It is no secret I struggle with perfection all the time.  Perfection sneaks up on me when I least expect it. Like when my family wants to decorate the Christmas tree. Anyone else out there ever have a melt down over a Christmas tree? It seems we all have our own idea on what the tree should look like, but we all want the same thing- to enjoy sitting in front of the twinkling lights. This year I am giving myself a pat on the back and celebrating the first time in a long time I did NOT absolutely lose it over a tree.


I typically drag the giant fake tree up the stairs from the basement by myself, set it up in the corner and spend an hour defending it from my kids while I hastily spiral the lights around the tree. I tend to skip the garland because I am so annoyed and go right into freaking out about the cluster of 20 ornaments my kids place on the same branch. Then I have to wait for hubby to come home and put the star on top because, even with a ladder, I am too short. Then we take turns arguing fussing over the placement of ornaments.

It isn’t hard to understand why hubby and I end up battling over the way the tree goes up. As a perfectionist I have a vision and I want to recreate it in exact detail and with precision. My husband, being methodical and highly logical will have a completely separate (convoluted) idea of how the tree should look.


This year I witnessed a small miracle when hubby put the tree up without being asked ten times. The kids kept a reasonable distance from the tree so there was no one to step on (or cry about being stepped on). And I didn’t offer “suggestions” about fluffing the artificial branches to look real, nor did I follow behind him reworking every strand of lights he put up. [Insert choir of angels] Everything felt pretty sensational until my husband mentioned stringing the beaded garlands on the tree. I froze. “That’s OK we don’t need them this year,” I offered nervously.

You have to understand that I brought these beaded garlands into our marriage from my childhood home. My family and I hung them a specific way, the same way, year after year. Now he is about to ruin my tradition of perfectly balanced symmetry by hanging them haphazardly in non-conforming variations.

“I know let’s alternate the silver AND the gold strands!” he replied with enthusiasm. I felt my right eye twitching as I visualized both silver AND gold decorations on the tree. This goes completely against tradition and good taste.

I might have had a small aneurysm.

He must have sensed my spiraling panic when he suggested, “why don’t you sit down and relax”  and handed me a rum and eggnog. That helped.

I sat down and watched (painfully) as he and the children worked to get the decorations on the tree. It took a lot of work inside my soul to not straighten out every crooked line of garland, or to recalibrate every mismeasured strand. I had to dig really deep to keep my cool when he got to the very top of the tree and had 4 ft. of left over garland. Note: This is why you start at the top of the tree so you can ditch the extra strands on a bottom branch in the back of the tree! But I didn’t say that. I put my head between my knees and took more deep breaths because I couldn’t watch him wrap the excess around the tippy top of the tree at the base of our star. When he was through I sat upright to catch my barrings and I waited for the branches to give way under the weight. Thankfully, I was wrong. It even looked OK.

It was time to hang the ornaments. Per our history together, this is where the magic dies. I hate all the ugly handmade ornaments my husband has had since Kindergarten that he insists on hanging up every year. He is a grown man hanging mangled glitter on my tree. As much as I try to hide them every year he finds them. Now I have actual Kindergartners hanging their mangled glitter on my tree and they can tell if one is missing! So there is no hiding of ornaments, or throwing them away. I am completely out numbered. But I tell myself to let it go. (I’d say this rum is really working).

This year, I turned a blind eye to the mishmosh and let the ornaments fall where they may. Yoga breaths helped ease the escalating hysteria in my mind as the children began hanging several decorations on the same branch. [Inhale] “In with the joy!” [Exhale] “Out with the control!” Just as I was patting myself on the back for not taking over the decorating, my daughter said, “this feels like good times.”


As we took a step back to admire the tree I realized that by letting go of my idea of perfect decorations, our tree turned out pretty perfect after all. There was no yelling, no crying and no trauma for my children to share with future therapists.  The tree has an eclectic vibe, but everyone has their favorite ornament on the tree where they can see it. I actually love our tree this year because watching my family experience this tradition with joy makes me happy. Who knew all it takes is me giving up my need to control things (and a little rum) to make lasting family memories.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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20 Comments on There’s No Crying in Christmas

  1. Our tree is a mess of ornaments and I love it that way. I don’t want a Martha Stewart tree because that’s not an accurate reflection of our life. We have homemade ornaments and always get one from where ever we travel and those all make our tree perfect for us.

    • Before kids my life was very Martha…it has been a process letting go of those expectations since having kids. I love our tree this year- but it is the first time I have enjoyed the process of decorating. 🙂

  2. Ahh I love this! Since moving in with my other half (now husband), I’ve been the only one deorating the tree so it can be exactly how I want it. However my neice helped me to decorate today, and whilst I thought I might get a bit antsy, I was actually able to leave her to it!

  3. Agree! That sometimes the holidays can bring out a side to people, that isn’t pretty. But like you said, if we just take a step back we realize what is really important! Happy holidays!

  4. This cracks me up. I have my ideas too but I have an easier time than you just giving up control. Our tree looks like the kids decorated it because they did. 🙂 And yes I moved a few of the ornaments around after they went to bed but let most of it go. 🙂

  5. What a great story, it totally made me smile. It is so hard sometimes to give up that control but I am super proud of you!!

  6. I used to be just like that! But since my kids are now growing up they want to take part in decorating now, so I sit back and let them have at it.

  7. I love this post. My hubby is also decor challenged. We have HUGE blue LED lights this year, and purple and gold ornaments. AHH! But, I loved decorating it with the family while listening to Christmas music. However, a rum and eggnog would have made it slightly better.

  8. Ahhahaha! You and are pretty similar. I can not stand an unorganized tree. But we have to realize that the Christmas traditions we brought into our marriage may not be the same as our spouse. I can definitely attest to getting into arguments with my husband over the tree. Luckily we’ve worked on that and now its an enjoyable experience. My son isn’t old enough to put up ornaments but I can assume I will have a minor heartattack when he is. We should all strive to keep the focus on the joy of the season and less on the little things.

  9. I love this post because I can totally relate. My husband has to be asked ten times to put up the tree too. We are supposed to put it up this weekend, three weeks behind everyone else. I, too, will be letting go and just enjoying being together. A glass of wine might help too.

  10. So true! While the fruits of labor are rewarding, we need to learn to be easy of ourselves. And we often forget it. Thank you for the just in time reminder!! And love your decor 🙂

  11. Hahahaha this was kind of us this year! We usually put it up Thanksgiving but we were away. Got back home afte the long weekend and we totally procrastinated lol

  12. This is quite a touching post, and I love how the analogy of the tree is kind of a life analogy in general too. With the tree not being too perfect, it ends up being perfect! xx

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