importance on quality, not quantity. I buy my girls practical gifts, ones I know they’ll use, appreciate, and have for years to come.

I hear giggles from the bedroom. My second cup of coffee is just taking effect. The brew has grown cold, but my heart and cheeks flush with warmth as I hear their footsteps coming down the carpeted stairs. I look up from my chair to see their smiling, yet sleepy faces. My oldest daughter’s are wide like saucers, her right pigtail is still holding fast though her left one is drooping low on her shoulder. My youngest daughter’s hair is matted against her head. Her cheek is lined with pillow marks. I watch their eyes dance across the gifts. I know they’re excited, but they also know the rules - no presents without daddy.

I look at my oldest and nod. She nods back. I watch her bound up the stairs. “Come here baby.” My youngest stumbles over and crawls into my lap, placing her head on my chest. Her hair smells of last night’s shampoo and her flannel pajamas rub gently against my forearm. I close my eyes and rest my chin on her head. The moment of tranquility is broken as my daughter and husband descend the stairs. My oldest daughter settles beneath the tree, her thin legs crossed over one another. She loves playing Santa. She finds one gift for each of us, which she says is, “only fair”. My youngest joins her sister as they feverishly tear into their gifts. An art easel, rainbow loom kit, scented markers, and new snow boots are among my oldest daughter’s gifts. My youngest adores her Paw Patrol puzzles, My Little Pony figurines, and snowsuit.

As I watch my girls explore their new acquisitions, I can’t help but ponder about life. It feels like just last year my husband and I were sharing our first Christmas together. Soon after was our first Christmas as husband and wife, followed by my daughter’s first Christmas as an infant. From the moment we became parents, my husband and I vowed to teach our girls responsibility, independence, and the value of both money and education. I want my girls to grow into strong, self-sufficient young women. I strive for this goal each and every day. I can’t help but worry and plan ahead. A determined woman with a strong foundation and nimble mind is unstoppable. That’s why each of my daughter’s has a college savings plan in place and I tell them each day how beautiful and capable they are.

“Mommy, look what I made you!”, my oldest daughter’s exclamation of pride breaks my train of thought. I watch as she gingerly places a rainbow loom bracelet on my wrist. “It’s your favorite colors.” And she’s right. She’s crafted me a beautiful bracelet of white and light blue.

“And why does mommy love these colors?” I ask, though I know she remembers. “Because mommy - those are your college colors!” And she’s right. I attended the University of North Carolina and proudly wore those colors for four years. She smiles brightly and returns to her rainbow loom kit to craft another unique piece.

I want my daughters to feel that same connection to their school. To live life to the fullest and take advantage of every amazing opportunity that comes their way. But at the same time, I wish for time to stand still. For every morning to be a beautiful morning just like this where they play for hours with their new toys, never change out of their pajamas, and drink hot chocolate with extra marshmallows.

My daughter runs back to where I’m sitting. “Mommy, I’m going to the University of North Carolina too because I want to be just like you!” She kisses the bracelet on my wrist and then kisses my cheek before heading upstairs to try on her new boots. I watch her pigtails disappear up the stairs. My heart is full. I dream about what the future will bring for my two little stars, but right now, in this moment, I don’t want a single thing to change or for another precious second to pass.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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