By Jen Lindbeck
Confession: When it comes to the holidays, sometimes I can be a bit grinchy.
Maybe you understand the feeling. All of the expectations, the gifts, the parties can be a lot. When you have small children, it can be difficult to prioritize or maintain schedules and routines during the chaos of the holiday season.
The truth is, the holidays are not quite “picture perfect” in my house. Every single year we trudge out to a tree farm to cut down a tree and every single year we all end up irritated and fight with each other. This year, as we piled in the car on the annual tree excursion I sarcastically told my beloved family, “I can’t wait to fight with you guys at the tree farm.” One year, I just put ornaments on the front of the tree. I figured no one can see the back of the tree anyway. Then the tree fell over in a spectacular display of squashed branches and broken ornaments and my oldest son was convinced that Christmas was ruined FOREVER. Trust me, I could go on. The holidays do not look picture perfect in my house, but I am okay with that.
My holiday survival plan is simple: I *try* to focus on relationships.
Building solid, stable, loving, predictable, safe relationships with your little ones is the best thing that you can do for your child. It is science. It is proven. It is fact. If the holidays zap you of oomph, put the last remnants of your energy in to building relationships. It does not need to be complicated or include hiding an elf on the shelf. Check out a few holiday books from the library, cuddle up on the couch and read the books to your kid. Bake cookies together and take them to the neighbors. Go for a walk outside and gather branches and pine cones and decorate your house. If your kids want to watch Elf for the 10,000 time, pop some popcorn and tuck in for a movie night together. Most of the activities I just described have an early learning skill attached to it, but it doesn’t matter as much as the simple act of you and your kid spending quality time together. I hope my kids think about the holidays and feel warm, cozy feelings of family and safety and love because we have created small traditions that bond us together, even if they are messy, imperfect traditions.
If I spend less energy on the stuff of the holidays and more energy on quality time, by December 25 a small miracle has happened: I discover that my grinchy old heart has grown three sizes.
Jen Lindbeck has a M.Ed., Early Childhood Education, Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University and is the Early Learning Resource Coordinator for United Way of Skagit County.