I set my oven on fire this Thanksgiving.
I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not to share this. On one hand, it was such an enormous fail, it was kind of funny. I mean, once I realized the fire was completely contained in the oven, the bird itself wasn’t on fire, and obviously everyone was OK. (That said, my husband doesn’t appreciate my penchant for laughing during disastrous situations while they’re still happening.) On the other hand, like I said, it was an enormous fail, and as parents, we’re not supposed to have those on the holidays.
The holidays are supposed to go off without a hitch. And, most of all, they’re supposed to be magical. Moms, especially, are somehow supposed to be some perfect combination of June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, and Santa Claus (minus the belly that jiggles like a bowlful of jelly), no matter how messy and jiggly we are on a regular basis.
I realize this is crazy, and I’m sure you do, too, but we all get sucked into the premise anyway. Maybe it’s the Hallmark movies and, you know, nearly every publication and website on the planet telling us we need to be this way. Maybe it’s the way we tend to look at the past with rose-colored glasses and remember our own childhood holidays so fondly. And maybe (definitely) it’s that we want things to be perfect for our kids because, well, they’re our kids. We want them to experience all of the magic in the world, on that big day and every day.
When you really think about it, some of it actually comes from the weird quirks that are oh-so-telling of our families, as well as the blindingly bad mistakes.
Of course, the real magic comes with spending time together, but there’s more to it than that. When you really think about it, some of it actually comes from the weird quirks that are oh-so-telling of our families, as well as the blindingly bad mistakes.
Don’t get me wrong—I feel all warm and fuzzy when I think about the holidays of my childhood. I remember being convinced that I saw Rudolph outside my parents’ bedroom window. And I remember bounding down the stairs in my cozy Christmas pajamas to see all of the presents under the tree. And—OMG—do I ever remember the smell of my dad’s Christmas lasagna, which was so good, I can still smell it and practically taste it right now. (Even though I no longer eat it because I’m now a vegetarian. The one thing I really miss!)
But I also laugh about our gaudy, spinning tree. Yes, it spun. Yes, it was gaudy. Yes, I loved it at the time…until I realized that it was gaudy and spinning. (Sorry, Mom.) I remember the holiday dinners when dinner was about four hours later than it was supposed to be because things just got off track, so I binged on Star Wars while I waited. I remember the last-minute Christmas Eve shopping and the present-wrapping into the wee hours of the night. And I remember shoving all of our junk into our bedrooms when guests came over (which, um, I still do).
And I’ve heard some seriously hilarious stories from other people. The ones whose parents decided that wrapping was a waste of time and decided to instead put the presents in a bag from Santa…except that the bag was a big, black, decidedly non-festive Hefty bag. The ones where Santa accidentally left on the price tags and got some curious questions from those on-the-cusp-of-not-believing kids. The ones where the guests showed up when everyone was still in their pajamas. And the ones who received inappropriate or flat-out bizarre presents from family members.
Yep, sorry, everyone—these are the things everyone’s going to remember. Not that perfect Beef Wellington.
Come on—laugh. It’s funny. All of it. And we have to remember that when we put these crazy expectations on ourselves every holiday. Why? For a few reasons. First of all, it’s impossible to be perfect, and when we attempt it, we either run ourselves ragged and get sick—or we stretch ourselves so thin that we eventually snap and lash out at the people we are supposed to be making this holiday magical for because THEY ARE NOT MAKING IT EASY FOR US TO MAKE MAGIC FOR THEM.
I’ve certainly been there. And I don’t want to snap at my kids because they’re being kids and going about their daily lives when it just happens to be a holiday. There is seriously nothing in this world that makes me feel worse. While I don’t think I’ll ever fully overcome the stress of holiday shopping, trying to find the perfect gifts for everyone, and prepping for the big meals, I certainly can take things less seriously on the big days themselves. Because those holiday mistakes are, yes, mistakes, but they’re also stories. And they’re the stories that make a life, a family, and lasting memories. (Yep, sorry, everyone—these are the things everyone’s going to remember. Not that perfect Beef Wellington.)
As I told my very concerned children after the Thanksgiving fire episode, once I reassured them that all was fine: “Some day, you guys will appreciate this and even think it’s funny. You’ll be with your own families, one of you will remember this, and say, ‘Hey, do you remember that time Mom and Dad almost burned down the house on Thanksgiving…?’ It’ll give you a really good story.”
It will also give them just the right amount of holiday dysfunction that they’ll laugh about together and bond over every time they think of it.
TUNE-IN ALERT! Still looking for the perfect presents? Make your life a whole lot easier by checking out my upcoming TV segment on last-minute holiday gifts, which will air on various TV and radio programs throughout the country. I’ll post a link here as soon as I have it! I’ve partnered with some terrific brands—Hasbro, Land’s End, Caliper CBD, and MSC Cruises—for gifts that are perfect for everyone on your list. (No mistakes necessary with this!) Happy Holidays!