Tis the Season…for stress and insanely long to-do lists and mom-guilt and Pinterest fails and social-media competitions….and you know what? You don’t have to do it. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO IT ALL. Or any of it for that matter. Just say no. Take the season back and make it fun again. Cut the list down and let stuff go and actually enjoy your kids and their magic. Because those little runny-nosed poop machines are absolutely magical this time of year. Have you watched your kid look at Christmas lights? Not try to snap a pic for Instagram, but really watched their little faces? Priceless. (which is funny, because besides the price of gas, its a free activity). Or how seriously they take shopping for their sibling, picking out the perfect gift (it will melt your cold, grinchy heart). Look for those magic moments and throw your hands up at all the rest.
Now listen, I’m not perfect at all and that absolutely applies to my “just say no” goals for the holidays…I do still go way overboard with baking for some weird reason. I still stress about finding the perfect gift for everyone on my list (I think my love language may be gift giving). But I’m working on it every year and I’m getting better. And it’s true, cutting things out has really helped us all enjoy the holidays more.
The biggest one for me is that we have simplified the gifts. As I’ve posted before, we don’t NEED anything and my three kids certainly don’t need dozen toys each or a ton of random, cheap toys that will just break! It’s tempting when you see that old high school friend post a pic on FB where you can barely see the tree under the mountain of presents. I get it. We all want our kids to have the best and I think many of us do, at least to some extent, associate gifts and stuff with love (thanks, media). But you know, they won’t remember all that crap anyway. Little ones will just get overwhelmed. Chances are whether you buy two gifts or twenty, one will be their favorite and the rest will be forgotten within a week.
So in our house, Santa brings you one gift and stuffs the stocking. That’s it. (and note: Santa doesn’t wrap. You think he has time wrap when he has millions of toys to make and deliver?!?) Stockings are a mix of fun and practical (our markers are all dying, so guess what everyone is getting in their stocking? and the toddler needs undies…with Batman!). Then mom and dad get everyone a book and one gift (usually smallish). That is all I buy. For us, it’s two-fold…we don’t want all the extra stuff, nor do they need it, but also, and most importantly, we don’t think it’s just about gifts or that gifts should take center stage. Which is a little funny (ironic?) since I am not religious. But I love the cultural traditions and I believe that the holidays are about spending time together and enjoying those traditions (cookies! lights! songs!) not “stuff”. We do take each kid out individually to shop for their siblings – I love the joy and pride they get from making “the perfect” selection and watching their brother or sister open it. But our tree is not drowning in gifts. It looks pretty modest under there. We take turns opening and we take time to play with the few new things and breaks to eat (probably my favorite holiday tradition of all) and the focus isn’t really on the stuff. Funnily enough, my kids can still name every gift under the tree from last year because there weren’t that many and each person gave one, meaningful gift.
We’ve also cut back on the “events” we feel the need to attend, both the adult-only ones and the festive things going on around us. We live in a major city so there are many, many holiday shows and lights and indoor events and outdoor events and a train ride and ice sculptures and on and on and on. Yes, they are all awesome and fun. Kids would be happy at any of them. But that doesn’t mean you have to do them all. We went to see Santa and the model trains (one stop) and that was really it. We will drive around and look at lights at some point – they love that and it’s free. I did take my oldest to his first “Broadway” (touring) show, The Grinch, this year. But it was coincidental that it was a Christmas thing…mostly I took him because I wanted to see it and its one of his favorite books. But that doesn’t mean we have to do it every year. There seems to be so much pressure to create all these “traditions”. And with pressure comes stress and a sense of failure. Stop it. Just stop it. Chances are, next year we will pick a different activity to do as a family and that’s fine. The tradition for us is doing stuff together. Hopefully they’ll remember that we had fun and isn’t that the whole point?
My last “secret”, which isn’t remotely a secret because I brag about it all the time, is that I am done Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving. Which isn’t exactly true…like everyone, I have a few last minute things. This year I somehow forgot just one kid’s stocking stuffers?! But I do get the vast majority of my gift buying done before Thanksgiving…for the sole purpose of freeing up December so I can enjoy the holiday season! I know there are going to be school performances and a neighborhood cocktail party and I absolutely love those things and want to be able to go and not be stressed. I make a list sometime in October of every person I want to buy for (literally, everyone from my kids and mom to my hairdresser and the mailman) and I pencil in what I want to get them (if known, sometimes I need to go look for something to catch my eye). And then I shop, at my leisure, and a lot online, so that all but one are two are at my house, ready to wrap, by Thanksgiving. I don’t do Pinterest crafts which only cause stress (note: some of you like this and are good at it. Great. Do it. But most of us fall into the “not Pinterest” category.). The kids’ teachers (all 14 of them!!!) got a small, store-bought gift bag filled with chocolates and a gift card. (I bought all that back in October!) The kids did make a card for each bag, which we did on a random cold rainy day (as opposed to last minute, which usually ends in tears). I also delegate – my husband buys for his father (who, like every old man, needs nothing). If he forgets or waits until the last minute, so be it. It is off my list and I refuse to let it cause me stress. (For the record, he did buy for his father and only asked for a little input from me.) Oh, and I also buy several extra bottles of wine to have on hand for parties or last-minute gifts. Having something on hand takes away some stress too.
Anyway, it’s December 21st and I’ve been done for awhile. I’ve enjoyed things this season because I’m not stressed and now that my kids are about to be out of school for 2+ weeks (!!!) I feel relaxed enough to go into it foolishly optimistic. I don’t by any means have it all figured out and I certainly don’t think you should cut out the things that you actually enjoy – I will be baking an obscene amount of cookies starting tonight because it’s something I actually really love, both the act of baking and the eating! But please don’t let FB and Instagram fool you into thinking you need to do ALL THE THINGS and have ALL THE GIFTS and make the PERFECT gingerbread house in your perfectly matching, overpriced pajamas. Wear your old yoga pants, sip your hot toddy (or cold-weather beverage of choice) while Santa doesn’t wrap and your kids watch a random old holiday movie and you just say no to doing some stupid thirty-step Pinterest craft for the school party. I promise they’ll like the leftover Halloween candy more anyway. ENJOY!