Christmas is just one of the many holidays we celebrate throughout the year. In part, the commercialism surrounding this particular event also makes December one of the most overblown months of the year.
Some families have the additional tug-of-war of trying to be all things to all people. One set of in-laws wants to host, the other set of in-laws wants to host and thus a fine balancing act begins.
In order to preserve the wonder of any holiday, be it Christmas or otherwise, I take a word of advice from Buddy the Elf, “Treat every day like Christmas.” If you celebrate this holiday - how excited were your toddler/elementary school-age children on Christmas day? How patient were you with them? How forgiving were you of slight transgressions on the part of other friends or family members? The joy and the love that dominate the day are infectious, and I think that Buddy completely captures that spirit.
Holiday traditions are the roots we sow for our family. I had to talk myself off of the ledge when I was disappointed that we weren’t finding the material things our children wanted. I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that my immediate family had gathered from across the US to spend Angelika’s first Christmas with us. Our kiddos are so excited to have a set of grandparents, aunt and uncles here that they are barely playing with the toys they already have, let alone the ones I couldn’t find for them. After present opening, they were so excited about the day in general that nothing was going to dampen their mood.
I propose that you and I consider these things instead of getting caught up in the hype and hoopla of the weeks and days preceding Christmas, or any holiday for that matter:
- What special memory do you want to make during the holiday you are celebrating?
- Are there any pictures you want to take to capture the spirit?
- Can you find a yearly place to take a picture of your kiddos as your family grows so that you can measure their growth: a tree, a doorframe, a landmark?
- Is there a special food that you make that you can start involving your children in preparing so that they learn your recipes over time?
- Do you print photos to send as cards or write letters? Save one each year in a photo book so that you can look back and see what the highlights were each year, and you can take the time to do a little journaling about the actual holiday on a index card that can be taped to the card or inserted into the album.
- Is there an activity that your children want to do that you can find time for? When my family is here we get the fixings to make S’mores and enjoy a night out around the chimenea roasting marshmellows and making gooey treats.
- Is there an activity that appeals to you that you always wished you could do? Having your own family allows you the special opportunity to make your own memories and start your own traditions – now is the time to be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi). Talk to your partner and decide what you want to do and make it be part of your family story.
- Do you want to capture your kiddos’ antics on video? This is ever easier in the age of the smartphone. As moments in life unfurl, they can be captured on digital image, so keep your camera fingers ready to roll. Capture movements, voices and their little language idiosyncrasies. Their voices change and their shyness may increase as your children get older, so immortalize their antics now while they will still let you record them.
- Can you take your family to a nursing home to visit during lunch or dinner time? So many of the residents are alone over the holidays. They are energized by the sight of young families, especially babies. I remember going to dance with my class when I was younger - they were the happiest audience I ever danced for. In the spirit of giving, you can have your children make hand-made cards to share with the residents. Do your children have the itch to perform - prepare a show! Call first and speak to the director or activities coordinator - you can arrange a time and day with them and most folks will be thrilled for the chance to have a little joy shared in their "home".
- I hear many moms talk about going to serve at food kitchen, including my own mother. I don't know what kept us from following through on her wish. My in-laws have served food to the needy for years and although they are exhausted at the end of the day, their hearts are full and they have truly exemplified the spirit of giving that the season was supposed to represent before the sale-mania took over. Find a food pantry or soup kitchen that you can serve next year - even if it's not on Christmas day, your children and you will be blessed by your day(s) of service.
Another tradition from my childhood that I would like to incorporate now that our children are old enough to "ooh and ahh" with us is driving out to see the holiday lights. It was so difficult to wrap gifts because the kiddos were bouncing off the walls with excitement. Next year we want to try loading up the car with hot chocolate, gluten-free cookies, warm blankets and bouncy children before wrapping time. (I should add "toothbrushes and toothpaste" for my dentist...that would be stretching it, though!) I hope that they will love the time in the car looking out at the "fairy lights" as Brussito calls them, and we can continue on with the tradition I had with my family.
Parenting is a journey of exploration and learning. Our children are sponges and they will adopt our attitudes about the way we live in the world. If you want them to do something outside of the material hustle and bustle, then lead the way by example. If you try something and no one likes it, chuck it – at least your children will learn it’s not scary to try new things, and that it’s okay to move on from experiments that don’t work out.
When you do find things that you like, then you are building special times for you and your family. I can still remember the smell of making tamales although I haven’t eaten pork tamales for eleven years. I remember the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house.
The positive aspect is that when your idea works well, then a new family tradition is born. You start building positive memories in your child’s memory bank that will bring them to your table after they are grown. Then the circle of life continues when they start making their own family traditions, which as enlightened parents you may choose to willingly embrace.
Take the time to make your own family memories now, for the early years go by ever so quickly. We can vouch for that personally as we hold our newborn and ponder the fact that our first-born is turning seven next month. Although we can still remember the day we brought Ysabella home from the hospital, she is clearly growing up and there is no stopping Father Time.
What is a holiday tradition in your home?
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