3 Easy and 1 Hard Way to a Peaceful Holiday Season

voiceseducation.orgI heard the crash at 6:00 in the morning and bolted out of bed. The Christmas tree had slammed to the ground in a spectacular mess of broken ornaments and pine needles. The 4 and 6-year-old culprits were crying and wringing their little hands.
“I was just DECORATING,” wailed our son.

I sighed and put on my glasses to view the disaster clearly. The thought of yelling or cleaning up the mess disappeared with their collective teary horror. We made cocoa and sat in the dark morning while their toddler brothers woke and stared wide-eyed at the fallen holiday shambles.

“We will always remember this Christmas,” I said. “Because sometimes bad things make the best stories.”

I tried to remember that as we moved through the years—when 2 out of 4 sobbed on Santa’s knee for the cheery photo, when we 1719936_6_2973647_fullrushed to Children’s Hospital at midnight one Christmas Eve with our son who spent 5 long days in recovery, undiagnosed and very sick. There were times over the years of holidays when the power went out at critical moments, when Santa’s lists exceeded our financial grasp, when we were all, every one of us, ill and trembling on the very days we were to be merry and bright.

Welcome to the Holi-daze! The season freighted with expectations from all directions, the time that when things go wrong, it is spectacularly wrong. After raising four spirited children through 24 years of holiday seasons I have a few thoughts to share that can change everything, but you have to believe in me like small children do Santa Claus—without proof or data—because I have lived these 3 easy and 1 hard ways and I can save you a great deal of time and trouble.

Let Go of Perfection!

Maya Angelou once wisely said that people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Never.
Think of the homes you love to enter that are warm and loving, maybe a little messy, maybe the laundry isn’t done or the Christmas tree is crooked, but the people who live there make time to sit down, drink tea, for the kids play, or put an extra plate on the table for you. People who accept not-perfect-but-good-enough are more apt to have easier relationships, more joy. They do not always have the magazine perfect holiday decorations, the kids in hip-swish clothes, nutritious meals every night. But they know how to let go and let live, and cancel too many yeses. They know when to be organized and when to let the task list go. Because in the end searching for the perfect gift, too many social events, and micro-managing a child’s exuberance really does not add up to much in the childhood memory department. I swear it doesn’t.
Be a disciple of Good Enough and know when to let it ride.

Take the Detours

William Stafford once said that we are more defined by our detours than the straight road to goals “….It’s not so much getting lost, as getting found…
You are in a grocery store rush with the kids when they pause before a street musician in the parking lot playing Silent Night on the banjo. Linger and listen to that street musician; place money in his banjo case.

You are hell-bent on purging the kids’ toys before the holidays while they are gone when the teacher calls to say your child is sick. Forget about the toy task. Get in your big bed with your sick child and watch a show, play cards, or read together, your time is the real gift.

You planned a spectacular dinner for friends and family with many complicated dishes and your kids want to ‘help’. Let those kids help! The carrots may be chopped crooked, the table set with skewed cutlery, and the stirring and mixing can make a mess, but their contribution adds more to your dinner than any fancy menu.

The minor and major detours in a day are the stuff of good memories. They define who you are as a family.

Go Slow
Rushing is one of the quickest ways to stress for the entire family.

• Take your time where you can—eat sitting down, listen to good music, make eye contact during conversations
• Add 15 minutes to departure times,
• Do not speed (rushing is one of the most prevalent causes of car accidents)
• Allow creativity to unfold naturally and not on a deadline
• Dinner can be late, soccer practice can be skipped, the dishes can wait without permanent damage
• Call your child in ‘well’ at school and have a day together
• Consider re-gifting presents instead of buying something new. A favorite book, beautiful earrings you no longer wear, cookies in your grandmother’s bowl, an inventor’s box for kids with stuff from the junk drawer
• Hold that hug a heartbeat longer, tickle and kiss, scratch backs and say thank you
• Remember that NO is a complete sentence with no need for apologies, reasons, or background information

1 Hard Wayimages-3

Rush to the perfect goal without any detours. It may be pretty in the end, but it isn’t as much fun as the slow road with its crooked and risky trails, especially for kids, and especially during the holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

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