I don’t know how it works in your family, but in ours, we began counting down the days until Christmas vacation on approximately the third day of the school year. This year, like every year, we come to December tired. As Christmas break draws near, my to-do list is hanging over my head. As usual I am shooting for the stars:
- Make thoughtful handcrafted gifts for all siblings (+spouses), parents, nieces & nephews, teacher, and coworkers
- Wrap gifts in creatively decorated packaging with elaborate bows
- Attend approximately 823 holiday school, work, friend, and church gatherings
- Clean house in case Martha Stewart drops by
- Work, work out, feed family
Hoping to check some things off my list one day, I sat down to get to work. I had just finished my email tasks, a little online Christmas shopping, (maybe some Netflix watching), and was settling into the job I get paid for when my son emerged from Mom-mandated rest time. Had 45 minutes already gone by? Feeling overwhelmed and a little frustrated, I told him I needed to get some work done, so he could play quietly in the living room. A few moments later he returned to my desk to ask me to play a board game with him.
I sighed. Seriously? I don’t have time right now.
A few years ago, when I was in the thick of parenting a baby and a toddler, I was able, by some divine mercy, to attend a conference out of town. I remember sitting in a session, listening to Gabe Lyons talk about intentional parenting and the need to encourage our children in creativity and dreaming big. He told a story about deciding to do all he could to say “yes” when his children came to him with an idea. Today, when my son came to ask me to join him in play, it was those words that flashed through my mind. I could say yes and enjoy one-on-one quality time with my seven-year-old son, or I could say no and allow the TV to babysit while I accomplished my “work.”
As the countdown to Christmas break gets shorter, I find myself continually mulling over this thought of more “yes” and less “no” when it comes to my children. Next year both of my children will be in school. Our life is transitioning, and while I am overjoyed to begin to invest in different personal endeavors, I notice a bittersweet feeling of sadness, knowing they are growing more and more independent. They definitely don’t need me as much as they used to. When I pause and look away from my tasks and into the big, blue eyes of my kids, I am reminded that they are such a gift. They are not a burden or an inconvenience. They are a gift. When they offer themselves to me, with simple requests of a teddy bear tea party, Lego building, or family game time, this is a chance to invest in our relationship. It is these investments that my husband and I hope will pay off now and in the long run.
So, as I fight the daily urge to do more, I want to create a plan of action for Christmas Break: a new to-do list that allows for less busy and more quality time. A to-do list with less technology and more face-to-face interaction. A to-do list that puts the important people first and everyone else second.
Let’s make a tentative Christmas vacation to-do list, together:
Say no to 90% of all holiday invitations. If we busy ourselves with everyone else, we lose the sweetness of quality time with one another.
Use technology wisely. Pandora has great Christmas music. Online shopping can be time and cost effective. I can’t go one year without watching Elf or A Charlie Brown Christmas, can you? Facebook, well, I am on the fence about Facebook these days, but you get the point. Let’s not wear ourselves out, doing all the things, to the point where technology becomes our go-to escape mechanism. We all need to relax, but let’s manage our tech time shrewdly.
Do fun stuff as often as possible. Sleep in, snuggle in PJs, go sledding or cross-country skiing, drive around and look at the holiday lights, play a board game, celebrate Advent with a daily activity (Truth in the Tinsel is great for little ones), or just sit and drink hot cocoa.
Give generously as a family. Shovel someone’s sidewalk together, go caroling at a nursing home or make Christmas cards for the residents. Pick a name off the Angel Tree or see what needs your local homeless shelter or food bank have that you could help with.
Dial down the expectations. This could be the most important thing on our to-do list. Just because Pinterest exists does not mean that every dinner we have, gift we give, or outfit we wear has to be pin-worthy. All of us have our days, our chaos, our mess, and sometimes, just to survive is the goal. Dial down the expectations and gain perspective. Some days you won’t choose well, but every day is a new day to choose again. You are a GIFT, and your time is precious. You are enough, regardless of your home, finances, wardrobe, or the kind of day you had.
When all the gifts are unwrapped and the last candy cane is eaten, the gift of a loving parent will be the one they remember most.
Have a very Merry Christmas, friends.
By Jesica Swanson, Kudoso Kontributor