My friend is obsessed with the holiday season especially Christmas. From the décor to the food to the gifts, her goal every year is to provide her family with a magical memorable Christmas.
For the past several years, she and her husband have made it a tradition to go with their two kids to at Christmas tree farm to pick out the perfect tree together. The family spends a few hours shopping until they agree on a tree to bring home. They tag the tree and the people that work at the farm cut it down, wrap it and load it the car. The tradition includes lots of photos and hot chocolate.
Three years ago, she was confident that they had picked the ideal tree. But when her husband untied it, she was convinced that the tree they brought home was not the one that they had chosen. Her husband thought she was being crazy and they proceeded to decorate the tree with the kids.
Days later (and weeks before Christmas day), the tree started slowly dying in their living room.
My friend looked at the pictures she had taken at the farm, and sure enough the tree in their home was definitely not the same tree they had chosen – in fact, it wasn’t even the same kind of tree. As the tree drooped and the ornaments started falling on a rug already covered in pine needles, she got more and more distraught. Her husband wound up dragging the sad tree to the curb two days before Christmas and running into town to find some tree that was still left. In other words, a loser tree that no one else wanted (but on the plus side, was alive.)
When she recounted the story to me she was very upset. Having a perfect Christmas tree was really important to her. She put so much effort into every detail of the holiday and to her, this stupid wrong tree had ruined things.
At first, I really could not understand why she was so upset. After all, it was just a tree. But I soon came to realize that it was not the tree, but what it represented.
As parents, we are all guilty of trying to create “perfect.” Some may not care at all about the perfect Christmas tree – but instead look to create the perfect vacation or the perfect birthday party. I know there have been times I have been disappointed with the way something I planned for my child had turned out. I want my kids to have wonderful memories of their childhoods.
Sometimes in an effort to create the perfect moments we may miss out on the really good ones. Or the not so good ones that are actually pretty hysterical.
Recently I was looking at old family photos and came across one from a vacation to Lake George that my Mom, Dad, brother and I took when I was about 8 years old. My mom took tons of photos throughout the trip.
As we were driving home, my mom realized that her camera had malfunctioned (I think she may have forgotten film) and that none of the pictures she took had come out. She was so upset – she felt we would have no memories of the trip. We wound up stopping at a rest stop and my mom made us pose for a full roll of photos there on the highway.
When my parents planned that vacation, they didn’t anticipate that my biggest memory of it would be of her mistake. As parents we don’t get to choose which memories will really stick with our kids and sometimes it will be the ones that illustrate our failures and shortcomings – the things that didn’t come out quite right.
But when I looked at that photo, I smiled. I may not remember the awesome hotel or the cool stuff we did. But I do remember being really happy. And I think that is pretty perfect.