I had my annual holiday meltdown today. You know the meltdown that occurs when you are trying to coordinate, forecast and get a general consensus on what is going to happen during the holiday season. Fortunately for me (and my family) I usually only have one (OK, maybe two).
I have always loved advent calendars. When my girls were born, I decided to create my own version of a holiday countdown calendar. I found this beautiful countdown calendar at Costco that had little drawers in it. If you were going to ask my children if they wanted to have presents for Christmas or do the calendar, and they could only pick one, I think the calendar would win. It definitely became the centerpiece of our holiday traditions.
The first year that I did it I filled it full of treats and gifts and it cost me a fortune (and they were really little and didn’t even know the difference). The next year I decided to step back and create a new approach. I looked at the month of December and filled in all of the things that we would normally be doing. Parties, recitals, lights and the like. Wherever there was an empty spot left, I put in a treat, a little present, watching Christmas Movies or something. As they got older I also included assignments for them to do something nice for someone, play secret Santa for someone who needs it or pick an activity that we all do together. When we opened the little drawer, they never knew what would be inside. They would get so excited, not knowing if an adventure, an activity, a giving item, a treat or present awaited them.
The last few years have gotten tough. My competitive gymnast doesn’t get home until 8:00 or 9:00 each night from gymnastics. My husband doesn’t get home until well after 6:00 or later if he is on call. Is it fair to do the calendar without them? So I decided to try and get my family to work together this year to come up with a plan. Well it was reinforced that they like it better when I plan it without them. They don’t want to do the work (or even know that there is work involved). They just like the outcome.
Here is where the reminder to myself about boundaries comes in (I teach classes to women on boundaries all the time. Sometimes I need that not so gentle reminder to make sure that mine are in place). I was getting frustrated because everyone was messing around and wouldn’t focus on the task (my task, albeit my self imposed task) at hand. We would start the discussion and pretty soon they were off talking about this and that. I finally got mad and took a shower. Thankfully, my husband took the girls sledding, giving me a few moments to remind myself what this is supposed to be all about in the first place (then that boundary reminder I was talking about popped up as well).
It’s about being together and celebrating the season. It is about everyone as individuals and how we fit together as a family. My children are teenagers now and are part of the decision making within the family, but also have a responsibility to the flow and dynamics of how things come together.
So I will fill in the spots with the activities that are already on our December agenda. I won’t stress about empty spots. This year the calendar will be posted. With everyone’s schedule they need to know what is going on and when. If I find an activity that everyone can go to together, I will add it in. I will be flexible and remind myself that this is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, then I have created a should for myself (I have a class on should’s too) and take it off the list. If someone gets disappointed that they don’t have all the surprises of youth, I will remind them that they are not youths any longer but young adults.
My countdown calendar won’t have all the little pieces of paper inside each little box this year, but I will be much more relaxed and stress free. Well the kids just got home from sledding. I am going to let them read this blog and put the calendar on the wall. Wait, there is an empty day, I just filled it with a spa day for myself. Merry Christmas!!!