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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 6: Perspective

My inbox is full of coupons, super sales, festive recipes and holiday gift ideas.  Every single day for the last week I've added something to our December calendar.   I'm not complaining, I'm a self proclaimed Christmas nut and I'm thrilled that the most wonderful time of the year is rapidly approaching.    I want to go to the Zoo lights, Tilles Park, the opening of Shaw Ice Rink, the Symphony holiday concert, A Christmas Carol at the Fox, and the Teddy Bear Tea.  I want to dive into the Christmas Shop and take in all that it is. I want to say yes to every friend that invites our family over  to exchange cookies, make gingerbread houses and sing Christmas Carols. I want to sit in church every Advent weekend and remember the baby Jesus.  I want to find the perfect gifts for everyone on our list. I want to attend our  friends' grown up parties to laugh and eat delicious food.  I want to go see Santa and decorate our house inside and out, send out cute Christmas cards, find the perfect tree at Ted Drewes, and watch our favorite Christmas movies.  I want to spend time with all of our family.  I want to make a cute Advent calendar full of sweet messages and fun daily activities for the girls.  I want to bake cookies, make candy and ornaments.  I want to light the Advent candle every Sunday and have a special time for prayer.  I want to read all of our Christmas books and drive around looking at Christmas lights while drinking hot cocoa.  There have been years that we've done just about all of that.  And we were miserable. MISERABLE. Some of the most important things on that list , the part where we focus on the baby Jesus, the places where we find ourselves moved to put others first and bless their lives through what God has given us; they played a small part in the production that became MERRY X-MAS!    I think a lot of people can relate.  Years ago, Emma's preschool sent a note home to all parents about the holidays and how we might approach them and what a difference that note made for me.  Every year since I've read it and am so thankful for the perspective it gives.  It's not intended to be a downer or to turn anyone into a Scrooge.  It doesn't even focus on having a Christ centered Christmas, which is really what I most want.   But it does challenge parents to make Christmas less about our unrealistic expectations of what Christmas should look like.   It helps me to think more about what our kids really want and need and less about doing it all.  Trust me, this is a work in progress, we continue to learn and adapt and it seems my lesson every year is ---keep stripping away at the excess and then you'll get to the heart of Christmas.
Overloading our kids with gifts should be not be an issue for Kevin and me.  For whatever blessed reason our kids have very few wants.  But most years in the days before Christmas, we both start hearing little whispers of "they'll be disappointed with just those gifts" "books?  just books?" "it's not enough" and so we buy a few more last minute gifts (that nobody asked for or really wanted) to make the pile a bit bigger.  Finally, last year we resisted these silly voices (it was hard!).  Not a disappointed girl among them.  Lucy was delighted with a book, some Hello Kitty Band Aids, a new passy and some goggles.  She immediately put them all to good use.  Our kids are so often the best teachers!

Here's the letter….I hope you find something in here that will help you find what you're looking for this Christmas!

Whether we celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, whether our traditions are French, German or Asian, most of us approach this holiday season with great expectations. 

We take great care to select the best gifts for our children, to bake holiday cookies, to decorate the house with homemade ornaments and to give parties for friends and family dinners with traditional holiday foods.  We remember former roommates, distant relatives, neighbors, teachers and mail carriers with special little gifts.  Yet the result of all this well-intentioned activity is frequently children in tears, adults with frayed nerves and parents who feel angry and unappreciated.  This year you can avoid this "bad aftertaste" from the holiday season by adding the following gifts to your list.  

The Gift of Less...Less Excitement
The single greatest cause of holiday unhappiness for children is sensory overload.  Too much excitement will overload your children and leave them in tears.  This year give your children less excitement.  I suspect that one reason we overload our children with excitement is to regain the excitement we remember from our own childhoods.  Because our real attention is focused on our own needs rather than theirs, we have a difficult time assessing when they've had enough.  This year, separate your needs from your children's and stop before they've had too much.  

...Less Gifts
We also overload our children with gifts. A six-year old who receives six gifts will tear open one after another and have nothing to play with when he's done.  If the same child receives three gifts he will have the time, the energy and the attention to explore and enjoy each gift individually.  This year give your children the gift of less gifts.

The Gift of Order
The excitement and fun of the holiday season become too much very quickly for a child who is tired or hungry.  For this reason it is particularly important to maintain a regular schedule during the holiday season.  By rigorously enforcing bedtime and limiting snacks you will give your child the reserves she needs to handle the excitement and social demands of the holiday season.  Your gift of a regular schedule will enable your child to fully enjoy all the other fun of the holiday season.

The Gift of Limits
Children have limited reserves of energy, limited attention spans and limited social skills.  The gift of respect for these limits will make everyone's holiday season happier.  This means controlling the family's schedule by leaving family affairs before the children become whiny and cranky, by balancing special activities with quiet activities away from a lot of people.  Respect of a child's limits makes a wonderful holiday gift.

The Gift of Giving
Sometimes adults forget that it can be as much fun to give a gift as it is to receive one.  As a result they do all the giving and don't let the children in on the fun.  Help your child shop or make special gifts for family members.  This will make him feel a apart of the holiday planning and teach him the joy of giving.

The Gift of You
The most important gift you can give your family this holiday season is the gift of your.  Not a tired, harried, over-worked you, but a relaxed, happy you.  To give your family this gift you will have to take good care of yourself.  Don't try to do too much.  They'd rather you had time for an extra story than those fancy cookies.  You can bake the cookies next year but this time with your child will never come around again.  Get enough rest.  you can't stay up late at night and go strong all day long without paying the price of a short temper and frayed nerves.  Ask for help.  Don't try to be super parent.  You can't do everything yourself.  You'll feel angry and put upon if you do this.  Plan some fun for yourself away from the family.  This will give you time to garner your reserves and you'll return to your family with the most important gift of all; a happy, fulfilled, relaxed you.

written by Barbara Kohm  

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