Happy Holidays is a phrase you often hear at this time of the year, but as busy parents will attest, it can be a hard concept to truly embrace as we race from school “Holiday Concerts”, filling out forms and cheques for the annual “Holiday Fundraiser” for the hockey team, and choosing just the right outfit to wear to a spouse’s “A Night in the ‘70s” Holiday Banquet. Is it just me, or is none of this an actual “holiday”?
And that’s just the beginning of the holiday stress. There’s choosing the right gift for everyone on your list, and the accompanying budget that has to go along with it. Yes, I’ve heard about families that opt out of giving each other gifts entirely, but that causes a new kind of stress for the rest of us who can’t let it go, while simultaneously being all the more poorer for it. At the other end of the spectrum, I know families who give their children so many gifts that they have to clean out toy shelves before the holiday season starts so they’ll have room to store the new ones. My kids know these families, and that stresses them out. “Don’t you love us as much? Doesn’t Santa?”
As we all run short of time and money, what can we do to try to take some of the stress out of what should be a happy holiday season?
It’s a good idea to make a list and decide on the gifts you really need to buy, and the amount of money you can spend. It’s so easy to go over budget, particularly when you try to “even out” the gift amounts between your kids.
Don’t be afraid to say no to cookie exchanges. I do it all the time. But if you’re just in it for the fun evening out (and really, who isn’t) go store bought if time (or cooking talent) is your constraint.
If you’re hosting a holiday party, don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring something to contribute to the food and drink tables. It’s all about getting together, isn’t it? If you find housework daunting, do what I do and just clean the parts of the house where you know your guests will go.
Your Christmas decorations don’t have to be home décor magazine worthy. They’re about you, and your family. Kids love to see their homemade decorations on the tree so don’t hide them away. Don’t get caught in the idea of a “decorator tree” and a “family tree.”
If the kids really need to dress up for a special holiday dinner, think about heading to a second hand store to pick up a nearly new dress or suit that someone else had to buy last year, for their child who is too big for it this year.
Try to resist buying gifts for your kids to give to your other kids. If they aren’t old enough to be earning their own money, have them make something by hand, or create a book of coupons that include cleaning a room, getting a sandwich, etc.
Don’t send electronic Christmas cards. They only clutter up email inboxes and remind everyone you can’t be bothered to send out a real card or meet for a holiday drink.
The most stressful part of the holidays can be something other people give to you: The Christmas Letter. There’s nothing worse than reading one of these as your own kids are fighting over who gets to put the now mangled and headless angel on the top of the tree, the frozen pre-packaged shortbread cookies are burning in the oven, and you can’t find the only four completed Christmas cards. So if you must send a letter, be a friend and don’t include each and every trip the family has taken. Please eliminate the phrases “trip of a lifetime”, “the children were enthralled”, or “well-needed re-charging time”. I want to know how you handled in the lice situation while wearing ski helmets, or exactly how much of the 14-hour car trip was actually enjoyable.
Consider some honesty. We are all on to phrases like “hard to contain his enthusiasm”, “spirited personality” and “boundless energy”. Let’s agree to replace that with “won’t sit still and driving me and all his teachers insane.” Admit that you were thrilled as much for yourself, as you were for them, when they all went to summer camp for a month. And exactly how many hours do they spend on Minecraft anyway? That’ll make me, and your friends, happy for the holidays. GL
This article first appeared in The Good Life and can be found at this link: http://www.goodlifemississauga.com/117-gl-2012/Buckworth.html