So, this time of year brings out either the very best or very worst in us as parents. We feel pressured to provide the best Christmas imaginable for our kids, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle we totally lose sight of not only the big picture, but also what our kids really want.
To maintain some perspective and prioritise is key, and will be the main ingredient to what our kids will end up remembering fondly in the long run. Here are some of my favourite tips to REALLY enjoying Christmas with your kids.
Think of Others:
True joy comes when you focus on others and not just yourself. This is SO true around Christmas time and works the same way for kids. Encourage your little ones to think of someone else. There are hundreds of ways to do this and all depends on their age and where you live etc. Some of the things we do with ours, are to fill a shoe box up and send it to one the many great charities that do the shoe box appeal for children in deprived areas. Involve them in making small gifts, cards, brownies, gingerbread, etc. and taking them around to your neighbors.
In some areas you can volunteer to help out at a homeless shelter, sorting out clothes or gifts or serving food. (Although from my experience, most charities need volunteers the rest of the year but get plenty of help around the holidays ironically)
Even help them stay empathetic and less entitled by reading and learning about others in different cultures and countries that may not have the same comforts and privileges. (We are Christians, so we will pray for a different culture or area of the world most weeks, but you could adjust this depending on your beliefs). This year we are making loads of handmade cards and taking them around to the local Care Home (Nursing Home…for those Americans reading this) we visit on occasion. Anything you can do to get your kids thinking about others during this time of year will cultivate compassion and gratefulness.
Embrace the Tacky and the Gaudy
So ok, I’m an artist. I completed a BA in Fine Art. I am inherently super visually sensitive to my environment. And as much as I love vintage ornaments, clean lines and white lights only, I have had to, little by little, over the years embrace what my kids love and think looks awesome at Christmas. I had to learn that his was their house too. Now our house is decorated with a range of my favourite vintage ornaments and white lights but also coloured lights, homemade clay and fabric tree ornaments, an assortment of festive paintings and crafts and the odd heinous clay (and jewelled!) candle holder! But it’s ok and I kind of love it.
Instead of having a tree that looks perfect but no one can touch or even help decorate, we have one that all the kids help decorate and hang their ornaments on and string popcorn and cranberries. (I even have a Thorin Oakenshield with sword and all from the Hobbit on my tree!)
Instead of fragile decorations that you are constantly scolding little hands from touching, why not invest in some plastic or wood ones that can be played with in certain areas so the kids have something too. We have a nice hand carved nativity set that I really don’t want our kids to play with and it goes on our mantle above the wood burner.
But after a number of years of seeing our kids long to play with it, we got a sturdy hard plastic nativity set that stays on a low table, ready to play with anytime. It is packed with the Christmas stuff every year so it stays special and we have added animals and characters to it over the years. Is it beautiful?. No. But it is very much loved.
So when your kids are adults and talking about their favourite Christmases, do you honestly think they are going to remember if their mother got Christmas cards out to everyone every year, or how ironed the table cloth was, or how many cakes and pies were homemade?
They are however, going to remember if their mother was so stressed that she was sleep deprived, grouchy and short tempered trying to make everything perfect. They will remember if their parents were always busy cooking or making or wrapping and never had time to sit down and play a game, build a fire, read a book, play in the snow or just hang out without being a frazzled hot mess. Let some things go.
By all means, try to be organised and get it all done, but when the time comes…chill and enjoy them. I know a friend who never really has any memories of his mother present during Christmas but instead always in the kitchen or running about making things perfect. So what if you eat with normal knives and forks and never get around to polishing the silver ones or you just wrap the presents in basic wrapping paper without Martha Stewart Style handmade gift tags…none of that will even matter down the road.
The Big Picture
We love doing chocolate and Christmas cards, presents and chocolate advent calendars. However one thing we do every year is try to keep the true Christmas story real and remembered using a non-chocolate advent calendar. This was something that my mother did with us and I loved it and help me focus on the story of Jesus. We have a little pocket with a clue and a card with verses that work through every day of December up till Christmas.
The kids love seeing what the clue and verse will be each morning. We also read though other books for the older kids that help them keep the bigger picture in mind. (The One True Story by Tim Chester and the The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson are some of our favourites!)