When I think about the holiday season, the blurry, whimsical childhood memories I reminisce about fade into pure stress bogged down with the pressure of finding the perfect gifts (gifts that evoke more happiness than the box they came in), hosting family and friends (without burning the house or family down), decorating (and trying to keep tiny fingers from destroying anything not made from unbreakable plastic). The minutia and the overwhelming details quickly dull the shine that once surrounded this festive time of year, fading it all into a slow, throbbing headache laced with anxiety.
When you’re a child, the holidays are filled with wonderment and joy, but for moms, well, it’s simply the season of stress. What do moms need most this time of year? A break. Furthermore, who even has time to bake um-teen varieties of Christmas cookies? Not this lady! So I thought, “What more efficient way to infuse my home with a variety of cookies, than to host a cookie exchange?”
Hosting a cookie exchange has been on my adult bucket list for a while, but I never got the courage to host one until this year. Finally having made a great group of friends here in my new hometown, I found myself on Pinterest, fervently researching the in’s and out’s of a cookie exchange.
While I tried to think multiple steps ahead, I mulled over the idea of giving awards for “best in show” or “best tasting” cookie, but then, whose feelings would be hurt if her cookies weren’t chosen for X award? *sigh* And the awards idea was off the list. Drama, self-loathing, depression… no mom needs any more of any one of those things in her life, and it wasn’t supposed to be a competition.
To game or not to game… that was the next question. UGH. I think too much. I had an irrational fear of awkward silence amongst my friends who had never met each other… would the party then be deemed a failure? Would my friends think I should have planned it better? Would I be party blacklisted? Stumbling across a game called “Sticker Stalker”, I smiled as I envisioned my friends sneakily finding ways to adhere stickers to the other unwitting party guests… but then again, tired moms would probably forget to de-sticker before tossing their clothes into the laundry, and that would result in having made MORE work for them… the antitheses of my overall intent.
When at long last it was time for the party, and guests started to arrive, I began to understand that each mom was just happy to have a childless Saturday evening wherein holiday spirits could be enjoyed in the midst of uninterrupted adult conversation. Upon entering the house, one by one their exhausted bodies all seemed to relax as they unloaded more than just cookies and snacks. “I so needed this today – it has been an awful week!” one of my friends sigh-exclaimed as she bustled around putting the final touches on her appetizer, while another friend quickly inquired, “Okay now, where’s the wine?”
A delighted warmth spread over me when I realized there was one factor that I had not considered in my obsession to host the perfect party… the common bond of “mom time”. Conversations started quickly amongst strangers who were ready and more than willing to maximize this kid-free, appetizer-filled social time… the fact that no one knew anyone was simply not an issue. Most moms find it hard to carve out time for themselves if there’s no “good reason” to do so. I mean, what mom will just take time for herself during the day when she knows she’ll just sit there obsessing about all of the things she could or should be doing: laundry, cleaning, organizing, cooking, picking up dog poo… and the list goes on and on and never ends. Time carved out for moms with moms is time to be cherished and enjoyed to its fullest.
Many of my friends had some “extra time” (which really is just time stolen from sitting or sleeping) and had offered to bring appetizers along with their dozens of cookies, and as much as I wanted to wear the perfect hostess crown (the crown that requires the bearer to assume 100% of the party’s burden), the reality of life is that I needed the help. I had, in fact, taken on more than I could manage around the holidays, and I was exceedingly grateful to accept their gestures of kindness. The older, and painfully wiser, I get, the more I realize that when help is offered, it should be accepted… and so, with the help of my friends, the party was a great success!
However, as beautifully displayed and overwhelmingly delicious as the cookies were, they were surprisingly not the stars of the evening. As the party was winding down, I began to understand that the highlight of the cookie exchange was not hording sugar-coated carbs, it was the exchange of friendship, conversation, and laughter. Finding myself mulling over whether or not I should host another cookie exchange, I decided that if the promise of bringing home dozens of homemade cookies was reason enough to motivate a husband to watch the kids for an evening so mom could get out to spend time with her mom friends, well, so be it! Thus, a new annual holiday tradition was born along with the wisdom that good solid friendships are more valuable than any amount of cookies could ever aspire to be.