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Bits of wisdom for new parents bundled up in a blog!

Creating Holiday Memories Not Hysteria

by Sheryl Cooksley

It’s the holiday season and it’s supposed to be the hap-happiest season of all. Right?!?!

Parents out there are feeling the burn right about now. The countdown is on to create, decorate, shop, wrap and bake, all while carrying on with your usual daily life: going to work, feeding your family, keeping the house up and tending to the kiddles in your life. OH, and please do it ALL with a smile.

Ok, let’s break this down. There is an inherent expectation that you will basically work TWO full-time jobs during December: Parent and Holiday Coordinator Extraordinaire.

The question is, how do you do it all without going completely insane and having moments (or a month) of hysteria?

You DON’T, but the expectation is that you WILL.

Let’s talk about that.

Whose expectation is it?

As the mother of four (now adult) children, I spent years trying to make their holidays perfect. I created beautiful trees and gift wrappings and candies and…..then I collapsed, exhausted. I barely slept and looked forward to the day AFTER Christmas when this part of my job would be over. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the smiles and joy all this hard work brought to my children’s faces, but it was like running a marathon. At some point the joy was just sucked out of me because I needed to do all the things.

This was MY list of expectations. Not THEIRS. I found out far too late that my kids didn’t expect half of my long list.

When my oldest son joined the Navy and experienced his first Christmas away from home, he made it very clear what was important to him: feeling the warmth of the family, the togetherness, and the smells of home.

I was a little shocked. It wasn’t the gazillion lights on the tree and around the house or the massive dinner or all the perfectly wrapped gifts under the tree?

Nope. It was home with all our traditions.

That year I went to great lengths to send “Christmas in a Box” to my son….because it mattered. We sent cookies decorated by a two year old with the entire bottle of sprinkles poured on top (yes, we wrapped it in cellophane and sent them exactly like she had made them), we sent “Cookie Day” supplies for him and his shipmates, and gifts wrapped with packing tape….just like home. He loved all of it!  

I had used my energy in a purposeful way, not in wild hysteria.

The memories my kids talk about are the sweet and funny ones: running to the local restaurant in our pajamas and getting breakfast to go….for dinner…. on Christmas Day; using plastic grocery bags instead of tissue paper to pad a special gift; driving around all the neighborhoods looking at lights while wearing pajamas and drinking hot chocolate; the silly aprons, Santa hat, and ugly sweater; waiting at the top of the stairs (while mom started the coffee) for the big Christmas morning reveal; or the year all the gifts were tagged in “code” so no one knew which gifts were theirs.

Here are some words of advice from this seasoned mom, whose had her moments of hysteria, to all you new, or not-so-new, parents out there:

Take whatever steps needed to conserve your energy this holiday season.

Scale back and re-frame what’s important.

Put your little family and the memories you are all creating together first.

Think back to your fondest holiday memories

 What do we really want our kids to remember: the hysterical parent running around frantically or the parent who took the time to sit quietly with only the imperfectly hung lights of the season glowing around them?

Sheryl Cooksley is the mother of four and loves sharing a practical, nurturing and sustainable parenting style with families in her role as Postpartum Doula. She is the owner of Family Tree Doula Services and serves families in and around Portland, Oregon.