Holiday Creates Conundrum for Control Freaks
Christmas is here! I’m behind on shopping, but way ahead on pondering. I’m trying to mentally and prayerfully prepare to be patient, kind and tolerant as I entertain the fantasy that having a ton of company in my house is endearing and fun, and not really a lot of work.
Both the biggest test and the biggest joy of my life occur when all my adult kids visit for a few days, complete with toddlers/sippy cups/dogs/hamsters/gerbils/laundry/whatever. My personal challenge, with fingernails digging into my palms and jaw clenched, is to exhibit patience. Interpretation: do not raise voice, do not attempt to control things, do not stalk out of rooms angrily. This type of immature reaction to chaos can cause huge rifts and offense. Besides, I get tired of repenting. At some point, I should mature as a Christian and become more Christ-like, resulting in less repenting.
I keep waiting.
The analytical part of my brain tells me “this is just the way I am,” then I remember the foundational Scriptures I’ve internalized since age 27 – that “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me,” and “be conformed by the renewing of your mind,” and “nothing is impossible with God.”
This includes cleaning up muddy paw prints with a grin, surveying the two-year-old’s latest wreckage in my den with bright eyes, smiling at the shrieking of happy children or jubilant adults that have had a little too much spiked eggnog. At the very least, my self-control should be stout enough now to help me clamp my lips together rather than say something I will regret later.
I think I’m getting better.
I wish I was one of those people who could tip-toe through the chaos, blithely happy, unseeing. Without picking up, putting away, or muttering under my breath. Unfortunately, I am the type of person that gets nauseous at just the thought of watching an episode of “Hoarders.” Some people are like this about “Animal Rescue,” but I can watch that without a single stomach flip. “Hoarders” is the more nightmarish of the two for me.
I spend too much of the holiday trying to prevent messes, running frantically after babies with a damp cloth or a box in which to toss scattered toys. Heaven forbid if my off-white carpet should get a stain. All of these things can be prevented, my overwhelmed brain keeps shouting at me, and I, in turn, have been known to leak a shout at the offending party, a sure-fire way to ruin a holiday game of Monopoly or Chinese Checkers.
I come by this behavior honestly. My dad was a rip-roaring dynamo about mess prevention, and there was hell to pay if something broke. I realize, in retrospect, this was not the best way to enjoy visits from extended family, and to this day I fight the tendency to rip-roar my head off like he did.
The great news is that six years ago I married a lively and invested picker-upper; a man who doesn’t mind one whit if things get messy. When the last kid is Mom-waved, post-visit, down the road, he’s cheerfully willing to dig in and clean.
This year I am pondering a lot of things. My mother’s health is in decline, my first novel just released, two of my temporarily-home-again kids just moved out of my house and into their own place together, a daughter’s family has struggled with life-after-Navy reinvention; lots of serious life-stuff going on. It does tend to spin perspective a different way. I’m hoping the inevitable disorder and messy chaos has less hold on me this year. Hoping that I’ll major on the majors and let the minor stuff slide off, like Teflon. That’s what I want to be: a Teflon Aunt Bea, younger and hipper. With thin thighs.
My goal when they arrive is to go an entire day without a single nag, a single anxious shriek, a single parental raised eyebrow. To simply enjoy my family.
That’s doable, isn’t it?