Holidays are fast approaching. I can feel them coming at us full speed. In fact, parades, recitals, concerts, plays, cookie exchanges, and mom's night out are already on the calendar. Children are begging to start holiday baking and decorating. EEK!
Perhaps you feel like I do as the holidays approach.
How can the focus of the holidays remain in focus, not crowded by commercialism and comparison? How can days be simplified so relationships are strengthened, not strained? What if really boils down to for our family is,
How can be keep the holidays intentional, real, and relational?
First. Discuss Priorities. Mike and I set time aside to talk about what the current year's priorities will be. The early years of our marriage found us considering how we would incorporate traditions from both sides of the family. The more recent years have been refreshing as we included children and young adults into the conversation. Their insights and what they felt was important or what they wanted to experience was often different than what Mike and I were considering. In the many seasons of our marriage and family life, the priorities changed slightly, often dependent on whether we welcomed a new baby (we had two December babies), tried to keep active toddlers out of the Christmas cookie dough and decorations, or whether family would travel into town.
Second. Set Realistic Expectations on the Priorities. Our family has enjoyed making gifts and goodies to give to others. We have also enjoyed serving. However, we have had to consider the ages and stages of our children. If our goal was to bake cookies for the neighbors, I had to decide if I would rather them be a part of the baking--realizing there may be a flour blizzard--or if it might be better to bake while they took a nap. Years when we went to look at Christmas lights with toddlers who didn't particularly like the car, we chose displays closer to home.
Third. Don't Overload the Schedule. WOW! I learned this one the hard way! I am an extrovert who loves people and adventure. I had our family coming and going 24/7. Toddlers missed naps. Children bounced from too much hot chocolate and cookies. Over the years I learned it is better for us to do fewer things well and make great memories than filling every day and night with parties, musical events, and crafts. Children can't enjoy or remember the holidays if they are a whir and blur of hustle and bustle. And, children with tendencies toward sensory or anxiety challenges may crumble before their parents very eyes. It just isn't worth the chaos and stress of overloading the calendar. Lord willing, there will be more years to come.
Fourth. No Guilt Downsizing. There are definitely times in our twenty-seven years of parenting where we had to downsize the holiday and I constantly reminded myself it was okay. There was not harm done if we had to set up a table top tree instead of the eight foot monster. The table top tree kept the toddler out of the tree and I kept my sanity! Mike and I had to decide what was important for our family in any given year and then stand confident to ward off guilt.
It is important to remember, one mom's simple is not another mom's simple. And, simple may look different in different mothering seasons. Define priorities, set realistic goals and expectations, and don't overload the schedule. Do the holidays at your pace, considering life's circumstances and the needs around you. Read a few extra books. Look your children in the eyes, enjoy a conversation, and pull them close for a hug.
Holidays, like every day, can be intentional, real, and relational. Those are the holidays my children remember, and I am pretty sure yours will, too!