Christmas, Mothering

The Stockings Were Hung

Stockings hung with care My mother excelled at Christmas stockings. She made our charming red, felt Christmas stockings, decorated to a fare-thee-well with our names sparkling down the leg. She had a knack for finding the right little thoughtful things and making them fit into the stocking in the most interesting way.

When I began to have children, she embellished the rather plain stockings I first hung for them.

Accordingly, I have spent many years putting pressure on myself to do the same thing. I wrapped all the tiny little presents in white tissue paper and tied the packages with ribbons color-coordinated to each stocking.

It's what mothers do to show their love, right?

Well, no.

It's what *my* mother did to show her love. 

And because her words of love and affirmation were so few and far between, I relied on the Christmas stocking as proof that she really cared.

This also means I've put pressure on people in my adult life to make the stocking happen, as if that were the only way to show love. This year I told my children, "We're going to keep Christmas low-key. Let's just do little things that go in the stockings."

Well, heck.

I managed to put the pressure on all of us to excel at the one thing that someone who has been gone since 1993, I kid you not, would have done so beautifully, a person who has been gone so long that the last time she filled a stocking for me or for my boys was 1992, a person who never, ever knew my daughter or filled a stocking for her. 

In other words, no one else even knows what I mean. I'm creating an unmeetable expectation.

Today LP expressed concern that she hadn't gotten me enough presents. She is worried about my stocking not having enough.

Dear Baby Jesus, please make it stop. Please make me stop. In this family we express our actual feelings with words. All I really want for Christmas (besides that awesome, mind-blowing, life-altering trip to the Boston Pops) is to worship tonight and to have my three children at the dinner table together tomorrow. 

Next year, I promise, I will set no gift-giving guidelines.

My stocking is already full, as full as my heart.

14 thoughts on “The Stockings Were Hung”

  1. Ah yes, the expectations we place on others as well as ourselves. Whether it’s stockings, or the “must-have” cookies, or the right number of packages — I join you in your prayer.
    With that being said — I’ve always loved the stocking better than any other part of Christmas, and it touched me to the heart the year my children (at the time high school age) decided it wasn’t fair that Mom and Dad didn’t get stockings. So ever since then the 2 boys have collaborated on stockings for us. It’s still a highlight for us all, even when we aren’t all together.
    May you and your children have a blessed, wonderful Christmas.

  2. I came from a “one present from each person” plus Santa Claus family growing up, while my husband goes completely nuts at Christmas and just buys everything he sees and lots of stuff he doesn’t, so he usually ends up with “not much” and I end up with many, many gifts – some in stockings and some wrapped. After 45 years together we still don’t seem to even out when it comes to Christmas presents, but I’ve finally decided that he enjoys the gifting as much or more than he enjoys the receiving, and I enjoy having a couple of fewer bills in January – so we’ve agreed to disagree. As long as everybody understands that it doesn’t matter how much you get, and that love is expressed in many ways, sometimes with gifts and sometimes with words and sometimes with actions, I think whatever you do is just fine. Go with whatever flow there is!

  3. This year our Christmas present to our kids is an experience, not at thing. Yeah, they are getting some money….but mostly an experience.

  4. And I suppose that is what Christmas becomes for many people. The way “love” is shown. The more gifts, the more love? And yet, we KNOW that’s not the case. It makes the entire season so very stressful as people fret they haven’t “done enough.” Love is a verb, not a gift wrapped up with a perfect bow. We used to fully blow it out at Christmas, and the stress was horrid. Two years ago, we decided enough was enough. We only get the boys something. My family just ceased buying gifts, and we’ve not missed it one bit. We gather for time spent together and we laugh. That is the biggest, best gift ever. Merry Christmas to you my sweet, sweet friend!

  5. Love that line: “In this family we express our actual feelings with words.” How true. We don’t need to slather gifts all over each other to show our love if we’re better at communicating that love with words…

  6. Amen, SB. You have such a beautiful family who knows what love is because you have shown them in so many ways. Blessings to you this Christmas.

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