Two or three years ago we (and by we I mean me) stopped sending out Christmas cards. You know the fun of shoving your kids in matching, itchy sweaters, driving around the mall parking lot, sitting in a crowded portrait studio, having over-worked frazzled college kids barking at your kids to “smile, dammit!” Okay, they may not actually say “dammit”, but we’re all thinking it. Then you have to pick out the least cringy picture, pay half a year’s salary for pictures of your own family, wait a week, drive back to the mall, keep repeating, “put it on your Christmas list” when your kids ask for every single item they pass on the way to the portrait studio, bring the pictures home, stuff them in 75 envelopes, teach your kids a new word when you get a paper cut, look up your Christmas card address list, try to remember who the hell all these people are, address, stamp, and send the envelopes “in time”. Yeah, I know, for a writer my run-on sentences need work, but that’s how crazy this makes me. My ADHD brain does not do well with multi-step instructions. It shuts down when the Your pictures are ready for pick up text comes on my phone. That’s after the ordeal of actually taking the damn pictures.
We don’t have a typical family. Getting everyone out of the house is next to impossible. Getting everyone out of the house on time and well dressed? Ha! My kids both have special needs. They, along with me, get overwhelmed very easily. For my oldest, getting to the mall, dealing with uncomfortable clothing, bright lights, crowds, and noise, and being forced to smile through it all is draining. My youngest is on the autism spectrum. Some days, putting shoes on is an epic battle. To give you an idea, I’ve already gotten a letter home from school about the number of tardys this year. Winning over here, people. Once we get to the destination, he wants to touch/lick everything. He struggles with verbal instructions and receptive language in a perfect environment. In a crowded, hot, bright studio where a strange lady on the verge of tears is telling (begging) him to “Sit there, no, there, put your arm around your brother. No, like this. Don’t touch the prop. Don’t touch the light. You moved. Smile. Hold still. Smile. Don’t touch the teddy bear I just put next to you. Smile. Now let’s take 872 more poses,” well, you get the picture. No pun intended.“But, Kat, you know you could have a photographer come to your house and take the pictures? You could do them outside!”
I could, even with all the dog hair. The thing is, that wouldn’t eliminate the other 70 steps involved in sending out the damn pictures. Now, I get the fact that for some “normal” individuals, addressing and stamping envelopes and putting them in the mail box is no big deal. Some people love giving and receiving Christmas cards. Great. Don’t let me steal your joy. But we’ve kept up with the sending of the Christmas cards because it’s expected. Yes, I like to have pictures of my family, but at this point I’d rather have the pictures reflect our real life – mismatched socks, messy hair, and no one looking at the camera. Probably a dog photo bombing. So, you won’t be getting a Christmas card from me even though I’m thinking of you, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and I will save the picture you send of your beautiful family. Except for that one person. Just kidding.
When we stopped sending Christmas cards, we violated an expectation, and we heard about it. The lady my mom worked with thirty years ago wants to know why she didn’t get a card from us. Was it lost in the mail? Third cousins twice removed felt slighted. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly.
You won’t be getting a Christmas card from me and it’s not because I hate you. It’s actually not you, it’s me. I can’t keep up and it’s one thing I’ve chosen to let go. If you want pictures of our family, I’ll be glad to send them via text in all their imperfect glory. If you want to take pictures of the kids at a holiday get together, by all means. Please send me copies! But I won’t be sending Christmas cards. Here’s my Christmas greeting: Merry Christmas to you and your family, and a happy New Year to everyone on my Christmas card list and anyone reading. Except that one person.