Hang in there, big-hearted parents! If you're feeling like the ringmaster in the big top of a full-blown holiday circus, you're not alone. Though we barely have time to exchange bewildered smiles between juggling acts, we're all in this together.
Don’t get me wrong, I love tinsel season!
I love the songs I’ve sung since childhood. Especially the corny ones I belt out while my almost-teen rolls her eyes: (Gayla Peevey's The Christmas Hippo Song, anyone?)
I love Sunday afternoon baking projects.
But I despise the endless lists. From now until the end of the year, our family life is ruled by a Rubix cube of complicated, interlocking lists.
There is just too much to do. There is just never enough time.
I do love the peace contained in that one word: simplify. And I've done my part. I’ve organized and purged and resisted the urge to buy bag loads of soon-to-be-disposed “treasures," opting for events whenever possible.
I'm slowly becoming minimal-ish.
And yet, I always arrive at this point in the year feeling a great deal of guilt and a looming sense of inadequacy. What am I doing wrong that I'm feeling so rushed? I thought we pared back!
I know I'm not alone.
Here's the truth about the holidays. One family alone cannot cancel the chaos. We cannot simplify our way out of the year-end hustle. Routine family life is full and frenetic all by itself. The added demands of year-end concerts, family gatherings, and much-loved traditions push this frenzy into a full-blown circus.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, hang in there.
Be kind to yourself, and forgive the messy parts of your holiday follow through.
And accept help when it's offered! I know it's a humbling experience. But we can use all the help we can get, even if our mother-in-law's offer to dust the bookshelf feels full of judgment. Assume it's not. Assume the offer is earnest and based on her own memories of the holiday hustle.
Brené Brown's quote from her outstanding book, The Gift of Imperfection really says it all. "Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgments to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgements to giving help."
If we can't graciously accept a helping hand, we aren't being truly generous when we offer to help others.
If you're feeling buoyed by the holiday spirit, lend a hand to others.
Perhaps this year you're somehow ahead of the game. (Grandparents, I'm looking at you!) Perhaps you have some spare energy and enthusiasm that you didn't have a year or two or twenty ago. If so, reach out to a family you love with gifts that will lighten the worry-weight of the holiday season.
5 Gifts Every Family Needs More of All Year Long
1. A Family Dinner
The rush of year-end events tends to overwhelm every family's calendar. We know empirically that family dinners are good for us, but this time of year, when we're running in too many directions, we can feel the absence of that together time around the family table.
Next time you make dinner, double your favorite family recipe. Package it up in a container that you don't need back. Add reheat instructions. Then gift it to another family and know you helped make one evening a little cozier for them.
You can even print and decorate this fun card to go with your gift.
2. Recognition & a Cup of Coffee
Busy parents may look like they are managing the chaos with grace, but we all know the herculean effort it takes to keep up this time of year. Everybody loves to be acknowledged. And every parent could use a hot beverage to fuel the next errand! Give an unexpected coffee shop gift card and a note of encouragement to a parent you admire.
3. A Rain Check
Saying "yes" to every invitation always sounds exciting at the beginning of November, but the shine wears off when the last half of December is entirely booked. Acknowledge that frazzled children might need a night in, an earlier bedtime, and one less sugar cookie.
Let those you love know that it's okay to reschedule, even if it means extending the season into January with an extra dinner party or two to connect with those you miss. Also, be gracious if plans get canceled on you!
4. Something to Give
Kindness makes life better. Sharing it makes us feel less stressed. Receiving it brightens our days. Given the opportunity, kids will say they love knowing they are a kind family, the kind of family that spends time giving back.
Give families in your life everything they need to start a big-hearted service project with a gift from our new Shop Kind collection.
It’s hard not to feel judged. Compared. Measured up.
It’s hard not to judge. To compare. To assess.
We all need to stop. Stop judging ourselves, stop judging each other. Let’s agree to forgive each other for getting carried away with the holiday spirit (and gifts) sometimes. And let’s agree not to judge one another for not doing, buying, or being what society expects of us. We need to trust that whatever decision we make this year is going to be the right one for our family, right now.
Let's make time to turn our attention unabashedly outward, even as we struggle to stay on the tight rope in the big top. Let's encourage one another and all of the families around us, even if we simply have time to exchange smiles over full grocery carts or hold the door for a parent plowing a stroller through the snow.
After all, we're all in this together!
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