I Never Moved the Ornaments

I recently overheard a conversation between young mothers who were laughing about how their children decorated their Christmas trees. Each mom commented that she waited until the kids were asleep and then re-decorated the tree to fill in the “dead zone” that existed above the point the kids could reach. The implication was that having an “imperfect” tree would somehow detract from the joys of the holidays. I know this phenomenon is very common, but I don’t understand it. Is having a “perfect” tree so important that it justifies undoing and changing children’s efforts? Why is perfection so important?

As a mother of four, I have very fond memories of letting our children decorate the tree without help. I still remember the pride and excitement that radiated from their faces as they hung each precious ornament and repeatedly commented about Child Decorating the Treehow pretty the tree looked. I remember their “oohs” and “ahhs” when we turned out the lights and lit the lights on the tree.

I never moved the ornaments, garland or tinsel. Never. Each and every ornament was put exactly where the kids wanted it, so it seemed wrong (to me) to change anything. My kids would have noticed. (Trust me.) To me, changing what they created seemed to send the message that their honest handiwork wasn’t good enough. (I’m confident no child ever needed therapy because his mom moved the ornaments, so don’t get too hung up on that thought.) Another benefit is that the pictures of the tree through the years proved to be a great measuring stick of the kids’ growth. You can visibly see the ornaments creep a bit higher every year.

Please note I am not passing judgment on those who re-decorate their tree. I’m simply sharing that it makes no sense to me because having a perfect tree is not a realistic goal for me to have. I also confess I love visiting homes that are perfectly decorated. Kudos to you who are able to achieve that! I have a Pinterest board filled with your creations!

The phenomenon of re-decorating and undoing effort children took great pride in mystifies me. (Reloading the dishwasher mystifies me, too, but that’s a different issue.) My concern is that many people set themselves up for disappointment by trying to create the “Perfect Christmas” year after year. In my mind, a “perfect” holiday is about being with family and creating great memories. The decorations don’t really matter. (When my husband reads that, I’m quite certain he’ll start making plans to donate our twelve crates of Christmas decorations to whomever will take. them.) We always taught our kids to focus on the true Reason for the Season and didn’t put too much focus on the decorations. Decorating was part of the fun, but it had nothing to do with the joy of the holiday. I realized early on that the myth of the Perfect Christmas was just that: A Myth. A myth that could never be achieved with my lack of skills and a house filled with children. I therefore let go of that myth and learned to love and treasure our imperfect version of the perfect holiday. Doing so completely eliminated holiday stress and allowed us to celebrate in our own way. For more ways to reduce holiday stress, read: Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress.

My cousin and his wife also have four children: two older boys and two very active three-year old twin girls. His wife shared they use non-breakable ornaments, never move anything once the kids are done, and allow their girls to move and play with the ornaments throughout the season. What a beautiful way to eliminate stress and increase the kids’ fun! I love that!

So here is my encouragement: Lighten up! Leave the tree exactly the way the kids leave it, take pictures, show it off to guests, and celebrate every moment!

This year will be the last year we have any “children” at home. My stepsons are out on their own, my son is in college and in his own home, and my daughter recently signed a lease on her first apartment. I wasn’t planning on doing much decorating this year. It seemed like a lot of effort that very few people would enjoy. (My hubby’s a minimalist when it comes to Christmas decorating; I am Clark Griswold times twelve.) It then occurred to me that this would be our last Christmas with kids at home. I started thinking minimalism might not be fair to the kids. Then I caught myself and realized I had fallen into the trap of thinking the icing was more important than the cake. Shame on me!

My solution was to ask my daughter what she thought. Her response was that it would be nice to go all-out, but that it wouldn’t be fair since she wouldn’t be home very much to enjoy it. I therefore put up a smaller tree, fully decorated it, and displayed a few of our most treasured decorations. It was a relatively easy solution that created a festive atmosphere. UPDATE:  The following year we went all out and put everything out. It was wonderful and was nice to return to our “old” ways.

So … what do you do? Do you re-decorate or leave everything the way it was?

Photographer: Alec Couros

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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3 Responses to I Never Moved the Ornaments

  1. Randy Clark says:

    Great post, which can be applied to more than ornaments! However, there are times, OK almost daily, where the dishwasher must be reloaded–everybody knows the glasses go on top and pans on the bottom.

  2. Sabrina says:

    I totally agree! We decorate our tree as a family. We do have a few breakables and I put those at the top and Emmy got to do most of the rest. Wherever she puts them is where they will stay unless she decides to move them. We have a big cluster on the bottom right side of our tree, but not only do we not mind, we see only beauty in the art that this little life that love created continues to make! If she weren’t around to decorate as she does, we would deeply miss the unique flair she brings to our lives! We are truly better for it!

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