We were celebrating the holiday a bit early this year since my mom is a snowbird and heads to Florida in the winter. I wasn’t really in the mood to have Christmas so soon: I had barely started shopping!
It had already been a stressful morning of cooking, gathering up last minute presents and making sure the kids were appropriately dressed. I was a bit agitated making sure everything was perfect. My college-aged son who I barely ever see anymore even commented, “So this is what I miss on the days I am not at home?” The five of us piled up in the car, filled the trunk with gifts and food and headed out over the river to grandma’s house.
We pulled out of the drive meeting the first snow of the season, and when we turned on the holiday radio station, SpongeBob started singing, “Don’t be a jerk, it’s Christmas.” We were all soon laughing and howling as we listened to the words and sang along.
Holiday time can easily become a time of stress, especially when young children are involved. My best advice for those of you traveling is to keep it simple.
Delegate. Older children are great at helping in the kitchen, and those cookies don’t have to be homemade. Let them cut the cookie dough off the store bought roll and decorate to their liking. Sometimes “rustic” is better than perfect. They can also wrap gifts or hang some holiday decorations on the tree. This is a great way to keep them involved and give them ownership in the holiday festivities. If they can print or write, they can sign the Christmas cards!
Stick to routine as much as possible. I recall when we lived in Columbus but all of our family was in Cincinnati. My husband made the decision that all of our children were going to sleep in their own beds over the holidays. So, we made three separate trips down to Cincinnati but our children slept in their own beds, had a good night’s sleep and were not so irritated and fussy in the car or at relatives’ homes. Even mom and dad felt more rested. If your child still naps during the day, go ahead and let them have it. Showing up a little late at grandma’s house is better than having a crying and cranky toddler. It will be more enjoyable for all!
Watch the sugar. Offer kids a feast of alternatives to the sugary sweets. Carrot and celery sticks can easily transform into “reindeer food.” Open up a pomegranate and eat the seeds, and let the kids count them first! Cut peanut butter sandwiches into triangles, add pretzel “antlers” and some raisins with a cherry tomato “nose” and you have Rudolph. Make food fun and festive. Even grownup waistlines can benefit from these ideas.
Relax. Create some new traditions. Read a holiday book together. Sit by the fire. Sip on hot cocoa. Light some candles. Wrap up in a warm blanket. Watch the snow fall. Take advantage of those teachable moments. Your family tradition can be anything that your family enjoys doing together.
The holidays don’t have to be all about stressing you out. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. The children don’t have to get all the best toys and latest electronics. The holidays are for making memories, being with family and sharing kindnesses. So this holiday season, take some time to slow down and chill-lax!