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The Powerful Way My Christmas-Loving Daughter Changed Me

I've always hated Christmas. My parents announced their divorce shortly after my eighth holiday season, a divorce that led to a whole lot of crazy for the next 12 years of my childhood.

I carried those experiences with me as an adult and never once decorated for this time of year. No tree, no mistletoe, no stockings hung with care. There were several years where I actually spent Christmas alone—declining invites to friend's houses because being around their perfect families seemed even more depressing than being on my own.

I really hated Christmas.

That was until my daughter was born. Just like that, everything changed.

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I didn't get her any gifts that first year (what was the point? She couldn't tell the difference), but I did perch her on Santa's lap and invest in some adorable Christmas outfits. I did get us matching stockings and sang to her a few Christmas tunes. It was just a touch of the holidays, but it was a start.

By the next year, I insisted on getting us a real Christmas tree and on starting a list of traditions I wanted to begin with her around the holidays. The traditions didn't exist for me as a kid, but I suddenly determined they would be a part of her happy holiday memories.

I'm creating the Christmases I had stopped dreaming about for myself.

For example, I would take her to Hallmark every year to pick out her own ornament (slowly but surely adding to a collection of Christmas decorations I never built up before), buy her a new Christmas book every year (and write a special note inside the cover), sit in front of the tree to read Christmas stories every night before bed, and indulge in hot chocolate in front of the fire alongside our advent calendar.

This year, we've got an elf hiding around our house, a snowman that sings Christmas tunes, and the Pandora holiday station in constant play. A complete 180, right?

My little girl beams and shouts out, "Christmas!" every single time she sees a tree or home encased in lights. And don't even get me started on Santa—she adores the man, which has me adoring him as well.

It's the craziest thing, but having a child has forced my Grinch heart to grow three sizes each year. I actually enjoyed the chaotic and crazy day we spent hunting down a tree and decorating our home this year—even though we picked a tree way too big for me to carry myself, and I had to take a serrated kitchen knife to its base in order to get it to fit in our tree stand. (Yes, a serrated kitchen knife. I think I'll be asking Santa for a saw this year.)

Our list of traditions continues to grow, along with our Christmas decoration supply, and I've even pulled out some old cookie recipes that my mom (who hasn't been a part of my life since I was 13) used to make with my brother and I during the holidays—back before life got crazy and our family blew apart.

I'm making new memories with my own daughter now. I'm creating the Christmases I had stopped dreaming about for myself, and it has turned the holidays into this time of year I actually look forward to.

My little girl has opened my heart in a way I didn't even know was possible before motherhood.

Hell, who am I kidding? I love it. I love what this little girl has done to this time of year for me. I love what she has done for my heart and for my Christmas spirit. I love this kid.

This kid who has become so enamored with our nativity scene (purchased just a few months ago) that she tends to baby Jesus on the daily.

This kid who has stolen and hidden all our candy canes from our tree—stashing them who knows where and refusing to let me in on her secret.

This kid who doesn't care at all that we don't have any presents under that tree just yet, and who is simply tickled that we have a tree at all—a tree she legitimately hugs and tells "I love you" every night before bed.

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My little girl is the embodiment of the Christmas spirit, and she has opened my heart in a way I didn't even know was possible before motherhood.

When you think about it, it's really kind of the best Christmas gift of all. Because of her, I get happy holiday memories and the chance to shed my inner Grinch as I learn to love this season I never before knew could be quite so beautiful.

Photograph by: Leah Campbell

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