By Melinda Munson

You should know that I dread Christmas. I also dislike babies, small children singing and puppies — but those are topics for another column.

Let’s focus on the holidays. 

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, I get a crick in my neck that doesn’t go away until Jan. 2 of the following year. In early December, my right eye begins to randomly twitch. The only remedy is a long, uninterrupted nap. Guess how often that happens. 

I used to enjoy the months of November and December, but that was four kids ago, when I was still young and believed that patience grew. (Love grows, patience just stretches, if you’re lucky.)

My kids with special needs struggle to regulate emotions on a normal day, so holiday excitement — with the abrupt change in schedule and no school — is a recipe for negative behaviors. Instead of Christmas carols our house is a chorus of: 

“Don’t hit your brother.”

“You can’t say that word until you’re 45 and have your own house.”

“Don’t hit your brother.”

“I saw where you just put your hands. Go wash them, twice.”

“Don’t hit your brother.”

“Your sister is blind. She didn’t mean to step on your feet.”

“Don’t hit your brother.”

My husband and I have learned to keep things simple. Particularly with food. Hours spent in the kitchen don’t equate to a joyful meal with stimulating conversation.

It’s more like:

“Don’t hit your brother.”

“That’s not poop, it’s stuffing.”

“Don’t hit your brother.”

“I see you spitting your food out in the corner.”

“Don’t hit your brother.”

“For the love of Pete, please chew with your mouth closed.” (At least that child is eating.)

“Don’t hit your brother.”

We now skip the traditional holiday meal and serve a turkey sandwich bar. Everyone gets to make their own plate, and kitchen clean up is less depressing.

Presents are another area we’ve streamlined. Each child gets two presents and a generous stocking. When they complain, we remind them that it’s Jesus’ birthday. Do they deserve more presents than Jesus? (This works even if you’re atheist.)  

I start purchasing presents in October when our PFD is deposited into our bank account by the lovely State of Alaska. I wrap the gifts as soon as they arrive so that in December, when I’m stress crying, I’m not crying harder.

My husband thinks my holiday system is weird. I asked him if he wanted to take a turn being in charge of the material acquisition that is the Yuletide. The answer was no.

As for my own material acquisition, I solved the bathrobe problem ages ago. I shop for myself before Christmas, so any thoughtfully curated gifts from my family are a bonus.

The one tradition that saves my sanity is the Sweedish practice of opening presents on Christmas Eve. Most of my kids forget that we don’t wait for Dec. 25 to rip open the brown paper packages tied with reusable fabric ribbon. (I’m working on getting plastic free tape for next season.) Each year, they are overjoyed when the moment finally arrives, a whole day earlier than expected.

With the holidays complete, I could not be happier. I sent five of six kids back to school on Jan. 11 with a very clique, but very real, lift in my step and song in my heart.

Now I get to start my holiday. Skagway keeps its Christmas lights up long after New Year’s to battle the dark depths of winter. If you see me walking down the street, staring at lights, possibly laughing, don’t worry. It’s after-Christmas, my favorite time of year.