In a land far far away, there lies a holiday with no schedules, no calories, all the naps and zero family drama. If ever you reach this oasis in the dessert, please drop a pin so the rest of us can find it.
We enter this season with eager anticipation of living through the silly lenses of our children and their delight in all things pastry pies and twinkle lights. And then somehow… every dang year…. there is some run in that just kills the whole mood. It takes practice and time but I don’t think it has to be that way. Use each year to get better at communication and creating boundaries.
I’ll start by shouting from the roof tops to moms everywhere: “please don’t ruin the holidays because of your unrealistic schedule, routines and rules.”
And Grandmas: “please don’t ruin the holidays because of your unrealistic expectations of children still developing a frontal lobe.”
For us, the holidays can get derailed real fast by the three S’s… Sleep, Sugar and Stuff. It’s hard right? Fortunately, we are sandwiched between two sets of really amazing grandparents that are as accommodating as possible but nonethless, I’m sure you get it.
Here are some tips to navigate the holidays with some healthy boundaries.
When making plans, speak up. Communicate your child’s needs for naps, rest or bedtime.
There is no way a kid can be out of school for two weeks with so many fun activities, travel, sugar and cousin time without having a sleep crisis.
It may just mean that not everyone gets to do everything every time and that’s okay. There is no such thing as a Christmas babysitter. And with that comes new traditions and ideas. It certainly takes time to get used to change but with some team work and positive vibes, its doable.
Compromises: I find that an afternoon movie can be a good compromise. Build a pallet on the floor with the cousins and just get some restful quite time. Tote a pack n play and sound machine around if there’s a baby on board.
When compromising, make sure family understands that you may have skipped a nap today but that won’t be possible two days in a row without a meltdown. Ask what can be done to ensure a good nap tomorrow.
Use your words “I can do this but not that” or “That sounds great, could we tweak this part so it would work for the 4 year old?” or “Awesome, we’ll catch the first half before heading back home for bedtime.”
Leave and cleave. Get married, have babies and stop doing everything your mother/ his mother tells you to do. Plain and simple. You have your own family unit to nurture and protect now so while I think it’s important to consider grandma’s feelings and make sure she also has a fabulous holiday, your number one job is making sure your kids aren’t overtired. There’s no bouncing back from that and all it does is hurt grandma in the end anyway.
I think the biggest trick here is just team work. My sister-in-law and I check with each other before offering anything to either set of kids. We support and respect each other in that way! Like I said before, everyone wants an opportunity to spoil the baby. That’s fair. I get it. And they should have that opportunity. Don’t make a bunch of rules. But sure, lay some ground work. Treats come after real food is eaten. Treats aren’t given, even if previously promised, when the child is disobedient or unkind. Things like that. So at least the treat is going towards rewarding good behavior verse an all you can buffet of sugar cookies.
Don’t be afraid to be the bad guy either. Sometimes, it does go too far and it can cause a problem. I’m not shy about saying no in front of everyone when I feel like they are being offered too much and especially when I feel like they are being offered despite bad behavior.
Keeping things out of sight can be helpful. There will be enough offering so may as well keep the ‘asking’ at bay, right? Kids are typically asking for things they see and think are available so just don’t let it be an option. And besides, adults are more inclined to offer what they see as well. It’s easy to graze on the bounty before you. Not so much when it’s in the pantry.
I understand that everyone wants to give something FUN, I just wish it weren’t training my kids to expect it. I would rather the gifters work through the idea of experiences and train the kiddos to think those are normal.
When grandparents ask for a Christmas list, I’m specific and use it as an opportunity to communicate areas we have excess or needs. We strive to be minimalist and regardless of whether family understands, it’s been communicated. Plain and simple, if it’s not respected, the gifts are taken to Salvation Army. They just are….
I also communicate that loud toys and things with a lot of pieces are difficult for me. As part of my PPD, noisy toys were a major trigger for me so I just kind of still hate them. I also hate art projects. But that’s my own problem. You see, I actually really love art, so when I start painting with my kids, I get really into it and I forget I’m sitting with toddlers. All the sudden, I look up and there is paint everywhere. So yeah, use Christmas lists as a time to be upfront.
As for number of gifts, I find this formula to be helpful for holiday giving: something you want, need, can wear and read.
Cheers to you all this season. May it be merry, bright and low in drama.