Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Keep it Simple Sister


It’s coming.

And I feel compelled to break the silence on this blog to share a few thoughts. Jill Savaage had a great post this morning on simplifying the holiday season, and I wholeheartedly agree.

All around me, women have that glazed expression that will only get worse as the holidays get nearer and they get more and more exhausted. Because, as women, we are the Keepers of the Christmas Magic. We tuck children into bed and our real work begins—making the holiday special for everyone around us.

I believe this is a noble task. I also believe we can make things simpler for ourselves by adjusting our expectations. I’ve written about this before, but each year I remember the days I spent in the hospital on bedrest while expecting the twins—from the day before Thanksgiving until the day after New Year’s. The entire holiday season was spent in and out of active labor, and you know what? It didn’t matter that I didn’t send a single Christmas card, put out a single decoration, or purchase a single Christmas gift. All that mattered to me was that my little family was safe and together. Truly.

The rest of it? It’s optional.

Let that free you, my friend. Do you dread sending Christmas cards? Don’t. Find another way to keep in touch with faraway friends. Hate buying so many presents? Ask people if they still want to exchange gifts. In this economic climate, people are happy to cross someone off of their gift list.

And the most important piece of advice I can give you, mother-of-young-children-I’m-talking-to-you: keep your kids’ expectations reasonable. Don’t go overboard. Young children enjoy gifts more when there are fewer of them. If your kids are older, it may be hard to backtrack; but if they’re little, resist the urge to overindulge them. You will thank me when they’re thirteen and don’t expect Santa to show up with a thousand dollars worth of goods.

So, without further ado, here’s my personal Holiday Survival Guide, in no particular order:

Make a master list for gifts. Include everyone you buy a gift for—teachers, coaches, family, children—everyone. Then brainstorm. Set a budget. As you buy gifts, cross it off the list. Start this today. Just do it. All those little details running through your head? Write them down.

Decide as a family how to spend your time. Do you enjoy going to lots of parties? If the answer is no, it’s okay to say, “not this year.” But maybe you’ve always wanted to have a holiday gathering, but never seem to have time. If that’s the case, make it a priority. Put the date on your calendar and do it. My point is, don’t just let December pull you under—take control of your calendar.

Spend time with friends. Take coffee breaks, make playdates, and enjoy the people you’re living life with. Incorporate friends into holiday activities like baking, cookie decorating, and even putting up the Christmas tree.

Incorporate spiritual disciplines. Don’t neglect your spiritual life because of busyness. Find time to pray, meditate, and reach out to others. After all, Jesus kind of is the point. Remember that. It will put the rest of the holiday into perspective.

Shop online. Seriously. The deals are fantastic and many places offer free shipping. If you know what you want, why drag everyone out to the mall to get it? I’ll never forget when the preschooler was younger and we walked into Kohls at Christmastime. His eyes got big and he asked, “Is THIS the mall?” So, thereyougo. Obviously shopping with the kids isn’t on my to-do list very often!

Plan meals. If I know I’m going to spend the day baking or shopping, I plan a very simple dinner. Sometimes this dinner even involves frozen food from Trader Joes. And, no, I don’t have any pride left. But I do get adequate rest.

Make your family a priority. If you’re screaming at everyone to get in line and have fun because, goshdarnit, it’s Christmas and this-is-supposed-to-be-fun, well, you’re missing the point. Chill out and go with the flow. Throw the kids in the car in their jammies and go through the drive-thru at the donut shop and just drive around, looking at lights. Enjoy the people you live with. If your traditions are turning you into a screaming shrew, maybe you need to rethink your traditions. (Or get therapy. But that’s another post.)

I know Christmas gets crazy, but we don’t have to go crazy to enjoy it!