What did you expect?

Hello, I’d like to introduce you to your expectations.

Perhaps you’ve met them before. Perhaps others have too, or failed to for that matter.

Maybe Christmas met them, every last one of them and they rolled away deliciously fulfilled.

Or maybe not.

There are so many expectations at Christmas time. Big, small, anxious, wild; even those that are tucked away so incredibly well that it’s easy to forget someone is carrying them at all.

Some are small, or at least we pretend that they are, because if we can just make them small enough maybe they wont matter. They hide so well don’t they? Behind smiles, jokes, wine glasses. They can stretch uncomfortably behind silences, or jump out uninvited between words.

Kids often haven’t learned to hide theirs. Should they? The answer is probably somewhere between manners and truth, and how many people they bowl over when they run into a room expectations first.

Adults handle them dozens of different ways. Sometimes they’re as loud as their owners or downright impossible to meet. Sometimes they’ve been let down so many times they expect the worst, pre emptive disappointment might seem easier.

They tug at heartstrings with the ferocity of a candy cane hungry toddler pulling on a parents sleeve.

We can push them aside over and over again… but they don’t really go away, do they?

So why don’t we just bring them out in the open right now, and really look at them. Yours, not everyone else’s. There are too many to meet all at once so let’s be selfish for a minute.

What did you expect at this intense time of year? Did you get it?

This isn’t about gifts, but it can be, they’re your expectations after all, so they can be about anything you want and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

There’s no right or wrong – just easy or hard.

So here’s a better question; how did your expectations contribute to your enjoyment of this time of year? Did they make it easier or harder?

 

Did you meet your own expectations?

If not, ask yourself; were they kind, within your abilities and truly important?

Sometimes not meeting our own expectations means we need to make better choices, change habits or give ourselves a push. Sometimes the expectations we have for ourselves are so big they forget to allow for the beautiful mess of being human. So if you need a push, good. If you need to stop pushing and cut your expectations down to size, that’s good too. You’re never going to know if you don’t look at them.

 

Did other people meet your expectations? 

If not, let’s start with the obvious; did they know you had them? Did you tell any of the ridiculously busy people who mean the world to you that you were carrying these expectations around and how much they mattered to you? Or were you so in the habit of pushing your expectations aside that no one could meet them because they didn’t even know that they were there.

It’s ok, you know, to say that you want or need something – even if it’s just a hug or to be really truly heard.

 

Did events meet your expectations? 

This time of year is so fraught with doing things how we think we should because of society, religion or family. If the events you went to met your expectations then I’m so glad – you deserve that. But we get this idea of how things should go and sometimes it’s absolutely fine to shake those expectations up a bit, not lower them, just change what they look like.

Your easier, happier, more joyful holiday season does not have to look like anyone else’s. It shouldn’t feel like fake smiles and disappointment. It should make you feel good.

We’re about to start a brand new year and all the goals in the world wont make it joyful if you don’t bring expectations to the table too. Own them. Play with them. Change them. Be bold with them. Maybe don’t hold onto them so tight.

milan xmas

Santa’s gift

Christmas is coming; the rumble of summer storms mingled with Christmas carols and beach sand that burns our feet. And despite the sweat, Santa never seems to feel the heat in his big red suit.

Like all children, there came a time when I realized Santa was a myth. I hinted this to my parents, but they denied it; they fought to keep Santa alive for me for just a little longer. So I played them. Blatantly. I asked for overpriced toys, discontinued toys, one of a kind toys… dolls only found in museums. And I said, in my sweet little girl voice, that if Santa was real he could bring me anything.

I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year, but I do remember the rush of victory when I didn’t get anything I’d asked Santa for. My parents had to admit defeat.

Then I grew up, and somewhere in my logical pre-mummy brain I decided that I wouldn’t lie about Santa Claus. There was enough magic in the world, I decided, without hiding behind made up fat men who got all the credit for mum and dads Christmas shopping. I wouldn’t lie, I’d just tell my kids that Santa was a fun game people played at Christmas time. Yep, that’s what would happen. But that didn’t happen. Bodhi happened. When he was two I went along with my plan and he nodded with wide eyes the way a two year old does when they’re really thinking “I’m-not-listening-to-a-single-word-you’re-saying-oooohhhtoys!!”

When he was three I dared to suggest the same thing and was told in no uncertain terms that Santa DID exist and was EXTREMELY real. There was proof of that, obviously, in the fact that there are all those story books about him. I mean look at them, HEAPS.

He’s four now, and Santa’s existence is clearly not a topic for debate.

So the myth of the fat man is tangible at our house. I’m glad. Because that pre-mummy brain didn’t see how much fun there was in his existence. How little logic was important when there was magic to be found. And the fact that I can already see Bodhi’s brain ticking over about the absurdness of it all (“So Mum, how does Santa get into the houses without chimneys?” “That’s not really Santa at the shopping centre is it?”) makes the fleetingness of it all the more fun.

 But with all the fun I also want to give my kids a little of the real stuff. A little of the Saint Nick stuff.

Every week Bodhi gets his allowance in coins. They are divided between jars, Living, Giving, Saving and Wealthing (though the savings one should just be titled “Lego”). This week we are about to count the Giving jar. We’re about to count the coins and give something.

We’ve spoken about what he’d like to give and he’s decided he’d like to buy some chickens or a goat for someone in Africa (we’ll use TEAR Australia’s “Really Useful Gifts http://www.usefulgifts.org/ ). We’ve spoken about why this would be a nice thing to do and he chats about it with the enthusiasm of someone still innocent enough to want to change a world they don’t really understand.

It’s awesome.

He’s also collecting toys here and there for the wishing tree. This week we’re going to buy wrapping paper, or rather he is, his choice, and I’ll be there with the scissors and tape to help him wrap them. Then he’ll go and put them under the tree for someone he doesn’t know, just because, just to make them smile.

You see my pre-mummy brain didn’t see the sense in the bearded man with his elves making presents. But that part of me didn’t get the moral of the story. The part where magic and giving come together. The part where my little elf counts his coins to make sure Santa arrives for someone else and wants to wrap a strangers gift as much as he wants to tear the paper off his own. That’s the magic bit, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.

So this Christmas I’m explaining about Saint Nick. I’m telling him about the birth of Jesus. I’m talking about the Summer Solstice. I’m also going to make sure there’s a reindeer carrot bitten in half on Christmas morning and some hoof prints on the deck.

And the way his eyes light up with excitement about it all is my gift. Thank you Santa – it’s perfect.

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012