I’d like to think my mental pace most Decembers has been the serene speed of “O Holy Night,” calm and angelic, rendering me capable of mid-afternoon waltzes around the Christmas tree with my young daughter in my arms. More often than not, though, my brain has buzzed around in a chaotic “Feliz Navidad”-in-warp-speed mode. Less angelic by far, it put me more at risk of tripping over an extension cord and knocking out the lights while toppling the tree, thereby unintentionally teaching my kid a naughty word or two. Thefrenzied mode was neither enjoyable nor festive for either of us; so let me share a few tips that have made our holidays brighter. And brighter, they are!
- Let the ornaments be. If you have a little one who “helps” decorate the tree and/or house, appreciate the, ahem, artistic genius of those who haven’t learned yet where things “should” be. All your ornaments are on the bottom branches, and only on the side that faces the wall? Excellent. They’ll be less likely to break when someone or something, be it elf, pet, or little hand, accidently-on-purpose touches one. Has your little person chosen to line the tree skirt with empty toilet paper tubes? All the better. Rather than removing them, keep them there. Perhaps the inevitable accidentally-on-purpose maneuver will involve one of those tubes instead of an ornament. All good, see? You’ll save loads of time by not re-doing the tree, and you’ll help build her confidence by leaving it to her innocent expertise.
- Let the holiday cards be. I don’t know about you, but over the years, I’ve sometimes felt obligated to order the “big batch” of cards so that I can keep in touch with people from my past. The thing is, I didn’t entirely like some of those people back when I actually knew them (forgive me, that’s not Christmas-y), and others I was writing out of habit (hey, they were on my list!), so it’s really freeing to take a red pen to the old list. So, go ahead—shorten it. As in, a LOT. Not only will using the red pen to strike some names satisfy your inner teacher, it’s also a festive color this time of year. It’s so very freeing, time-wise and emotionally! With or without any card at all, true friends and family already know that you love them.
- Let the days be. Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that pre-Christmas was supposed to be busier than the rest of the year. As it turns out, that’s not a moral obligation. Online shopping keeps me largely out of the malls and keeps me connected to my kid during her waking hours. Even if there are more cookies to bake (because hey, who doesn’t like an excuse to bake cookies?), what my kid wants most is some normalcy and a mentally present parent. Today, I had planned to rush some gifts to the post office so that they’d be there in plenty of time for a type-A recipient to feel loved, instead of wondering two weeks before Christmas why he hadn’t yet received my box. As it turned out, my child wanted to make a train of dining room chairs and cushions through our kitchen. She wanted nothing to do with the post office. It wasn’t easy to forgo my plan (I’m type A, too), but you know what? The train was more important. She got to be the gymnast-conductor that she told me she wanted to be, and I got to sit in her train, and just be. Just be. So much of this year is just about being still and enjoying the ride, with or sans pretend train.
At the end of the proverbial day, our ornaments have been rearranged several times, but only by little hands. Some of the people we love will get cards from our family; even fewer will get handwritten notes on them. And my gymnast-conductor-decorator child feels happy and connected, and more like she’s the brightest light of all in our house, and less like the caboose she’d be if I were dragging her around to all the “stuff.” And you know what? We actually did waltz around the Christmas tree today, and it may have been the best thing I’ve ever done. May your December be merry and bright!