Why the Holidays Make Me Sad as a Parent

I love Christmas. Like, really, really love Christmas. My decorations go up on Nov. 1, Christmas music is on a loop in almost every room in the house, and Christmas classics enter the rotations for our Friday family movie nights. For me, it's truly the most wonderful time of the year. But, as a mom of three, it also doesn't come without a few moments of sadness.

The holidays can be a sad time for even the most festive of people. When I think about the happy holidays of my childhood, I have to come to grips with the fact that those days are gone forever.

Before I became a mom, I experienced a slew of losses in a very short time period, the two biggest being just before the holidays. My dad, whose festive nature caused him to go everywhere in a Santa hat for a solid two months, passed away just three days after Thanksgiving. Two years prior, my grandmother, a woman who made Christmas (and life in general) magical, died just two weeks before our favorite holiday. The magnitude of these losses had cast a dark shadow over the holidays for me. The once-fun hustle and bustle had become a joyless experience comprising myriad unpleasantries. Finding the perfect present had turned into simply finding something for each person on my list, and I'm sure that there was one year where I didn't listen to a single Christmas song and found myself really empathizing with the Grinch. The Christmas lights had officially burned out for me.

The holidays were sheer misery for four years. Then my daughter was born, and everything changed. Now, every year is better than the last as she gets older and I watch her discover the magic of Christmas. Last year, her twin sisters joined the mix, and I now have three little miracles to remind me that it really is a wonderful life. But no matter how joyful my holidays are, I can't seem to shake the little bouts of sadness that pop up every now and again.

Aside from missing my dad and grandma at (and having the anniversaries of their deaths so close to) Christmas, it saddens me to know that my daughters will never know them. My girls will never eat my dad's signature Thanksgiving side dishes or laugh at my grandma accidentally setting off the smoke alarms every single year. They'll never go Christmas shopping with my dad in his Santa hat or wrap presents with my grandma at her kitchen table while listening to Elvis sing Christmas carols. They will never spend a holiday with the people I loved so much. Instead, they will look at family photos of Christmases past and ask about each one: who they are and why they're no longer here. And, at some point, as my girls get older, I'm sure that the answers to their questions will lead to some painful but important discussions on things like cancer, suicide, and death in general. But for now, I guess I can take solace in the fact that my children are so young and those discussions are (hopefully) years away.

While I know that I have some time before I have to tackle those topics, I'm afraid that I don't have as long as I think I do before I have to discuss others. My daughter will start kindergarten next year, and it's safe to say she is far more excited about it than I am. I dread sending my baby off to school for a number of reasons, and Christmas is one of them. I don't plan on ruining the magic of Christmas for my kids, but I know that there are kids out there whose parents have told them the truth about Santa. I don't judge them for doing so, I just don't want their kids to share that with my kids. When I hear the excitement in my daughter's voice as she announces her plan to wake up when she hears Santa's sleigh bells this year so she can hand him his cookies in person, a part of my heart breaks because I know that innocent wonder won't last forever.

The holidays can be a sad time for even the most festive of people. When I think about the happy holidays of my childhood, I have to come to grips with the fact that those days are gone forever. And sometimes, that's hard. Now, the best thing I can do is create new memories and new traditions that my children will cherish for years to come. It's comforting to know that each year, it gets a little easier. Each year, the joyful days outnumber the sad ones.