Tis the season, right? Whether you already have your Christmas tree up, or are staunchly on the side of “nothing red and green until after Thanksgiving,” we are in it. The grocery stores are full of baking supplies and holiday flavors of every food (peppermint yogurt? really?). You can’t walk into a single retailer or open your email without cheery bombardments of how many days are left to shop. Mariah is defrosting as we speak.
So here are four statements you might need to hear to help you, mama, enjoy this holly jolly time of the year…
1. Holidays can look different every year:
Some of the blessings of being a military family for the last fifteen years have been the continual lessons in flexibility, change, and new traditions. Our family has not spent every Christmas morning in the same place. One year my husband was overseas on a ship. Sometimes we’re visited Santa, sometimes we haven’t. Some years we’ve cut down our own tree, and other years we throw up a fake one and light a balsam candle. Traditions and routines can be wonderful, but they shouldn’t be shackles. My daughter has learned to enjoy Thanksgiving day even if the meal looks different than years prior, or we have different friends around our table, or we are celebrating on a Sunday night because that’s when everyone could gather. It is okay.
2. You can opt out of any part of the holidays that doesn’t work for your family:
Guess what – there’s no list of rules for how your family has to celebrate. Here’s a short list of holiday “things” our family doesn’t do: matching holiday pajamas, St. Nick’s Day gifts, elaborately decorated presents, and Elf on the Shelf. We tried matching jammies last year; after one photo, my husband changed into his regular clothes because he doesn’t like sitting around in pajama pants. Pinterest and social media and all of the extra “stuff” that seems to come along with the holiday season now can be fun and magical – or it can be one more thing on your to-do list for which you don’t have the budget, patience, or bandwidth. Limit your decorating around your house if it stresses you out to have all the clutter. Decide that holiday cards, while great for some people, are not your thing. You and your spouse are the magic makers! You get to decide what to focus on – not the Lego empire who has decided that every child must have an Advent calendar which brings more tiny toys into my house and becomes a fight every morning before school.
3. Holidays as a parent are overwhelming and magical and exhausting and special and loud:
And they are usually all of those things within an hour and then the cycle repeats itself throughout the day / month / season 🙂 Do what you can to set your expectations. That amazing vision of everyone opening presents on Christmas morning with cups of cocoa and happy smiles could happen! Or, somebody wakes up with an ear infection. Or the toy your child desperately wanted for weeks is discarded within ten minutes. Protect your mental health by being realistic about what a specific holiday event will probably look like.
4. Nobody is sharing photos of the burnt cookies:
You will hear this from many people in many ways, but it always bears repeating – what you see as you scroll social media is a curated, filtered, intentional microcosm of someone’s life and family. There’s nothing wrong with sharing the good times – the sweet family photo at the Christmas tree farm, or your child’s wonderment at the first snow. But if you are feeling bad because you didn’t go to a holiday tree lighting, or set up a sweet afternoon of decorating gingerbread houses, please remember there are fifty other great moms in your camp. Moms who deserve a bunch of “likes” for getting everyone bathed today and serving frozen peas alongside the box mac ‘n’ cheese at dinner.