The other day while my son, Luke, was in preschool, my other son, James, and I were frantically running from store to store before having to go back and pick up Luke.
With each long line we encountered I felt myself getting more and more tense. Didn’t these people know how long my to-do list was? How many gifts I still needed to get? How badly my son apparently needed a snack?
I would glance at the time then begrudgingly mark another thing off my list that just wasn’t going to happen that day. I looked longingly at the shoppers around me holding their warm cups of coffee, realizing that was another thing not happening for me. You can only imagine the amount of holiday cheer I was spreading.
As I headed back to school to pick up Luke, an awesome song came on the radio — “I Need a Silent Night” by Amy Grant. It was like she was talking right to me.
I’ve made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush
It breaks me till I push and shove
Children are crying while mothers are trying
To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line
What can I say?
I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
As I listened to the song, I gave a big sigh, let my shoulders relax and realized that in only the first week of December, I had already been sucked into that age-old, whirlwind of Christmas chaos. I looked back at James, whom I’d barely talked in two hours except to say “hurry up” or “don’t touch that,” and decided that I was going to make this December different.
As much as I would love to hire a personal shopper, interior decorator and professional landscaper to make our Christmas traditions magically happen without me lifting a finger (kind of like my cup of coffee that day), it’s just not going to happen. So how exactly do we, as parents, find “a little peace right here” in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle? Here are a few ways I’ve been trying to do that this year.
Make shopping fun
We all have time restraints, deadlines to meet and sometimes cranky children who just don’t want to spend another second in that store, so how do we finish our to-do lists without turning into the Grinch? First, I’m attempting to cut down my list to make it more kid-friendly and realistic for the short periods of time I usually have. Then, while we’re in the store, I’m going to try and have some fun. We are going to try on that silly Elf hat, play a little hide and seek in the door section of Home Depot, and sit down on the floor and read a book right off the shelf.
I admit, sometimes my boys take advantage of this and a quick shopping trip can turn into a very long one that isn’t productive at all. So we have rule that our first prerogative is to knock out the list. I bring the kids in on it, and let them help me look for specific things. After we’ve put a good dent in the list, I’m more lenient on letting them look and play. But they always have to ask before wandering off to look at something, because they can easily be lured away by twinkling lights and shiny toys then suddenly, I’ve lost sight of them. And whenever possible, I shop online. Who knew that Santa didn’t drive a sleigh, but actually his goodies arrive in a white Amazon delivery truck?
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
It’s easy to get overwhelmed this time of year. I’m totally one of those moms who doesn’t want my kids to miss a thing. I want everything to be perfect. But like in the song, I can feel broken pretty quickly if I’m trying to keep up with my own idea of perfection.
So when I find myself obsessing over the perfect pair of Christmas pajamas, or getting just the right family photo for our cards, I’m going to stop and ask myself, “how important is this really?”
I recently made a little mental check-list of all the things that are important to my family this time of year. A fun decorated house topped the list, so I made that a priority. My husband had the morning off and took the kids to school and out to lunch for me so I could spend about four hours decorating. The look on their faces when they arrived home was priceless.
If it’s something that you and your children will remember for years to come, then do it! If it’s not, then in the words of Elsa, let it go!
Have a silent night
Sometimes after a long day of rushing around, checking things off my list and dealing with candy-cane-induced meltdowns, I’m in desperate need of a quiet evening with nothing to do. Again, this is tricky because there’s probably always going to be a Christmas party to attend, cards to address or a tree to decorate. But there is something so wonderful about spending an evening with my husband, feet up, fire crackling, with no agenda. We might watch an old Christmas classic or binge on cookies. Whatever it may be, it’s unplanned, stress free and so necessary.
I don’t know about you, but the best gift of Christmas for me is a happy healthy family, and that usually starts with a happy mama!
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Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.