1. Reserve a weekend in December for the annual choosing and cutting down of the Christmas tree. Make sure to choose a tree farm almost an hour's drive north. On the day you make the trip, bring a friend of your oldest son's along. Because six people weighing in on a tree could lead to a dreaded tie. You'll need the extra set of eyeballs... just in case.
2. Arrive at dusk on a rainy, overcast Saturday, just as they are closing. Look at your husband in disbelief when he tells you we've been turned away "for legal reasons." Some nonsense about navigating the farm in the dark and the possibility of falling in holes. Leave without a tree. Take the five children to Dairy Queen and give them each a Blizzard for dinner. Hock a loogie into your husband's Blizzard when he isn't looking. After all, if he hadn't tried to reclaim his youth by organizing that tackle football game in your backyard with the 5th grade boys, you'd have been there before closing -- and left with a tree.
3. Wake up early Sunday morning. Pack coats, hats, gloves, doughnuts, water, baby wipes and children into the minivan. Arrive at the tree farm an hour north for the second time in 14 hours. Watch in horror as the children leap from the car directly into the mud because you've forgotten to pack their rain boots.
4. Walk to the farthest left corner of the tree farm with your husband, who amuses himself by pinching your butt cheek every 4-5 trees. Refrain from tackling your two older sons when, with ninja-like stealth, they jump out from behind a tree and scare the be-Jesus out of you. Keep your face expressionless when your two younger sons hand you a dozen colored tags that they've pulled from trees other people have marked and paid for already. Nonchalantly toss the tags into the nearest hole. Kick mud into the hole to bury the evidence. Point to the nearest tree and tell your husband, "cut it down fast before they kick us the fuck out of here!"
5. Take a family picture with the tree before it's bailed and strapped to the minivan roof. Promise the kids that you will decorate the tree tonight. When you arrive home, ask your husband to put the tree in a bucket in the backyard. Forget to check to see if he has put water in the bucket. Be too tired to decorate the tree that night.
6. Put the tree up five days later. Play Christmas music. Make hot chocolate with marshmallows for the kids and homemade Bailey's for you and your husband. Turn on the gas fireplace. Unwrap each ornament slowly, pause, smile, then begin the story of where each ornament came from... because every ornament has a story, and you remember each and every story. When no one, including your husband, listens to your stories... when they repeatedly interrupt you, when they rip ornaments from your hand with their dirty, ungrateful little fingers, when they fight over whose turn it is to place the star on top of the tree... tell them they are taking all of the magic out of Christmas.
7. When your husband announces he will not be watering the tree this year because it's "a waste of time," look at him quizzically. Narrow your eyes. In your mind's eye, recollect the year he created a device for watering trees he felt should be patented. The funnel he duct-taped to the PVC tube that allowed him to stand at his full height of 6'2" plus an additional three feet away to water the tree without brushing against so much as one pine needle. Walk upstairs to the hall closet. Open it. Peek inside. Yep. It's still there. Nope. Still no patent. Close the closet door. Scratch your head. But, for god's sake, hold your tongue.
8. Spend the next three weeks giving the tree a wide berth. Admire it from afar, as though you're a stalker. Or a peeping tom. Instruct the kids to do the same. On Christmas Eve, after the kids have gone to bed, take every piece of furniture from that room and move it as far away from that fire hazard...I mean from the tree as possible. Scowl at your husband when he raises his eyebrows and suggests you do the nasty on the carpet of razor sharp pine needles that now covers your family room rug. Leave a note for Santa to place the gifts 3-4 feet away from the tree. And, above all else, instruct him not to light his pipe until he's several houses away from that goddamn tinder box.
9. Spend Christmas morning watching the joy on your kids' faces as they unwrap each of their presents. Watch those looks of joy morph into masks of pain as they slip their unsuspecting fingers into new ski gloves riddled with needles as sharp as splinters. Spend Christmas night snuggled up on the sofa with your husband. Listen to the cats chasing each other up and down the Christmas tree. Hear the sound of two million pine needles hitting the presents. Cringe at the shattering glass, as the precious ornaments... each with its own story...f all from the tree and hit the Lego sets below. Do. Not. Turn. Around. And. Look. At. The. Carnage.
10. The following morning, announce that, "we are getting that miserable excuse for a Christmas tree out of this house today." Tell the kids to pipe down when they beg for one more day. When your husband walks past you on the way to his shed and you overhear him mutter, "I just need my chainsaw," take a tug of that Bailey's. It matters not that it's only 8:30 a.m.. Chainsaw + Christmas tree + Family Room = No one will judge you. When he returns to the house with a pair of pruning shears, breathe a sigh of relief. Keep the children occupied while he desecrates the Christmas tree that you grabbed in a flash... I mean that they chose so lovingly. After he's hacked off every single branch, beg him not to show the children the naked trunk that used to be their beloved Christmas tree. Dry their tears and offer hugs of compassion when he disregards your plea because he believes, "this is one of the greatest ideas I've ever had." Silently vow to head directly to Target to purchase an artificial tree on clearance the minute they are all back in school.
Follow these 10 steps to ensure your kids too will need post-holiday therapy. Until next year...