The month of October, replete with visits to pumpkin patches, pumpkin-carving contests, pumpkin spice lattes and pastries (and just about every other kind of pumpkin-flavored food and beverage you can imagine now!), warm apple cider, hayrides and corn mazes, trunk-or-treat events, classroom Halloween parties, and trick-or-treating — phew! — has become the new beginning of the holiday season, marking an exceptionally busy time for families until January and the new year roll around.
This year, instead of being haunted by the ghouls and ghosts of All Hallows' Eve, though, I found myself haunted by an ever-growing list of events to attend for my son and reminders of what I have yet to prepare and put together. We visited a pumpkin patch fundraiser and decorated pumpkins for a school contest, but the final weekend before Halloween was the most hectic one, filled with baking and decorating Halloween cookies and putting the final touches on my son's Halloween costume for a trunk-or-treat event and his classroom party, all while making sure that our home was well stocked with candy for our perennial Halloween patrons . . . and preparing for our newest arrival — a baby boy due on Halloween. These phantom reminders will haunt me throughout the holiday season.
Christmas will bring its own challenges with family visits, Christmas shopping, holiday concerts and plays, secret Santa exchanges, and more classroom parties, for which I will inevitably bake additional desirable and allergy-friendly desserts. There are times when I feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the overabundance of holiday obligations that I face each year for my sweet son, wishing for nothing more than an evening to myself to curl up with a good book and one of those iconic pumpkin spice lattes, or to Netflix and chill with my fingers wrapped lovingly, comfortingly around a peppermint mocha. I know that these holiday obligations will only increase with the birth of my second son, and yet, despite my sense of exhaustion and inundation, these moments spent with my children around the holidays are completely and unquestionably worth every ounce of fatigue that accompanies them.
I have found that the busy holiday season is actually so much like parenting in general. It's a mixed bag of emotions, and you sometimes can't predict what will be thrown at you, but the look on my son's face and the joy he feels as we create new memories and new holiday traditions is ample recompense for my own tiredness. Seeing him revel in the decorations and delights of his classroom Halloween party conjures up the happy magic of memories of classroom parties from my own childhood. Nothing could compare to my excitement and anticipation for our elementary school harvest festival when I was a child. My son is so much like me in many ways, and even though I sometimes wonder why I don't have a little more time to myself to recuperate emotionally and regain my strength, all it takes is one smile on his face to remind me that he is making memories that will last a lifetime and to replenish my vim, vigor, and vitality.
And so, I face the ghosts of my to-do lists and of holidays past, present, and future, and I resoundingly exclaim, "Bring it on!" These moments when my son is filled with wonder and amazement at the idea of hauntings, the warm glow of jack-o'-lanterns, the surprising sweet treats he may amass while trunk-or-treating, and the mystery of holiday magic are, like my ghosts, transitory and evanescent. It is better for me to live in the moment, savoring the sparkle of each one and adding to my own wealth of memories and traditions, rather than to get caught up in exhaustion or frustration. We will only get these moments once, so I choose to enjoy them as much as I can. It is also worthwhile to remind myself that, as Patrick Rothfuss writes in The Name of the Wind, "When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind."