I generally thrive on routine and schedule, but this time of year, I really love the spontaneity, indulgence and carefree spirit of the season. I don’t have specific memories of traditions my parents did with our family when I was young, but I remember there was an air that blew through December bringing late bedtimes, unrestricted access to sugary treats and a general coziness that planted within me joy and contentment.
There are many, many things I think of when I dream of what I want my kids to feel, experience and remember about the holiday season; some of these are built in my own mind, but so many expectations come from what I hear or read or see that other people say they do in their families. And while I said I thrive on a schedule, if I see one more Christmas Experience To Do List, I might cry! We tried a few years ago to keep a Christmas Countdown with experiences, crafts, or fun surprises every couple days and it ended up being one of the worst Christmases I can remember. While we were trying to create all these memories and family traditions, I had forgotten that there were still bills to pay, jobs to wake up for, the flu to catch, and kids who still loathed bedtime at the end of every blessed day.
In short, real life still happens from December 1st through 25th.
I doubt my kids remember from year to year if they were stressed out, but a mother’s intuition can most definitely see it coming. Maybe it’s a tummy ache at the end of a week of parties or a meltdown at the “one more store for today.” Our kids usually present stress on Christmas morning when they have to eat breakfast before opening presents, or when they just want to play with the first toy that is opened but relatives (kindly) want to see them open more.
Because we are mothers and really do want what makes our children healthy, happy and carefree, I would love to read and hear more this year of gentle reminders of how to keep holidays simple for kids to enjoy, rather than all the checklists I should download that create a memorable holiday time.
I’ll start with a few of my own thoughts…
Let kids enjoy treats, gingerbread and cookie parties, hot chocolate nights, etc., as well as continuing to feed them meals without sugar, plenty of protein, veggies, and grains. Why should we teach them that Thanksgiving to New Year’s needs to wreck our bodies?
Stay up late enjoying family and friends, but fight to keep as many nights as you can simple and at home, teaching your kids that rest during a joyful season is what brings even more satisfaction.
Make Christmas lists with as little pressure as possible. Maybe this means going through a store and snapping pictures together on your phone, or circling things in a catalogue, or letting your little one stubbornly stick to only one thing he wants. For heaven’s sake, don’t put pressure on them to choose more things! Also don’t put pressure on yourself to fulfill the entire list — it is fun to be little and dream of anything you could want, but rarely is it helpful to grant all the wishes.
Give grace to kids as they open presents. Not always are they thankful or do they go as fast as we want them to; gently help them to be kind to others, but remember their age and how much newness they can take at once.
…And try to be kind to yourself mama, as you try to build memories into your children’s brains. Not much you see on Instagram is true; think of your own childhood and what you remember, and then ask your parents if they had a plan for making holidays special to you. It may surprise you what you remember versus what they believed to be important at that time.