Christmas can be a difficult time of year for folks, and if I’m honest it has been difficult for me. I want to do, to give, to make, to spend time doing things to make magic for those I love. I long to make the house just so, to make the perfect meals, to purchase the perfect gifts…
Life hasn’t been supportive of this goal. Our Christmas celebrations have more often been marked by what isn’t here… not the new electronics, not the best clothes, not the family, sometimes not even dad. While I worked to convince my kids and myself that this was okay, in my heart I struggled. I measured my christmas celebration against an airbrushed ideal. I have worn myself out, spent far too much money (we didn’t have), and stressed out my husband trying to make it be… perfect.
Years ago, I woke up after Christmas to a “holiday hangover” where I felt guilty for the crazy I had introduced into our home. My own issues around never knowing when there was enough had produced a frenzy I felt sick about. We had bought too much, eaten too much, done too much, and just worn everyone out. I determined to try to change that. Now that they were past the “magic of Santa” days, we had to come up with a new plan.
For an entire year, I talked to my family about how we might do it differently. We came up with a plan to divide a set amount of Christmas money among the five of us and each buy just one gift for everyone in the family. Our goal was to shift Christmas from a “getting” holiday to a “giving” holiday. By instilling limits, I hoped to manage my own crazy as well as their expectations. As we moved closer to Christmas I worried that my new plan might actually kill Christmas.
As Christmas morning dawned, I watched as my kids got excited about sharing the gifts they purchased for each other. They couldn’t wait to see if their sister or their dad would like the gift they had chosen. We didn’t lose the excitement of Christmas, we exchanged the focus. To be fair, none of my children got extravagant gifts that year (or really many years since). Their allotment of money to spend on Christmas limited the kinds of gifts they could buy and receive. It also helped me ensure that it was both “fair” and everyone had “enough”, which as a mother of three, is actually a big deal. This plan didn’t kill Christmas, it took the crazy edge off it for us. We took a chance at finding sanity and it worked.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that you find ways to bring simplicity and sanity to your Christmas expectations and experiences. To figure out what stresses you out, and what makes you feel whole and live accordingly.