It's a holiday and as such I want to go away from my extremely painful post of Tuesday and write about something that has me feeling p.r.e.t.t.y good!
Having OCD is very hard. I have severe issues with certain things and one of those issues is Christmas trees. If some of you remember last year around this time, I wrote of how I hate the fact that I can not allow anyone to participate in the decorating of the tree. I mean, I try but as soon as the kids put a bulb on the tree I have to move it where I think it should go after they leave the room. I have these ridiculous rules that I have to follow on my Christmas trees. No colored lights. No tinsel. No bulbs too close together. At least three strands of lights...ect. It is a strict procedure and like anything else OCD, it has to be perfect, at least to my standards. My ridiculous standards....I so wish I were joking.
Decorating of the Christmas tree is fun for me but also a form of torture for my family. My husband jokes that he is just there to put the tree in the stand and move it to where I want it. It never occurred to me how bad I am about it until last year. Last year one of my kids asked me for something and before I could answer my husband told him, " The best thing to do is leave mommy alone when she fixes the tree. No one wants to bother Mommy right now, trust me." If it hadn't hit home yet how bad the need to fix the damn tree over and over and over had gotten I saw pictures of my best friend's Christmas tree on facebook. She has three rough and tumble kids. Her tree had paper ornaments her kids had made. It swelled with colored lights, shiny baubles, and crazy glitter cut out snowflakes. It was a testament to her love for her children. Her proudness of being a mother. Her family crest in pine needles and tinsel. My OCD hated the tree but something inside me broke. Why can't I be like that? I was so completely heartbroken. Her tree was glorious. Her tree wasn't beautiful because it was perfect like mine, it was beautiful because her children enjoyed decorating it. It was as if her tree spoke of love and family and mine was a hollow shell of what Christmas is supposed to be. Mine was perfect and beautiful and perfectly devoid of all things family. My tree was no more full of love than the beautiful tree display at the department store. It looked like Martha Stewart but now somehow felt shallow and empty. It hit me. My kids have no memories of decorating the tree. Because I can't let them. I can't even let them put the ornaments ,I love so dearly, they make at school on it. What kind of mother is that? Just what am I allowing my OCD to say to my children? "Sorry, honey Mommy can't put your beautiful paper angel you made in class today on the tree because there is only one of them and Mommy needs there to be two so it is even?" That's just horrible! It is so bad my family calls me the Christmas tree Nazi behind my back....and what's worse, they aren't wrong. I actually coined that phrase. I am rigid and fevered when it comes to the tree. I used to love decorating the tree but that day I realized how I had stolen the things that matters most about Christmas away from my kids, participation, tradition, and in a small way acceptance.
Later on when I was in the car with my Dad, I confessed that I was afraid I may never be able to give my children the ability to join in on the Christmas tree decorating and how I felt like a complete failure as a mother because of it. He told me of how his parents made hot chocolate, played Christmas songs, and had him decorate the tree. Specifically, they would have him put up a paper chain garland he made in kindergarten. They did this every year until he went to college and then they had him take it with him. It was a memento, a physical representation of memories. Wonderful heart warming memories that he can recall at any time. What memories have I given my children for Christmas? That mommy is constantly focused and manic about stupid glass ornaments and colored lights?
I sat in the car just dumbfounded. I have to stop. I have to find a way to get around this damn OCD. Okay, I get that it affects me. I get that it affects my family and everything that I do but I will be good and damned before I let it steal happiness from my children like a thief in the night. That is totally unacceptable to me.
So I thought about it and stressed and fretted until an idea popped into my head. This year I will decorate a Christmas tree as always, but I will have the kids decorate their own tree! We can use the fake tree in the basement. I will let them make their own ornaments! I will invite my Dad over to help since he knows how this is SUPPOSED to go. I will make hot chocolate and play Christmas music and take pictures.
We made salt dough ornaments and ornaments from clothes pins. We made Santa's out of hand prints. We made the topper from a milk carton, foil, and sequins. I used stuff the kids made from school as well, because they deserve to be on the tree. My children deserve to feel accepted and heard and shown that they are loved. They deserve to know that what they create is beautiful no matter how messy or uneven their creations are. Mostly, they need to know that I absolutely love their creations even though my OCD makes it hard for me to put it on the Christmas tree.
I am not going to say it was easy. I made a promise out loud that I would release control of this project. The ornaments would be their's to decorate however they wanted. They could put the decorations on the tree wherever they felt they should go.I was not going to interfere or move things around.
When the kids wanted to make cyclops reindeer I may have had a moment of panic. My youngest wanted to make the reindeer have one huge eye and one tiny eye. My hands got sweaty. My heart raced. I said no. But then I asked my husband if I was doing okay and he reminded me that these are the kids ornaments and not mine. They don't have to be perfect.....I took a few breaths and relented. Yes, they could put weird eyes on the reindeer. Yes it could be a cyclops. And yes, a pirate Rudolph would be just fine. No better than fine, it would be marvelous!
When the hubby brought home colored lights I thought I was going to physically faint. I seriously had no idea how I was going to get used to this idea and yet have no control. Again he reminded me and I agreed that this is the boy's Christmas tree and since I had all but banned colored lights from my home, this should be what they get. They should be allowed to have everything my OCD has denied them. I put up the tree three days ago and put on the lights so they could look at them and be ready to decorate today. It took two days before I started to not mind them so much. I think they are actually not to bad now.
Then it was decorating time and it was great to watch them have fun. The hot chocolate was a no go for me because I was recently diagnosed as diabetic and everyone else was too full to want any. My phone died in the middle of taking the pictures. The music died with my phone but the kids played Christmas songs on youtube to make up for it. I felt so proud of them and me too. They had great fun and I was so amazingly happy to watch them make positive memories doing what they should have been allowed to do all along. Enjoy the whole production of Christmas and revel in the love of our family. So this is going to be our new tradition every year. We will have two Christmas trees! We will have both Martha Stewart and Handmade Christmas decorations. We will make a batch of new ornaments to put on their tree every year and my Dad will be there too.
And even though the night didn't go exactly as planned it was wonderful. Even though I got kidded that I might "rearrange" the ornaments that are bunched together and I had a small moment of panic, I felt less like an OCD sufferer and more like a regular mom. I even promised out loud not to move anything and I won't. This Christmas tree is a messy, unorganized, uneven, glorious perfection. It is the most beautiful tree I have ever seen. And although, I can see the imperfections, I wouldn't change a thing.
I can see the three Christmas balls so close together....but I am not even bothered by it.....
Nor the fact that this snowman is backwards....
Nor the fact that these two salt dough ornaments are side by side on the same branch...
This tree is the best most beautiful, imperfectly, perfect thing in the whole wide world and I absolutely love it.
Take that OCD!