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I’ve been thinking with all the holidays coming up I’d share a few thoughts about how to really enjoy them as a mom. Remember I can do this, because I’ve learned through trial and error and messing up, and wanting do-over! And I still am learning because families change and grow and adapt and that means we have to also. But looking back at the younger years what would I change? What have I learned?
1. I wouldn’t overbook so that when the actual holiday comes around I and my children and husband are all tapped out. Our culture does a crazy job of encouraging this burnout. Choose very very carefully what is worth participating in, and remember that for sure less is more. Sometimes this means saying no to every “extra” but the actual day, depending on the ages of our children. Sometimes this means being really really strong and very purposeful about what experience we want our children to have and what memories we want to give them surrounding a holiday. Some years it’s OK to just go trick-or-treating, or just make Christmas cookies and light an Advent wreath and decorate a tree and wake up on Christmas morning really deeply able to enjoy the day. (Read Little House in the Big Woods or Anne of Green Gables or talk to grandparents for reminders of how our culture has changed!)
2. I would have had a plan with the future in mind when it comes to gifts. What looked easy, affordable and non-consequential with a little one or two, will usually not last through more additions to the family and as children age. It’s easier to start really really small and simple and with a system in mind. (Something to wear, read, play with etc…one of those systems.) Err on the side of less is more.
Also remember, if my happiness that day depends on everyone getting what they want and gasping in delight at every gift, even the socks and underwear, well, I will never be happy. There will be years (thinking early teen) when kids are going through maybe a little friend envy and have to work through it, or are annoyed they have to get up at open gifts at 7 a.m. with everyone else (thinking late teen, early college), or just someone will have a bee in their bonnet, or say something thoughtless and we don’t know what’s up. Just know kids grow and change, and talk about it later and eat some hot-cross Christmas buns and be grateful for all the growing pains and good times and bad.
3. I would get that vision of perfection out of my head that we all see everywhere. There is nothing at all wrong-it’s so fun!-making our homes and our tables and our gifts look pretty-I love that part. But many years, the top half of the tree is decorated because of toddlers and my nice plan for matching gift wrap goes all astray. This goes for those perfect cards also-there are a few cards I look at that make me sad because I remember getting really mad at someone not cooperating, or the tears involved from the stress and or frustration and it just ruins the memory then-don’t do that! (Just a note-sometimes those memories make me laugh too.)
4. From the start, I would pick a few good traditions and stick with them. The kids don’t care how fancy or complicated or special it is-they want what is familiar to them, even if it is so simple and doesn’t require a lot of hoopla.
5. I would always remember that some holidays are just going to disasters or really really not as planned-everyone will have the flu, or you will be due with your fifth baby on Christmas Eve, or getting chemo the day before Thanksgiving and home sick. Just expect that life will throw a wrench into plans (I say this about vacation also-I believe it’s about every 1 in 5 will just be a little bit of a bomb).
And most of all-remember the years really do fly and appreciate the awesomeness of seeing it all again through a child’s point of view.