Holiday Memories are Cumulative ~ Do Less to have More!Dec 21, 2021
Every year at the holidays, do you struggle to squeeze in as much as you can, wanting to create the best memories possible for your kids? In the process, do you miss out on the Joy of the Season because you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?
Trust me - I get it! For so many years that was me! I was so busy with holiday cards and gifts for everyone for both home and work, baking cookies to make cookie trays for friends and family. I was present for the holiday concerts and school parties, and made sure the kids had the right dress clothes for all the events. The lights in the windows that had to be turned on and off every day — and don’t even get me started on the daily elf antics, or the fact that our elves decided it would be fun to have a scavenger hunt for the kids on Christmas Day with clever clues and hiding places.
I wanted everything to be perfect, but as a result I spent the entire month of December (or more) as one big ball of stress and overwhelm. Does that sound familiar? Every year I would say that next year was going to be different. I was going to plan better and start sooner, but it didn’t seem to matter — I was still just as cranky and stressed out, trying to do everything, every single year.
One year when the kids were older, we decided to do a big trip instead of gifts. Because we were going to be away, we cut back on so many things. I finally found the relaxing holiday season I’d wished for — Not because I planned better or did things sooner, but because I did so much LESS. Less decorating, less baking, less shopping, less, less, less — and because of doing less, my holidays became so much MORE. More time to just be present with my family and actually enjoy it.
That year I realized that I didn’t have to do everything, every single year. And now that my kids are older and I look back over the years, I can see that we gave our kids wonderful holiday memories: We rode the Polar Express, we had breakfast with Santa, we saw the Nutcracker, we made cookies (that's my son above baking with Nana!), our house was decorated beautifully, we had a great holiday party, we took an amazing family trip, and had fun scavenger hunts for gifts.
Our holiday memories happened over the years, not every year. Our holiday memories are cumulative!
One year we got our tree so late we ended up with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree and that turned out to be one of our kids' funniest memories. Who knew?! Drop perfection and enjoy the season!
My holiday advice for parents with younger children — don’t try to make every year perfect! Relax, and figure out where you can do less.
Think about it, in trying to do everything, you can end up being cranky, overwhelmed and stressed so you can’t have any fun doing all of the activities that you have on your list. When you do less, you are more relaxed and can actually have fun doing what you are doing that year. I don’t know about you, but my family is way happier with the more relaxed and fun me. They definitely did not enjoy that cranky stress-pot that was trying to do it all!
What can you do less of? Consider making a real list on paper and then ask yourself what you WANT to do, and what you can give up this year. Consider that you can give it up for one year, and then bring it back later if you want. Giving something up doesn’t have to be forever.
This year I gave up the lights in the window and baking. I love them both, but it’s a lot to turn the lights on and off every day and I’m dealing with a broken refrigerator and freezer that can’t get serviced until January. That alone took a lot off the table for me, so let’s count it as a blessing in disguise! Next year I might decide to bring them back.
Once you figure out what you can give up, what do you intentionally want more of or what do you want to be more present to? Once my family is all back home, I want a holiday movie night with all of us on the couch fighting over the popcorn. I want an evening date with my Dad to do a little shopping for my Mom together. Basically, I want to spend more time with my loved ones to make memories.
Last bit of advice, after the holidays are over, take a few minutes and debrief! What was most stressful? What can you take off your list for next year? Write down what you want to do differently next year, put the list away, and set a reminder on your phone so you remember to bring it out again next year to review it and remind yourself where you put it!
Since this time comes around once a year, it can be hard to remember year to year what you wanted to change or do differently. That’s where an evaluation and calendar reminder can be so helpful — you can set it up and then forget it, instead of having open thought loops trying to remember everything you’re supposed to remember. Don’t be like me making the same mistakes year after year.
I hope you’ve found this perspective helpful, and might look for a few things that you can take off your list so that your holidays are more enjoyable and less stressful!
Wishing you all a very wonderful holiday season filled with joy and happy memories!
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