As Charlie Brown would say, “We have another holiday to worry about”.
The holidays are upon us, people! Are you ready for all the activities, events, over-crowded living rooms, starvation while cooking enormous meals, children who are getting into everything they shouldn’t, long lines, and all the other “fun” holiday traditions? Do we not look forward to the holidays with such high hopes and excitement during all the other months, and merely attempt to survive them when they are here? So many of us have been blessed to have sweet memories of the holidays from our childhoods. Why can’t we re-create those memories for our own children? There is so much pressure to make things special and magical around this time of year. Yet it seems impossible to accomplish. I say no more!
I know I am being a total Scrooge. But every day takes all my energy. Adding holiday hub-bub to the mix is too much for me to handle. I need simplicity in almost every part of my day. And the holidays are anything but simple. I say again, no more hustle and bustle! No more holiday stress!
Is this even possible? I have no earthly idea. But even the smallest changes can relieve the pressure. Even a mindset change can be just the ticket to help us realize what is really important in life. The holidays are to be enjoyed, not stressed over.
In fact, I came to this conclusion a few years ago. I decided to stop trying to be the most creative mom. I stopped trying to make every moment of every holiday season something my children will cherish forever. I am only one person. I can only do so much. What do I have to give my children anyway? Toys they will play with for ten minutes? Clothes they will out grow or hate immediately upon receiving? Parades they will watch as they plot their next escape plan? Why do I tell them the Christmas season is about being with family, giving, and celebrating Jesus when I am toting them from one event to another and cramming their arms full of earthly treasures while not even being with them?
The only thing I have to truly give them is a heart over-flowing with love and support for each and every one of them. Its simple. All they need is love.
I have had a taste of this simplification of the holidays and, quite frankly, I can not get enough of it. By removing this pressure, I can be the mom I want to be. And when I take a step back, I realize that what my kids want most of all is for my husband and I to be with them enjoying the holidays. Not stressed out, angry at each other, have over extended schedules, and worried about what we can and can not afford.
Being together is not just what they say is important at the end of every holiday movie. It is important in every day life.
So what does this look like? This simplification of the holidays? Some general guidelines I live my life by…
- I recommend only going to events and parties that are stress free. If you have to wear a specific ugly sweater or have to bring a complicated desert, I say don’t go or at least go and not follow the rules. You may regret not participating. But not being hurried and stressed every moment in the hours leading up to the party will make it worth it.
- Don’t volunteer to bring Christmas cookies to more than 2 events.
- Make a Thanksgiving dish that is relatively easy. Don’t try a new recipe hours before it must be ready. Practice the meal on your family at least once in the days or weeks beforehand.
- Your children’s gifts: limit them to one or two per child. And maybe one or two shared gifts like a movie or game. (This may be completely unacceptable to you or to your child. I may not understand what it is like having older kids who have specific requests for Christmas. But do they really need more stuff? I would rather get them one or two special gifts than making their eyes pop out of their heads when they see the heap of toys under the tree. Be creative on making Christmas morning special instead of having loads of gifts. I like the idea of having an elaborate breakfast tradition. A breakfast that is special to only Christmas morning.)
- Don’t try to capture every precious moment on film! I know this is hard in our world today. Not only do you want to remember each moment, but you also want to share these moments with everyone else. But experience these times with your kids instead of being behind some sort of technology equipment. Remember for yourself and cherish that only you truly know what that moment was like. There is value in an undocumented memory.
- Stockings: let them contain practical things like new tooth brushes, socks, mittens, favorite candies and treats (I know this is not a new idea). Cut yourself off at a handful of items.
- Don’t worry too much about making all the gifts you give to be equal. Some kids want something expensive while others are dying for something half that price. Kids don’t know the difference in money. If you are giving a special gift, let that memorable gift stand alone without adding lots of little gifts with it to up the price or the quantity.
- For all the other people outside your immediate family that you choose to give to, I say make something you can mass produce and knock several gifts out in one go. Gifts like a huge batch of homemade apple sauce, or homemade mix of hot chocolate. Something you can spend a small amount of money and time. I love anything that comes in a mason jar, personally.
- On deciding who to give a gift: This is a hard one for me because I love so many different groups of people and I love to give. But practically, I can’t spend a ton of money on little gifts here and there. If you want to give someone a special, specific gift, definitely go for it. But if you are just trying to find something in a store so you can mark their name off a list, I say go with an edible gift mass produced like I said above. If I give someone something special, I want to see tears in their eyes!
- My last point is to have a mindset of going with the flow. Know ahead of time that your kids will all lose their left shoe 5 minutes before you leave. So don’t commit to situations in which you must be on time. If you have to make an outfit for your kid’s school play, don’t pinterest all the best ideas. Go as simple as you can. They probably will forget to wear the one piece to their outfit that you spent the most time on anyway. You know you will probably be in the car a lot. So make car rides fun and festive by singing carols. Have holiday movie nights often. Don’t ask your toddlers to help you decorate the tree! If you want to make Christmas cookies with a two year old, do all the mixing ahead of time and let them stir a couple ingredients together. Basically, put yourself and family in situations that are stress free and flexible. Let the kids be kids and don’t expect them to understand how important it is to have a plate of gingerbread men cookies with their heads still in tact for when the guests arrive.
Wishing you and your family a very happy and simple holiday season.
Check out my other post on a simple Thanksgiving/Christmas tradition: Thanks for Thanksgiving