Not My Mother’s Christmas Anymore

by Sue Lister

My mother’s approach to Christmas was bah-humbug until the day before Christmas. Without warning, when the countdown clock was at 24 hours, there was finally enough stimulation for her brain to focus and shift from hypoactivity to hyperactivity. The question of whether little Susie would like a red sweater or pink sweater was no longer something she had to endlessly debate with herself. The solution came simply based on supply and demand —no pink sweaters left at the mall, so red it is. Problem solved. Questions of budget now took a backseat—“Budget? What budget, I can’t worry about a budget now, it’s Christmas—I’ll figure it out later.”

The switch from paralysis to focused impulsivity was complete. She was an amazing whirling dervish of activity; by Christmas Eve (24 hours from the start), food prep for Christmas dinner had been completed, gifts were wrapped, and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. My mother felt alive and satisfied for the moment. The rest of us felt gypped; with none of the pre-holiday celebration or anticipation, Christmas was over as quickly as it began.

As an adult, many of my Christmas’ past were more like my mother’s than I care to admit. When I was diagnosed with Adult ADD and began to understand the myriad of symptoms that tended to drive my behavior during the holiday season, I decided it was time for a different tactic.

I now realize the importance of structure and limits, recognizing that I can comfortably enjoy only three holiday activities during the season. Rather than write a long list of possible activities (too many words on a piece of paper), I write each holiday activity that I think that I might enjoy on a separate scrap of paper. Each one goes into a large bowl. One-by-one, I draw a paper from the bowl, and lay it down in order of importance to me. I then choose the top three.

My choices? The top three always include family and friends. Perhaps it sounds corny, but I recognize that the most important holiday “activity” is spending time with friends and family. The rest is only dressing, like an angel decoration atop a Christmas tree.


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