We hosted our annual North Pole Party this past weekend, our kids’ holiday celebration that began eight years ago with seven little girls sitting at a table under a canopy of twinkle lights on our lanai and has expanded to fit what life looks like now — more kids, looser expectations and more experience with how to take the reins of my ENFP personality and steer it responsibly. As my personality test result explanation puts it, “Campaigners can be easily tripped up in areas where their idealism and passion are more of a liability than an asset.” I read this as: “Christmas gonna trip you up real good, honey.” I can’t help it that I’ve already selected three songs that will play during the movie montage playback of memories in my brain for holiday events before they’ve even happened. It’s just how I’m wired. I will explain how this can be a major problem in a moment here, but let’s dive into some of the party delights that make me so happy every year.
The sight of colorful Christmas cookies on a plate immediately initiates a little surge of dopamine in my brain. It’s such a happy site and combines three of life’s most wonderful things for a Joy Trifecta: colors, Christmas and sugar.
I balanced all the homemade baking with a stealthy slip-in of a boxed chocolate cookie mix that I disguised with a cute name plate and some powdered sugar dusting, but the kids were on to me. I’m sorry to report that Dancer’s Cocoa Crinkles had NO TAKERS. Not a one. I have spoiled them so much over the years that the little elves are well trained in detecting a lack homemade attempts. Or perhaps it’s because they look like cow piles and were sitting next to cups of milk I titled “Reindeer Milk”–a poor choice because nobody wants to drink that.
But the cocoa bar?
It was the hip corner of the house. They all wanted cocoa, they all drank corner, they all got a kick out of the fact that they could pour their own and doctor it up with 500 mini marshmallows and peppermint sticks and no one would stop them; and they all came back for more more more.
We made cocoa and refilled the tanks all night. I’m thinking about opening a hip bar with cocoa on tap.
Our craft this year was winter birdhouse ornaments–an easy one to set up for the kids to attempt mostly on their own (with a little supervision for the glue gun).
Do kids Lainey’s age still enjoy all of this? Yes, yes, and yes. I’m always prepared to shift things up to keep activities age appropriate, but since we keep the party focused simply on being together for a fun night, everyone’s all in.
I especially love watching the bigs with the littles. Nella was once the littlest one at the party, and look at her now–mothering the babies.
And about those lofty ENFP holiday dreams? Entertaining for the holidays is one of the best practices in recognizing the weaknesses of my emotional tendencies, but I have learned so much to help me remember what my expectations should really be. It’s similar to separating wants from needs. Do I want everyone to be smiling and laughing in an immaculate house with Christmas carols playing at the perfect volume and twinkle lights twinkling and a spread of beautiful looking homemade food that includes everyone’s favorites while children on their best behavior nestle into grandparents’ arms to hear stories that make us laugh at all the right parts, and everyone leaves proclaiming, “That was the best night ever!” I mean, yeah. But that’s not my expectation.
Here are a few of my holiday expectations for this month if you’d like to borrow them.
Expect that you will work hard to make everything perfect, but they might not notice everything you did. It’s okay. They notice subconsciously, and all these special things you do collectively gather to form the deepest, truest “I love you” that they will return to long after they’ve left the house. Do the special things only if they make you happy. If they stress you out, stop doing them. Choosing not to do them to be more present will also send the deepest, truest “I love you” that they will return to long after they’ve left the house.
Expect that things will go wrong as they always do. Cookies will burn. Kids will trip and get forehead shiners five minutes before the family photo. The most unique gift you found for your mother-in-law will also be given to her by your sister-in-law five minutes before she goes to open yours. It will rain instead of snow. The tree will dry up the day before Christmas Eve–not to mention, the lights will stop working Christmas morning. Your favorite cousin that you’re so excited is coming to your Christmas dinner will text that morning saying she can’t come. You’ll drop the Christmas breakfast casserole as you’re sliding it in the oven. You’ll forget where you hid the gift you’re most excited to give. Your kids will be dicks in front of the relatives you most want to impress. And then discover the Santa wrapping paper in your closet.
So widen your expectations to include inevitable disappointment and instead set your starry-eyed heart toward this: You can’t control anything else but your behavior and reactions. Pour your holiday expectations into your own attitude. Model humor and resilience. Nurture and Notice. Hug your guests. Refill their glasses. Ask them questions. Serve with love. Put your phone down. Listen to the music. Taste the food. Initiate a game. Hold babies in your lap. Set the tone. Step back into childhood for a moment. Play. Watch a movie. Make note of all the things that make you feel grateful for right now. Be patient with the kids–they’re overstimulated and so excited about all of the fun that sometimes the excess has to bubble over in the form of meltdowns. Take a moment for yourself. Sneak off to your bedroom with a holiday cocktail and read a magazine for ten minutes if you need to decompress. Relax. Relax. Relax.
We head to Chicago this weekend for a weekend of winter wonderland. I don’t think snow is in the forecast, and that’s okay. And last year, we went straight from the airport to my friend’s house to pick up the key to the apartment she so generously lets us use, and Nella projectile puked all over her beautiful living room. So yeah, I have the roll-with-it thing down. Do you know what else ENFPs are good at? We know how to have fun–even in the midst of disappointing circumstances.
Happy Hump Day!