End the Holiday Madness: Saying 'no' to the idea of a 'perfect' celebration before it even starts

How much holiday perfection is too much?

How much holiday perfection is too much?  (AP Photo/MTI, Ferenc Kalmandy)

The story about the teenager who quit social media because “it’s not real life” made news around the world. The reason it struck a chord goes deeper than the impact this new way of life has on our children. The story showed we are all victims of the illusion of perfection that social, print, and broadcast media suggests.

Everywhere you look, pictures of ways to make things “special” crowd your space.

We just finished learning that healthy treats at Halloween weren’t enough. The oranges needed to be decorated to look like jack-o’-lanterns. The bananas needed to have chocolate eyes so they look like ghosts. But by the time I finished making fruit eyeballs for my special drinks, I didn’t have energy left to pour one.

Right now is prime time for this delusional way of thinking. Holiday season technically should not be upon us, yet it is well underway.

I’m already feeling the pressure to create a delicious and picturesque Thanksgiving spread. It’s not enough to have perfect rolls with really good butter. That butter needs to be sweetened with sorghum and shaped like a turkey.

My head is spinning over what kind of turkey to get. Is free range good enough, or does it need to be organic? Should I go with a dry brine or wet? Will anyone notice if I get a pre-brined turkey? Do I need to dry my own bread for the stuffing, or is that not “homemade” enough?

Next comes Christmas and creating the perfect month of celebration. Finding pictures for the cards and sending those out on time. Homemade cookies. Gingerbread houses. Perfectly wrapped gifts. Finding the right tree. Picking the perfect outfits.

We smack on a smile and snap selfies with our children with the illusion of holiday perfection as our backdrop. But are we really happy? Are we able to enjoy these moments with our kids? Are we really making fun memories or is it just snapshots of happiness with a whole lot of stress in between?

It’s not just the holidays. This quest for perfection bleeds into everything, from birthday parties to a perfectly manicured lawn.

If you haven’t stayed up until 2 a.m. trying to make the perfect birthday cake for your little one, I guarantee you know someone who has. We are stressing over details that in the long run really don’t matter. We’re often doing it so we have photographic evidence of what an amazing and creative parent we are.

I say “no more.”

For the rest of the year, I refuse to make things “pinteresting.” I’m going to live in the moment with my children. I’m going to do all the fun things we enjoy.

I hope to decorate cookies with them, but if they aren’t really interested and they’d rather take a drive to see Christmas lights, so be it. If I’m too tired to tie another ribbon, I’ll sleep instead of perfecting all that packaging that will be ripped away in a matter of minutes on Christmas morning.

That’s not to say I won’t lose a little sleep to make the holidays magical for my family. But there’s more magic for our children in having happy, healthy, engaged parents than there is making our living room look like it’s ready for a magazine shoot.

More from

Moms, Kids and Fast Food: What parents secretly say about about these meals

Tough News for a Toddler

Dear Prudence: Time (and prayer) lead to the best moves in life

Reading to a Young Reader: How this practice brings rich rewards for families