The Rockwood Files: Making a list, trimming it twice

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Santa isn’t the only one making a list these days. I may not be responsible for worldwide overnight toy delivery on Dec. 24th, but it seems like my to-do list stretches to the North Pole and back. What’s worse, there are absolutely no elves around to help.

I agree with Santa that, when it comes to staying organized, a list is the way to go. Crossing completed tasks off a list makes me downright jolly. But as the holidays get closer, my list gets longer. Just looking at it makes me want to go back to bed and not come out until January.

I hate to sound all “bah humbug”, especially since this is the season of goodwill to men, glad tidings and peace on Earth. But most mothers I know would agree that December is anything but peaceful. It feels more like a holiday sprint that leaves most of us just trying to catch our breath.

Today I tackled another thing on my jumbo-sized to-do list: “Put up the decorations.” Tom hauled several dusty storage bins out of the garage and into the kitchen where I began unloading them. When the kids caught sight of the first Santa figurine, they were eager to help.

Of course, an 8, 6 and 3-year-olds’ definition of “help” is a tad different than their mother’s definition. Often their “help” can prolong the decorating process instead of expediting it. But I certainly didn’t want to spoil the fun so I welcomed the assistance. We put some Christmas music on while we worked, and 3-year-old Kate wanted to hear the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song about two dozen times. (Note: It’s only cute and amusing the first three times. But I digress.)

By the time I finished taking the ornaments out of the storage box, half of them were hanging midway up the tree, which is how far up the boys could reach. It looked like an ornament belt around the tree’s midsection. The other half were crowded together on the lowest limbs, otherwise known as “3-year-old height.”

To her credit, little Kate did notice how bare the top of the tree looked once they were done decorating it. So she asked if I would put some ornaments near the top. “I’m not very tall, you know,” she explained.

“I noticed,” I said, smiling.

I started redistributing some of the ornaments to the upper branches, and Kate stood beside me, handing ornaments to me as I went along. With the Chipmunks crooning on the stereo and the lights twinkling on the tree, Kate looked up at me and the expression on her face was so intensely happy and peaceful that it made me stop and stare.

“I’m just so happy it’s Christmas,” she said.

And for the first time since I started speeding down the holiday on-ramp, I felt happy and peaceful, too. I stopped long enough to be in the moment and found out that her excitement is contagious. That simple joyful expression reminded me about what so often falls off our holiday to-do list – “enjoy”. Somewhere along the way, we let all the holiday hustle suck the joy right out of the season.

So I’m going to stop worrying about the fact that the guest room needs drapes and the gifts aren’t wrapped yet and I’m three loads behind on laundry. The important stuff will get done somehow, and the rest doesn’t really matter anyway. If we want a little “joy to the world” this month, then we need to put “enjoy” back on our list.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.


1 Comment

  1. great reminder!! This was the first year my six-year-old really got excited about helping decorate the tree, and when we were finished he stood for a moment looking at our handiwork and proclaimed “I love our tree!” It’s the little things…

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