If I tell you that Christmas is four days away, does that stress you out? Do you start thinking of all the things you still have to do? Are your lists getting longer and longer, instead of shorter and shorter? Do you think of all the things you wish you had done, but just didn’t have the time for this year?
Two years ago, I would have answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions. Christmas has always been a favorite holiday of mine, but has also been very stressful. I tried to do everything, even before I had children. While I enjoyed Christmas Day, the days leading up to it felt like a big rush and the day after often left me feeling like I didn’t get done everything that I had planned.
Last year, I was doing good just to show up to Christmas dinner. We bought the boys presents, but did not do much else, at least not compared to years past. Minimal decorations were put up and we took the boys to see Santa, even though Rodger and I didn’t necessarily feel like it. We didn’t even go to Christmas Eve service at church. I put all of my energy into making sure the boys had a good Christmas and that it was not ruined by my sadness. Last Christmas was a success for them, but not so much for me. I came out of it thinking, “Surely this is not what Christmas will be like forever?”
This year, I have found what I believe is a good balance between the two extremes. One thing that Kyleigh has taught us is just how important time is. We thought we had a lifetime with her, not just the nine months that she was in my womb. I am putting that into action with the holiday season, not only this Christmas, but hopefully every Christmas from now until I am reunited with Kyleigh. Marking things off my Christmas list before I even wrote them down this year was a good way to start. I got rid of the things that I was doing for myself…the things that I felt like I had to do to keep up with the Jones’, so to speak. Next, I simplified many of the holiday activities that we like to do as a family, but caused stress or took a lot of time planning or prepping. Making sugar cookies from scratch was not very family friendly, especially when all the boys want to do is decorate them and eat the icing! Buying premade dough is much easier and still allows us to have fun decorating. I am trying not to get stressed out or upset if something falls through the cracks. Oliver and I spent a few nights this week making bookmarks for his 20 classmates, but failed to make cards for his teachers. He was having fun and was excited to make something for his friends. I wasn’t going to rush him and make him upset just so he had time to make a handful of cards, too. The last thing we have changed as a family this year is sitting down each night to read our Advent book. It has helped to keep us all focused on the real reason for the season.
We bought our Christmas tree off a corner lot vs. driving over 30 miles to the tree farm. I found a pre-assembled gingerbread house at the grocery store bakery that only requires the addition of red and green candies. Spending all day baking and assembling a gingerbread house is not worth the tears it inspires when it falls to pieces. Instead of buying unnecessary gifts, we adopted a family and gave to others this season. We have enjoyed hearing the boys sing in their school Christmas programs, but have said ‘no’ to attending other holiday events. We have spent our evenings watching Christmas shows and driving around to look at Christmas lights instead of fighting the crowds at the local holiday attractions. My list of Christmas must-do’s has shrunk significantly. It may sound like we are still doing a lot, but I assure you, it does not feel like it.
The important thing about this list of Christmas activities is that we are doing them together. We are taking the time to spend with each other. We have been able to slow down and enjoy the Christmas Season, not just the day. The quality time that we are spending together as a family is what my boys will remember about Christmas, not the hustle and bustle of getting things done.
So for those of you who answered ‘yes’ to any of the beginning questions, I challenge you to take a look at your Christmas to-do list and start marking things off … permanently. If an oversized list is keeping you from enjoying time with those you love, or even from the Christmas season itself, it’s time to reevaluate. Keep the items that mean the most to you and your loved ones, especially the things that you do together. Get rid of the items that you are doing only for yourself or the ones that stress you out the most. I promise you will feel a sense of relief and a new found sense of Christmas joy!
I am thankful that God uses Kyleigh to teach me the simple lessons in life ~ the importance of quality family time.