Oh expectations….Unlike Mr. Dickens, I’m not so sure they’re exactly “great.” Unrealistic expectations can take away from the wonderful thing that is “real life”‘ happening all around us.

It’s easy to build up special days like Christmas in our head as the be-all-end-all of family experiences. We see all of the holiday movies, scroll through the picture perfect holiday crafts on Pinterest, and read about all of the magical holiday experience our friends are doing with their kids. But, life doesn’t always go as planned. Every moment isn’t a magical wonderland of holiday joy. REAL life will happen Christmas morning.

Here are a few examples…

It was our daughter’s second Christmas. She was not quite 2 years old, and we were really excited to share in the joys of Christmas morning with her. We were certain she would delight in all of her gifts and knew she would be so eager to see the contents of her stocking. Hannah woke up that morning with a fever, and had ZERO interest in opening presents. She was very “blah” and just wanted to sit there.

Christmas 2010, we were celebrating with my parents and our kids sort of shut down. It was as if their batteries had simply worn out. Both kids collapsed and spent a large chunk of Christmas afternoon asleep. That wasn’t what I had planned on happening.

Kids get overwhelmed when they are overstimulated. Let’s get real here…Christmas is pretty darn overstimulating! With all of the anticipation, excitement, lack of sleep, sugar, lights, presents, hub-bub, ten thousand camera flashes, etc, kids can and likely will get overwhelmed and act like kids! Expect normal behavior to happen on Christmas. Kids will be cranky, fussy, and imperfect. They will throw the outfit you painstakingly picked out on the floor. Comments like, “Is that it?” or “I wanted something else.” might come out of their all-too-honest mouths. There might be tears, fights, runny noses, and big hot chocolate stains on your rug. The dog might get into the presents. The turkey might be dry. Your husband might ask if he could exchange the jeans you bought him for a different fit (and then you get crazy angry and yell….not that I’d know anything about that…) It won’t be perfect.It WILL be real.

But, I’m here to assure you that there is something spectacular in embracing the perfectly imperfect. Let go of every expectation you have for the holidays, and roll with whatever happens. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the need to have every second of Christmas day be the perfect memory. Life’s best memories are the ones we didn’t plan for. There is a certain kind of joy and wonder in the real life, nitty gritty, kids being kids type of moments.

I urge you to make the most of whatever Christmas you are dealt this year. Whether you’re celebrating an abundant holiday or like many, struggling to put even a small package or two under the tree, just embrace whatever happens on that day with your children and your family. Let what happens be ENOUGH. Be content with the burnt pancakes, the slightly more hyperactive than normal children, and getting stuck next to your crazy uncle at the dinner table. Christmas is still Christmas, no matter how it happens or what it looks like. It won’t be perfect. It never is. It certainly wasn’t perfect the first Christmas, and just look at what came of that!! Joseph and Mary could have thrown a fit over their accommodations, lack of food, and all of the other things that didn’t go as planned for them that first Christmas in Bethlehem. Instead, they made the most of their situation, used what resources were made available to them, and welcomed our Savior into the world. It wasn’t perfect….but it WAS still Christmas.

From my family to yours, I wish you a wonderfully imperfect Christmas.