Things I wish I knew about Christmas when I was raising my children
The following was written by my friend Faydra. She has some great points about what’s truely important around Christmas. It isn’t the things we buy our kids or the expensive trips we take. True Christmas magic happens while liking a spoon of cookie dough or reading a favorite Christmas story… but I don’t want to give too much away. I hope you enjoy this article and find a good reminder this busy time of the year.
Do you Facebook? I do. Just before creating this guest post, I was looking at my wall and noticed the comments from frazzled friends who were so busy trying to create a magical holiday that they were, in fact, creating chaos in what is supposed to be a sacred time of year.
Their posts actually began shortly after Thanksgiving- selfies of themselves on Black Friday shopping sprees with their bellies still digesting stuffing and pie.
With lists in one hand and a red Starbuck’s cup in the other, they set out to find everything their children ask for in the name of being Super Mom, errr, I mean Santa, and making sure that little Johnny and Jane have their quintessential Christmas.
They don’t know what I know.
That none of this really matters to their kids.
I mean, they think it does and so do the kids. Now.
But it doesn’t matter in the end.
What’s the end?
The end is that magical time that your children grow up and realize that they can’t really recall many of the Christmases past. In fact, it isn’t the years that they got everything on their list that they remember with fondness. Nope, it’s actually the Christmases that were flawed or simply off somehow that resonate in their memory banks. You know, the year the turkey was raw in the middle and you had to order pizza. Or the year the dog was loose and peed on the presents the night before they were opened.
I’m an empty nester- I LOVE it. I think empty nesters should have honorary sashes that we wear that symbolize that we’ve made it through every season of parenting minors. Sort of like Girl Scouts where we get badges for things like cleaning vomit without gagging, making Halloween costumes from random items found in the home and repurposing cribs into crafting stations. We should have merit badges for surviving the teen age years and special occasion badges for teaching our daughters how to use tampons effectively without them dying of embarrassment or to shave their legs with minimal cuts to their shin bones.
One of the many benefits to being an empty nester is that I have hindsight. I have the knowing that many of the things I thought were vital were, in actuality, optional and I didn’t know it.
I was that mom who had been raised by wolves and I used my children’s childhood to try to make up for what I never had. In some ways it was incredibly cathartic and in others it was stupid. I mean, I love that my children always had traditions and that they knew that they were valued and loved unconditionally, but I am not so proud of the times I neglected the utility payments in December so I had extra money to spend stuffing their stockings. I mean, did the chocolate oranges and other filler items really make that big of a difference? NO!
So imagine me sitting here with my sash on with all of my shiny badges glistening in the glow of the Christmas tree and listen up. (insert sound of eggnog laced with brandy being slurped) Here’s the stuff I wish I had known about Christmas when I was raising my children.
- When your kids grow up, they won’t love you more because of what they got for Christmas when they were small. As a matter of fact, when you jog their memory about the items you fought over in the store to win for them, they won’t even remember getting it. So that limited edition action figure that you boarded the karma train over won’t even be remembered by the time he hits high school, but karma will remember and karma likes to be repaid.
- The small traditions you do that seem so cute and special- they totally are. Throwing glitter and oatmeal on the roof and telling your kids that the reindeer see the glitter from the sky and know where to land and eat the oatmeal while Santa is putting toys under the tree, keep that up. That stuff matters. That’s the stuff that gets handed down to the next generation.
- Baking is greater than shopping. The days that you spend with your kids baking (and sometimes burning) cookies and liking batter from the spoon under the threat of salmonella means more than the time you spend in the car searching for that damn action figure I warned you about. The special recipes you share, the candy that you make those are the sugarplums that dance in the heads of your grown children. They love to recall the goodies they made with you when they were young.
- If you are going to throw money around, do it on a dress. You know that dress your daughter needs for the Christmas pageant. That matters. There is pictorial evidence of this time and when you daughter is older, she will have a strong opinion about the outfit she wore. I am talking tights, shoes and a headband. Do not tell yourself that a cute dress with her tennis shoes is fine. It’s not fine, it’s tacky. Worry less about stocking stuffers and let her be a Christmas princess for the pageant.
- The best gift you can give your children is the Christmas spirit. Save your change and give handfuls to your child to put into the red kettle. Volunteer to ring the bell. Purchase gifts for the Angle Trees that you see in the store. Tell your child that there are those who don’t have ninja mothers who are willing to board the karma train for that action figure. That there are actually moms who literally can’t do a thing to make the Christmas wishes of their children come true. That there are moms wrestling with what bills they can put off to make sure that their child has presents under the tree.
These are some of the most poignant things I have realized after raising my children through a collective of over 23 Christmases with children at home. That’s what it boils down to. Anything else was just meaningless fluff and sort of worthless sort of like nuts in fudge.
For the first time in my life I can honestly say that Jesus is the reason for the season in my home and though I thought I was being the best mom, err I mean, Santa ever, all I really was doing was driving myself crazy for no good reason.
I wish you all peace this holiday. I wish you joy and nut-free fudge that you make with your child who will remember that above all else.
Faydra Koenig is a mental health professional, author, blogger, podcaster and lover of iced tea. You can find out more about Faydra at DoingLifeWithFaydra.com
Faydra also created an amazing Guide to help you make it through the Holidays. If you’re feeling stressed out, or are dealing with difficult family issues around the holidays, you definitely want to grab this. Well worth a read and many of the strategies she shares will help you throughout the year (not just around Christmas).
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