Christmas Lights Craziness -- C.U.E. #6

Christmas Lights Craziness -- C.U.E. #6

I lost it the other day over, of all things, decorating our tree!

As with all Consciously Unskilled Episode posts, let's pick apart the incident for what it can teach.

The Missteps

I had been having a doozy of a month and got home Friday night exhausted. Saturday was going to be packed and we had twenty of my husband's colleagues arriving for lunch on Sunday.

I wanted at least to string the lights in the hour I had before bedtime. That way, my mother could help hang ornaments the next day with my children. (I would be at an all day training followed by a holiday party with my husband. Forget about a cozy family activity -- I was in survival mode!)

I asked Claudia, the only child around, if she wanted to help.

"Yes, wait," came the response.

But I didn't really want to wait. 30 seconds later, I called to her, "C'mon! Let's do this!"

"Wait, Mom, let me finish this video," she calmly maintained.

Finally, after a second urging, she came over. "Here, take this," I ordered as I handed her the first set. "I'm going to show you the way to do it so that the tree looks like it's glowing from inside."

Mesmerized by the lights, Claudia started backing up and stringing them horizontally on the branches. "Get back here," I barked.

"What, huh?" She was enjoying the glittering bulbs in her hand.

"Claudia, come here! Stand right here! You need to go up the trunk first all the way up to the top!" I couldn't keep myself from whining.

"Ok." She slid over and did as told. When she hit resistance on the first bough, though, she gave up,"I don't want to do it anymore. You do it." 

And she walked away.

The Repair

I immediately took a deep breath and noticed my fatigue. I offered myself compassion inwardly: You are just so exhausted. You feel a lot of pressure to do this but you really just need sleep.

That self-kindness allowed me to calm the tone of my voice. "Claudia, sorry for being so snippy. That's no fun for you. Would you like me to show you again?"

"No," came the quiet answer. She accepted my apology but was simply not that enthused any more.

I DIDN'T wallow in guilt as I might have before.

Instead, I deftly finished on my own, following decorator Martha Stewart's time-consuming yet worthwhile method. By doing the lights thoroughly, I would be able to enjoy them for the next few weeks.

Claudia glanced up when I was finished. "Pretty!" she exclaimed.

"Thank you, and good night sweetie." I squeezed her shoulder.

The Take-Away

Change my thoughts!

Things were going on in myself that had influenced my Line of Acceptance to be very high, to wit, lack of sleep and distorted thinking. 

Here's the swamp of my messed up holiday thoughts, some subconscious:

  • My house must look Christmasy for the guests to know I'm a good wife and mother.
  • This is the only way to do the lights "right."
  • It's not ok for anyone else to take over because I've always been in charge of the tree.
  • The messy ornament boxes can't be cleared until I get these lights up!
  • I should be joyful, calm and generous during the season.
  • I'm being very "Bah, humbug!" for wanting to be efficient -- Bond! Teach! 

Starting with the first session of the course, parents discuss how "shoulds" and "musts" make us intolerant toward our children. We come to realize that choosing to think another way can make a heck of a lot of difference:

So while I couldn't turn back the clock to feel more rested, I did have the power to choose the following:

  • There is no emergency -- I can do this in the morning or, for that matter, even after the Sunday lunch.
  • Claudia is just trying her best; sharing her delight would be showing true Christmas spirit.
  • No one will ever know that there is a "better" way to string lights (unless Ms. Stewart herself happens to show up).

I might even try to stop thinking and just BE with my senses, enjoying: the lights in Claudia's hands, the sound of her voice, the look in her eyes, the curve of her smile and the warmth of her presence.

Continue to model repair and self-forgiveness

Face it, Catherine, you will have mess-ups your entire life. Growing older graciously as a parent and person involves continually being able to admit when you are wrong.

Claudia appreciates the humility and honesty and, one day, will be quick to admit fault to her own children.

Parents are continuously modeling for their offspring — demonstrating by their actions, even louder than by their words, what they value or believe.
— Dr. Thomas Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children, page 302

And if you generously forgive yourself and accept mistakes as learning moments, she will know to be gentle on herself too. Don't you want that for her?

Oh yes, yes, yes.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday, dear reader!

Wishing you a peaceful holiday, dear reader!

Credits: Blurry Christmas lights (; Gandhi quote (