Taken from experience which means mistakes, and a looking back with a “what the heck was I thinking” point of view, here are my five reminders for creating a simple, more peaceful Christmas:
- If Christmas overwhelms you, as a mom, you need to make changes. Strong changes. You are the one that likely is doing most of the work. Stop complaining, and steer the darn sled, you get to enjoy this too.
- Traditions are so important, but sometimes need to be weeded down. And some years, skipped. I think we’ve probably all done some adjusting the last couple years anyways. I will tell you that my older kids remember the SIMPLEST traditions and love them. NOT the stressful traditions. A couple recipes are counted on, decorations that I must put out, the routine for church, dinner, exchanging sibling gifts, waking up at a certain time, meeting at the top of the stairs. We are also bringing traditions with us when we marry-remember that your circumstances, stage of life, supply of help, and ideals are different than what was perhaps done in the past and you can adjust those without the hellfire of ancestral ghosts haunting you.
- If you have a long list, are stressed about getting gifts, trying to make everything fair, back aching from gift wrapping you are doing it wrong. Yes, that is a strong statement but true. You are buying too much. You are gifting too much. You are not concentrating on the right things. The easiest solution to this problem is to make changes. You can announce these changes, don’t be afraid of your children for heaven’s sake, and make whatever story or excuse or reason up that you think is plausible. It doesn’t matter. One gift from Santa, two from us. A book, a toy, and outfit-something to read, play with, wear. Three gifts like Jesus received. One gift and stockings. Gifts go in a Santa sack labeled with a name. Santa gifts aren’t wrapped, or are. The point is: It doesn’t matter what you do, but you should not be stressed out by it. You should not be spending money like a crazy woman trying to make everyone happy, buying loads of crap you don’t want in your house. Start a SIMPLE tradition, the kids will be okay, and then continue, and make it meaningful and beautiful and pleasing to you also. Just make the change this year. Just do it. Maybe this year isn’t the year of adjustment and a little weird on Christmas morning, but it’s better for the long run.
- The kids will be ok. There will be years when you will not make the kids as happy as a toddler with a new box to play with, or a four year old passing out from excitement at the truck or doll they just opened. Think pre-teen years, once the magic is over. Think teenager crabby in the morning, everything they want costs an entire week’s paycheck, and no way is that going to happen for them-those kind of years. Your job is not to make your children happy with gifts. Oh yes it’s so fun! But I can guarantee it’s not going to happen all eighteen years in your home. Don’t take it personally. What to do? Just let it sit. Let it sit for a few days or weeks. Let them work it out. Zip it. Let them see you give an example of gratitude for the littlest things. If you need to have a talk about it, do so later. About hurt feelings, and budgets, and envy. (We all remember this right? Calling the friend who got everything bragging about it?). About expectations-what a life lesson! Handle it later, and be honest, and you will all be fine.
- The biggest issue I think most parents face is being gifted way way too much for their children from relatives. This is difficult. It is well-meaning, but you are the parent. And these things go into your home. And you straighten, clean, put away, organize, make rules about and look at them. It is also your responsibility to raise children who appreciate things, and that will not happen when they have too much. Here is the harsh truth-these are your children and your home and your rules. And you will have to have that talk. I think it’s sad that relatives don’t listen. And no I’m not one yet, but that day is coming for me in the next decade hopefully many times over. I will ask, and ask again, what is it that you’d like me to gift your child? Or even better, start a simple tradition where Grammy gifts a gift card for a special date, or a book with a note inside it every year-once again so many good ideas, that don’t involved usurping Santa, filling a small house with unwanted plastic junk, or creating gift unwrapping exhaustion in children. Have the talk. With gratitude, and directly and coming from a place of strong boundaries but appreciation. The solution can be driven by the relatives or with your suggestion but find the solution.
These are only five reminders for creating a simple, more peaceful Christmas. I think I can write ten. (Here’s another post I wrote on this subject.) Chill out. Breathe deeply. Christmas is a day. It’s not a three month season, it’s not the end all be all, it’s not supposed to be anything close to the buying, decorating busy frenzy it’s turned into it. The only way to enjoy it is to step back (get off social media!), simplify, enjoy the sparkly eyes, and walk slowly through it absorbing the special little ordinary things.