I got my December issue of Family Circle yesterday and the front cover reads “The Busy Mom’s Guide to the Holidays: Get it Done, Keep it Fun!” I had to stifle a gag reflex as I read the words, but my main emotional response was not disgust, it was sadness. 

This is such a beautiful season to experience life in a new way. For many of us, the weather is getting colder, the last leaves are gracefully falling to the pavement, and we are starting to recognize the various sights, smells and sounds of the winter holiday season. A shift is occurring, and perhaps before rushing off to “get it done” while “keeping it fun”, we could give ourselves permission to stop and reflect.

Are you looking forward to the winter season? I know that for me, it is a mixed bag. Growing up it was a time of magic and chaos, and I suppose in my adult life I have taken that on as tradition. However, this year especially I am stopping to consider what I want this season to be. In reality, there are very few things we HAVE to do, and I tend to over use the word. For example, since my family and friends celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, in the past I have said I HAVE to send Christmas & Hanukkah cards, I HAVE to make cookies, I HAVE to buy gifts, I HAVE to decorate…In reality, I most certainly do not have to do any of those things. So, the question becomes, do I want to? It is important to me to celebrate the season, but perhaps that doesn’t mean making my list and checking it twice. Perhaps I don’t have to work hard to get things done while also trying to force myself to enjoy it all. Perhaps I can echo the stillness of the season and embrace new or old traditions that are meaningful to me and leave the rest.

Immediately for most parents this is when “mommy guilt” or “daddy guilt” comes into play. “I don’t want to do all that stuff, but I HAVE to make it a magical season for my kids.” I would offer that perhaps you don’t have to, but you want to. Why is it important to you to make the season magical for your children, and why does magic have to look like the things you don’t want to do? Your son or daughter might have enjoyed a certain tradition last year but exposing them to a new one this year that feels good to you isn’t permanently damaging their enjoyment of the holiday season. 

It is devastating to see how this season can turn parents into servants, bowing at the feet of tiny tyrants. Your children are not in charge of your family traditions, and if they are, this might be the perfect opportunity to remind them that all members of the family, parents included (!), matter. Just because they want x, y, and z, does not mean they need it, or even that it is best for them. 

So, I encourage you to pause as we walk into December, and as a family, set your intention for this season. I hope that for all of you it is warm, merry, and bright.


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