The Holiday Card You Dream of Writing

Kelly McShane
5 min readDec 26, 2021

At this time of year, my closest friends and I are swapping stories about the infamous holiday cards filled with sappy stories that are completely the opposite of our own lived experience. Of course, we do appreciate the time and effort it takes to recount the multitude of accomplishments, successes and shining moments of 2021. However, it highlights the sheer irreconcilable differences between our lives and theirs. Alas, for all those friends who dream of writing those authentic holiday cards filled stories of 2021, I write one here for you.

Erosion of the road ahead

Dear family and friends, who I have not really spoken to for most of 2021 either due to extreme avoidance or utter shame,

We survived the year. Period. Full Stop. If this was a telegram, it would end here. But we are in 2021, almost 2022, and telegrams are a thing of the past because we just have so much good news to share, and frankly telegrams cannot accurately capture the sheer nature of our sarcastic stories.

As parents, we experienced a number of exciting gains in 2021, some of which were even record breaking. New mathematical breakthroughs were discovered to account for the influx of laundry that occurred following the frequent change of clothes necessitated by COVID. Most notably, it was discovered that laundry has an exponential growth rate in a pandemic. In addition, at least one known accelerator was determined, which is tied to the infrequence of showering which leads to an acceleration in the stink factor of clothing. This was impacted by child age, where younger children had a significant advantage in the stink factor due to their inability wipe themselves properly (come on, you know what I mean). As parents, we are simply delighted to have discovered this new equation for laundry and are confident that it will serve us well in 2022. The secret is that regardless of how much laundry is done at a time, there is always an exponential growth such that you remain drowning in laundry (some stinkier than others).

Weekly hurricane & drizzle forecast

Records were not only broken in the laundry category, but also in the kitchen. We are so thrilled to announce that, on average in our family, the question what are we having for dinner? was posed 7.8 times a day, per child, in 2021. Honorable mention goes to those children who asked the question first thing upon waking up, while still in bed, without any contextual priming from the kitchen. But that is nothing compared to the children who asked the night before what are we having for dinner tomorrow? Taken together, this means that every 28 minutes, we were reminded about the importance of proper nutrition for our children and thus had ample opportunity to plan nutritious, balanced meals for our family of picksters (aka, picky youngsters). And despite all odds, we are thrilled to announce that as parents we were able to deliver once a week on a balanced meal even in face of the constant barrage (read bombardment) of reminders about dinner. Parents also reached new heights in their creative problem-solving of meal composition and artistry. Honorable mention goes to those parents who succeeded in passing off nachos with cheese, and pancakes with strawberries as full dinners. Congratulations to all those parents who endured meal planning with picksters amidst rising food prices, the allure of take-out, and the 22 minute time-limit on meal preparation. This latter challenge is a tough-feat to contend with, because we all know that after 22 minutes, children succumb to hunger and eat croutons and/or other high-sodium carbohydrates for dinner and there is very little you can do to stop them.

Scrumptious meal prepared by author

The year was also marked by a plethora of opportunities to hone and finesse our emotion regulation and advocacy skills. We were so blessed to have experienced such extreme emotional instability, from each and every member of our family: parents, children, teens, and pets. Highlights included moodiness that paralleled the highs and lows of the NASDAQ index, in addition to doors being slammed, swear words being cursed, and voices being raised and heard as far away as two houses down the street. We simply couldn’t let such an opportunity pass us by, and leaned in and sought to combine this experience of emotional instability with that of the insufficiently funded mental health care system. Together, these two significant events of 2021 well-positioned us to develop life-long skills in advocacy. As part of a set of reactive strategies, we successfully completed the experiential course entitled Advocacy in Mental Health (offered through the Failing Mental Health Care System). Highlights of skills acquired included being able to reach your own psychiatrist with only 4 phone calls (instead of the average of 17) and effectively persuading pharmacy employees to assume responsibility for renewals of psychiatric medications. We feel so incredibly blessed (which rhymes with stressed) by the unique challenge posed by 2021 and truly feel we have risen to the occasion.

We would be remiss not to mention the newly emerging advocacy skills that have spread in our family at a rate comparable to that of the omicron variant. We are genuinely astounded by our children and teens who were able strengthen their assertiveness skills through a series of self-directed advocacy courses available on Youtube. Specifically, we were impressed by their competence and sophistication in school refusal and dinner time meal negotiations. However, their greatest achievement was their steadfast talent to refrain from extinguishing technological devices upon being reminded. This has given us the greatest gift of all of the holiday season: An opportunity for patience in the face unparalleled adversity. We cannot thank our children enough for their unwavering reliance on technology, and the chance to practise our patience (which rhymes with surveillance).

In closing, the good news is that our family sustained only moderate damages due to hormonal hurricanes, coupled with domestic drizzle in 2021. Without such conditions, we could never have achieved such greatness in emotional instability and advocacy.

Peace be with you, because it sure isn’t with us.

Memories of a s’mores like no other

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Kelly McShane

Organizational Psychologist + Consultant; Passionate about Change + Wellbeing in People + Systems