I love the holiday season. It’s my favorite time of year. Being a parent has brought back what I loved about the holidays as a kid…times 10. I love how everything seemingly shuts down so people can spend time with family. I love giving and receiving gifts. I love cooking and eating and being an overall glutton for a few days. And I love how the holidays crescendo into the hope, wonder and clean slate of a new year.
But there is one thing I hate about the holidays. I hate how much pressure we put on it. It stresses us out. We worry. And by the time we’ve dealt with all that anxiety, the holidays are over and we’re back to the grind.
So let’s not do it this year. Let’s do 2 small things differently this holiday season…
First thing, let’s get organized and plan.
My dad gave me great advice one year when I was worried about spending too much money during the holidays. I really took this simple advice to heart and I think about it all the time…
“Christmas is on December 25th, every year.”
The holidays timing is baked. It doesn’t rotate. It doesn’t hide. In fact, the holidays tell us they’re coming earlier and earlier each year. Yet, they arrive and we feel like we got rolled up on.
If the holidays felt stressful last year, let’s try to plug away at it in pieces earlier this year. Let’s do what we can in advance to reduce that stress.
Second thing, let’s remember the difference between presents and presence.
Extended family can be a pain, planning is a headache, but the lion’s share of this holiday stress is around finances. And that’s crazy. We all want to feel that commercial dignity of providing a great holiday for our kids. We want the kids to come out of their rooms on Christmas morning and see the real estate under the tree piled up with mounds of toys. That is a great temporary feeling.
But let’s focus on how temporary that feeling is.
When I go into my kids’ rooms today, I see loads of crap from Christmas past. These were “must-have” gifts. Now they’re dusty in back of closets, unloved, broken. You name it. When people say “kids would rather play with the box the gift came in” — that’s true.
I think about my own childhood. My parents were grinding it out for nearly two decades to provide me with tons of gifts. In all of those Christmases, I remember 3:
- Teddy Ruxpin (I only remember this because I felt lied to. That fool wasn’t a magical bear who wanted to be my friend; he was a tape deck with fur.)
- My Cabbage Patch Twins (they haunted me at night)
- A new bike (that one was very cool and I got great use out of it — I have the lifelong scars on my elbows to prove it.)
3 gifts out of hundreds….I also remember my Star Studio, but me and my sister shared that one.
Bottom line, it’s a temporary high, but we stress ourselves out. Marketers are going to come at you (hell I’m going to have a few gift guides on this website as well) but let’s not fall into it. If money is no object this season, then by all means, make it rain Elmo’s and Furby’s. But if you only have $20 to buy your kids some gifts. Then that’s what it is. Get creative and make that $20 sing. But ultimately the kids would rather have less plastic toys and an unstressed parent engaged in the season.
I need to remind myself of this each and every year — the holidays is about being with family and the emotional and spiritual growth from spending time together.
Let’s not stress ourselves out this year.