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5 Family Holiday Traditions I Regret

Photograph by Getty Images

The holidays are a magical time to spend with your children. Nothing quite compares with witnessing their holiday experiences: seeing the excitement dance in their eyes as they gaze in wonderment at sparkling store displays, watching them gleefully adorn a stout snowman with their own scarves, sipping cocoa together by a warm fire while the flush of crisp winter air still glows on their cheeks.

Hahaha! Sorry, that's not reality—I must've been thinking of a Norman Rockwell painting. In reality, my kids beg for the toys in sparkling store displays, fight over who got more mini marshmallows in their cocoa and I'm pretty sure they lost their scarves at school a month ago.

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I sort of wish I'd just spiked my eggnog and waited for January to roll around instead.

Nevertheless, perhaps in a misguided attempt to paint my family into that idealistic Norman Rockwell scene, I've nurtured a few holiday traditions with my kids. I want to build a foundation of happy childhood moments they'll recreate with their own children someday, plus it would sure be nice if we could just PLEASE SHARE SOME MAGICAL MEMORIES, ALREADY! Unfortunately, the vision of holiday jubilation I strive to bring to life almost always goes out of focus at some point, making me sort of wish I'd just spiked my eggnog and waited for January to roll around instead.

1. Watching "A Christmas Story" together

I've watched this movie every single year, multiple times, since I was a kid. As a result, my kids watch it every year, too, and we all have the entire script memorized. Unfortunately, they don't enjoy this tradition nearly as much as I do, which means their only real entertainment during the show is to try to recite all the lines along with the movie—before I do. Fun fact: When people recite the lines of a beloved movie, it's hilarious. When everyone recites all the lines of a movie as part of a 94-minute game designed to drive me insane, it's ... less hilarious.

2. Decorating the tree as a family

Nothing brings out my inner control freak like my children putting all the red ornaments in a clump on one branch on the left side of the tree. IT'S CALLED SYMMETRY, PEOPLE.

3. Making Christmas cookies

Also known as "three hours of the kids begging to eat raw cookie dough and sucking frosting right out of the tube, followed by six hours of cleaning flour off every surface in the kitchen."

4. Driving around to see Christmas lights

I'll let you in on a little secret: Despite the popularity of this particular tradition, kids don't seem to actually care one iota about the decorations in other people's yards. So, driving around to see the pretty lights has all of the "Are we there yet?" attitude of a family road trip, without ever actually getting anywhere.

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5. The Elf on the Shelf

OBVIOUSLY. Actually, we don't own a real elf; one year, as a joke, I dressed up a ceramic squirrel in a tiny elf costume I made out of stapled-together red felt and hid him all around the house. Naturally, of all the traditions I've started with my kids, THIS was the one they ended up falling in love with. Oh well, I guess when it comes to making magical holiday memories, I'll have to take what I can get.

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