You, dear parents of young children, are the hub of Christmas. At least, that's what we hear from all sides. You arrange the calendar, and make travel plans, negotiate family politics, and shop the deals, wrap and hide the presents, (and, oh yeah, the stocking stuffers too) bake the cookies, and print the Christmas cards, decorate the house, and (re)decorate the tree after the kids have "helped" with the ornaments. Then if you're still breathing you hide the elf-on-a-shelf, and visit Santa at the mall, and host a party or two, and bake the pies. Then you posess that expression of bewilderment when people ask "how are you doing?" in passing.
Between children, parents, grandparents, and crazy Uncle Rick all wanting a "special" time, you may find a small nervous tick developing just under your left eye.
The holiday season is no joke. Especially for you, dear mom and dad.
Here are 4 tools to make the festivities as realistic, and as enjoyable as possible:
- Bedtime is your friend. You need your sleep. Your children need sleep. Everyone will become their very best selves after a good night's rest. The crying melt-downs of the night before (of children and parents alike), just may smooth out if a faithful bedtime is enforced, foreheads are kissed, and all is forgiven, the night before.
- Establish realistic expectations. Simplify where possible. Children are great at letting their imaginations run away with them about what magical times the season will bring. But we are not set-designers. We are not fairy-godmothers. We are parents, who are raising our children to have realistic expectations of themselves, their family, and the world. Sit down and tell them what you will, and will not do. There must be as many no's as there are yes's. Probably more. Disappointment is painful to endure, but be glad they're learning it at home first, under your tender care. Think of it this way: it's like weeding out space around the plants in your garden. When each one has space around it, it can thrive. When each activity has times of normal life before and after, it will have time to be looked-forward to, then remembered. The results should be a well-metered schedule for your family.
- Shop early. I, as a parent, have spent far too many Christmases standing in long lines of grumpy people, at picked-over stores on December 23rd. This year, I'm changing my tack. Here's the funny thing: shopping early is not impossible. Right now is perfect. Right now is still early. But what do you get those relatives you're going to visit in a few weeks?
Listen up! I've got it. Here's what you do: this weekend go to the cute little corner schoolhouse at 1782 Pleasant Hill Rd. in Sebastopol. (Dec.7-9. Fri. 5-9, Sat. 10-5, Sun. 10-4)
There, they are hosting an Artisan Boutique that is chock-full of all the greatest stuff. Each of the classrooms are packed with things like wine-barrel furniture, fiber-art, decor, hats, scarves, frames, and all manner of locally-made crafts and unique finds. I promise you: Aunt Hilda will be thrilled. Your Mom will be tickled. And your list will be DONE.
- Connect. Now that you're done, or even before you're done: take stock. Maybe slow down. Take your heart to the Lord. This whole hullabaloo was all to celebrate His birth. He sees you, and he cares. He cares so much He died on a cross to save you from your sins so you can come to him will all your guilt and be washed clean. Connect with your Creator, and breathe as he made you to breathe. Slowly. In good rhythm with Him. Connect with your loved ones. Hug your spouse for way too long. Stare off into the distance with a friend on a walk. Get down on the floor with the kids and roll around. Have a good cry if you need to. Cries are sometimes the best; they open the doorway to a good laugh. Remember God created you to live in connection, not isolation, even within your own head. Let him connect you to your people in real and meaningful ways. Because inside this place of connection, realistic expectations, good sleep, and early shopping, holiday overwhelm cannot even get through the door.