Do you remember the story of The Little Red Hen? When she asks all her barnyard friends who will help her make a cake, you know the famous response: “Not I,” says the pig. “Not I,” says the cow. “Not I,” says the goat. So, she bakes the cake by herself—threshing the wheat, grinding the flour, churning the butter—you get the idea. Once the cake is ready, of course, they all want to eat it.
Decorating Together at Christmas
I think you know where I’m going with this. When my kids were little, they loved helping me decorate the house for Christmas. Every storage bin in the basement would get opened, and no square inch of the house was left undecorated. And that was just the inside! Don’t forget the garland around the door, the lights on the bushes, and those light-up reindeer my husband bought that must be assembled just so, in order for them to move their heads up and down, back and forth.
As the teen years came upon us, my kids still wanted all of those same decorations in place, but they had little interest (or time, they claimed) to help me put them up. (We are not even discussing the un-decorating. That was never on anyone’s list but mine.) Even putting ornaments on the tree, which had always been a much-anticipated event in our house, started to feel like a hostage situation. They would each put up a few and then wander off to Snapchat their friends. I’d be left putting them up alone and muttering to myself.
So, I decided to scale back a bit when I decorate my house for Christmas. Maybe this year the Playmobil nativity set would not appear at the top of the stairs. Do we really need to put the entire Christmas village on top of the buffet? Instead of the reindeer, I would just put oversized ornaments on the magnolia tree out front. Oh, the pouting this received! And not just from my kids, mind you. Even the neighbors were upset. “Where are Cletus and Bobbi Jo?” they demanded, referring to our reindeer.
In the story of The Little Red Hen, she informs her barnyard friends, “I made this cake all by myself, so I am going to eat it all by myself.” That always struck me as being a bit churlish. I want my kids to love the holidays—and to keep the traditions they so obviously cherish—but I also don’t want to feel resentful about doing all the work to make it happen. So it seems I have a choice to make: I can put up the decorations and grumble about having to do it alone, or I can put up the decorations because they give me joy—and I know they will also give others joy. I think I will choose the latter.
But when it comes to baking cookies, my kids had better help me decorate them if they want to eat them!