Monday, January 2, 2012

Reinventing The Holidays

It has been brought to my attention that many of you do not like or enjoy your holiday schedule.  This makes my heart super sad!!  I have heard so many moms express that they love their extended families but they feel that their immediate family gets short-changed because they are trying to meet the expectations of their extended families. When I asked them why they did not just tell their parents that they needed to change the plan they all said, "I can't!  My parents do not understand.  They would be sooo upset if we were not there."

Argh!  I think most of us can relate.  It is definitely a difficult path to navigate.  You want to still participate in your childhood traditions with your parents but at the same time you want to establish your own traditions with your husband and children.  What to do???

I absolutely do not have a perfect answer for this dilemma, but I do have some thoughts and encouragement. I know that it is exhausting trying to be what everyone expects during the holiday season.  Rather than accept this as a forever reality let's try and brainstorm a new healthy pattern.  The first thing you need to figure out is what you want the holiday to look like for your immediate family.  What is important to you?  What needs do your children have?

One of the things that I hear moms of babies complain about the most is how extended family parties completely screw with their child's schedule.  Often the party makes their child miss a nap or the party may even start at the babies bedtime.  This is so frustrating.  Extended family members often say, "It's just one night!  Chill out!" The reality is that a bad night results in a bad next day.  This is no fun for mom or baby.  This is where you have to make a decision.  Is it worth it to you to upset your extended family by politely declining?  Or do you appease them and ruin your immediate family's next day? 

I love my extended family but I am an immediate family advocate.  I believe that adults can and should alter their schedules to accommodate young children on the holidays.  Babies and young children need sleep, food and at least something close to their normal schedule.  It is OK to request that your extended family work with these three things and it is also OK to politely decline if they are not willing to work with you.  When your children are young it is your responsibility to create a peaceful and happy holiday for them.

Maybe you no longer have a baby but you do have younger kids who believe in Santa.  I love the Santa game!  It does however make it so that you need to be home on Christmas morning.  If your home is not near the homes of your extended family this can create drama.  It is not popular to say, "Let's celebrate another day in December so that the kids can have Christmas morning at home."  Even though this is not a grandparent's ideal arrangement, it is not crazy or selfish for you to want your children to have a Norman Rockwell Christmas morning.  My suggestion here is that you give the grandparents plenty of notice.  I mean PLENTY.  As in you are going to need to start talking to them about your holiday schedule in June and you will need to be prepared for fall out.  Ultimately they love you and will come around but I have yet to hear a story where the grandparent's immediate reaction was, "Great Idea!! Let's not be together on Dec 25th!"  I am not a parent of adult children and I have no idea how hard it must be to transition from the role of parent to grandparent.  Remember that they love you just as much as you love your little ones.  They do not want to make your life hard, they just want to be with you.  All of this being said they often say hurtful things because their feelings are hurt.  Be prepared for this and try confirm to them that you love them and you want to spend quality time with them and you need that quality time to be any day but Dec. 25th.

Let them know that you are wanting to focus on the quality of the time.  I have one friend who's parents come and stay the night early in December and they do "Christmas Eve" and "Christmas Day" on December 10th.  I love this idea!!  This way you are able to incorporate all of your childhood traditions into the holiday and the grandparents don't have to share time with Santa, Mom, Dad or the other set of grandparents.  She said at first her parents were not happy about the date change however they were very pleased that she loved her childhood traditions so much that she wanted her children to experience them too.  It was a little tense going into the first year but it went so well that the grandparents actually preferred it to trying to cram their traditions around all that Dec 25th brings.

Also a very important thought is that the people that are important to you during the holidays should be people that are important to you the whole year through.  Make sure that they know this!  If you invest in your loved ones year around it makes being with them on "the day" not as important.  A few years ago I made a conscious decision to call my grandparents once a week.  This began as a duty but has turned into a joy.  I bring this up now because a side effect of this decision is that I don't feel guilt or desperation to see them on blue ribbon days because I am confident they know my love for them.  They have each expressed that my weekly calls mean more than a visit on during the holidays.   

So, if you are a stressed out wreck from all of last weeks activities then maybe you should think about a holiday makeover.  It is not an endeavor for the faint of heart.  There will for sure be opposition.  Change is not popular and it tends to bring out the crazy in people.  Do your best to minimize the drama by having a clear idea of what you want your immediate family's holiday schedule to be and then lovingly accommodate your extended family around that schedule.

40-50 more years is a very long time to hate the holidays...you might as well make the change now!

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