Last night my husband was trying to watch some television, and all hell nearly broke loose.
He had just gotten home from a long day back to work after traveling for the holidays. All he wanted was a little brain vacation, but what he got instead was a blank, ominously brackish television screen that was unresponsive to all four of our remote controls. (Um, yeah. we haven’t joined the world of the universal remote yet.)
So my loving husband did what anyone would do in his situation. He called his wife over for help.
I am the official IT person in my household, which is, honestly, pretty sad. But I have this one trick that works about 95% of the time. I learned it from the person who answers the phone at the cable company. I just turn off whatever is malfunctioning, and turn it back on. It works on Kindles, iPhones, Rokus, and many other devices with names that were invented by kindergarteners.
We all held our breath as I attempted my magic trick by unplugging and replugging the television, and…it worked! Crisis averted, my husband got to watch ESPN and my family continues to worship me for the technological genius that I am.
Which got me thinking…could my magic trick work on a human? What if I just CTRL+ALT+DELETE myself when I’m so stuck on something that I can’t move forward? What would a restart look like on a day that gets so sideways, I don’t know which way is up?
For example, yesterday was our first full day back from our holiday travels. I mostly wandered around the house, overwhelmed by the magnitude of tasks before me and therefore unable to focus on finishing anything. I got three loads of laundry done and not much else. (And when I say “done” I mean “clean.” I certainly do not mean “folded and put away.” I’m not a laundry-based cyborg, jeez.)
About 756 things got started yesterday, but nothing really got done.
I should have used my magic trick on myself. I should have stopped everything, taken a power nap, and tried again. Someone once said when their days go haywire, or they have completely had it with their kids, they stop everything, make a batch of cookies, and try again. (If you are this person, please identify yourself in the comments, and also, you are brilliant.)
What would be your version of a restart button? Taking a walk? Meditating? Playing guitar? Watching Mexico: One Plate at a Time on PBS and then making the featured meal in your kitchen? (This one is very specific but I can think of at least one person in my life who would do this.)
In 2018 I resolve to try the restart trick whenever my day starts getting all janky. I think this is a friendly, doable resolution. Much more doable than, say, getting a universal remote. I mean, I may be a technological genius but I’m not Steve Jobs.
My friends are absolutely killing it with this Elf on the Shelf thing.
My social media feeds are full of elves doing creatively mischievous elf things. The Elf is riding in a Fisher-Price school bus with a Barbie on each arm. The Elf is pooping chocolate chips into a wine glass and reading a tiny newspaper. Elves are swinging from chandeliers, hiding in fridge drawers, wearing a Trump wig made out of yellow yarn and standing in front of a podium with a handmade "Make Christmas Great Again" sign. Next-level stuff.
Meanwhile, our elf spent the first half of Advent in a beat-up cardboard box in my son’s closet. When I finally remembered to get the elf out, I immediately delegated the nightly moving of the elf to my husband.
Our elf situation got pretty sad while my husband was out of town for work. My kids began to wonder if our elf (whose name I forgot two years ago) had gotten fired by Santa and was now just loafing around our house in the same spot all day and night.
The truth is, my kids have a mom who goes into survival mode on December 1st and stays there until January. Doing creative things with the Elf on the Shelf is not part of survival mode. End of elf story.
It’s taken me seven years of motherhood to accept my limitations when it comes to the holidays. When my son was a toddler I bedecked our mantle with a sparkly, homemade Advent calendar with a different holiday activity for each day. We made cookies, visited Santa, did Christmas crafts…basically turned into Pinterest People for the month of December.
I know it sounds lovely, but that everloving Advent calendar almost took me over the edge that year. I turned into an overwhelmed, cranky woman who was one Advent activity away from becoming Mrs. Scrooge.
Part of being an authentic person is giving yourself the grace of acceptance. That is never harder than during the holidays, when expectations take steroids and descend upon us in a hailstorm of Sign Up Geniuses, cookie exchanges, and Secret Santa gifts.
When I scroll through Facebook and that elf starts to push my guilt buttons, I consciously remind myself that I have limitations, and that’s okay. For me, the grace of acceptance means being okay with the fact that I suck at Elf on the Shelf, I totally forgot to buy my kids an Advent calendar this year, and my cookie exchange contributions were no-bake and no-frills.
As long as I have some realm of motherhood that I feel pretty good about, I’m okay with phoning in my holiday obligations. For me, that realm is going to the library, reading to my kids as much as possible, and having lots of books all over our house. Someone else's realm of confidence might be cooking wholesome organic meals for their families (this is not my realm, btw).
And I am so sincerely glad that some of my friends are rock stars when it comes to putting smiles on their kids' faces every morning through elvish creativity. They are all amazing moms who still find the energy at the end of the day to pose the elf in a Barbie bathtub full of cotton balls.
We each have our thing that we rock at. I think it's our job to stay in our lane, keep rocking, and appreciate the many ways other people rock. Especially during the holidays.
Elf Moms of the world, I tip my Santa hat to you...from over here on my Survival Mode couch, with my sauvignon blanc and my Netflix.
...was the name of my column in Phillips' Finest, my middle school newspaper. If it was good enough for seventh grade, it's good enough for "adulthood."