The first night of Hanukkah is tomorrow. Thanksgiving is two days away and Christmas is closer than the Moms care to admit. We’re a little stressed just writing the word “holiday.”
Fortunately, we have a plan.
My version of a perfect holiday season goes something like this: Sweet potato casserole. Pumpkin pie. Menorah. Latkes. Christmas music. Cookies. Gingerbread house. Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. More cookies. My ceramic light-up tree. Snow that looks pretty but melts before I have to drive in it. Visiting family. More cookies. Movie night on New Year’s Eve.
Luckily, Doodlebug and iDad are happy with this holiday scenario, too. And when I lay it out like this, it seems perfectly obtainable. (Except for the weather. The snow gods have not smiled on us in recent years.) But I know I need to plan ahead if I want to keep the focus on the things I love and not get sucked into the holiday maelstrom. Some strategies:
No malls. This is a new one for me this year – in the past we’ve cut way back on shopping stress by limiting the number of presents we exchange and by planning fun trips with our families in lieu of gifts. This year I want to focus more on gifts we (or our talented friends) have made, or things we’ve found at local shops. I’ve decided I’m not setting foot in a mall again until 2014.
Letting go of certain traditions. For the past five or six years we’ve done an advent calendar with a mini stocking for each night – Doodlebug would either get a candy cane, a note about a fun holiday activity we’d do that day, or materials for a craft project. Last year, though, I ran myself ragged trying to come up with new fun things that she mostly wasn’t interested in doing anyway. This year I bought an advent calendar with chocolate inside. Done.
Saying yes, with care. This can be risky — Christmas caroling with the Brownie troop? I have a bad feeling about this — but I also want to be sure Doodlebug gets to spend time with other kids this season. As the only grandchild in the family, I know she’ll be logging a lot of time with grown-ups. So yes, we’ll go caroling. And we’ll be at the neighborhood holiday party. And maybe, if the snow gods cooperate, she and Princess Slim can break out the sleds. Hot chocolate and cookies at my house afterward.
Is anyone immune to holiday stress? Anyone? Bueller?
I’ve been feeling anxious and melancholy lately. The latter is attributable to missing my family, which I’m not going to see this year; the former is … well … hmmm. There’s baking card-writing decorating shopping wrapping to do in addition to regular home and work responsibilities. There are babysitters to hire and parties to attend. And Dreamy’s birthday to plan. Inhale, count to ten, exhale. Repeat.
As a kid I remember feeling the same way even without all the adult responsibilities mentioned above. My parents attributed my crabbiness to being afraid that Santa wasn’t going to leave me any presents. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Way to throw gasoline on the fire.
While the fear of no gifts undoubtedly contributed to my moodiness, between holiday music program rehearsals and performances, family activities, school, and travel is it any wonder I was a pint-sized stressball? Looking back the connection between Little Grouchy Tiffany and Big Grouchy Tiffany is clear: not enough downtime.
So, this year the holidays will be different. I will not, for example, succumb to the siren call of holiday craft projects. Store bought tinsel? Fine. I will not attempt spritz cookies, with their mercurial dough and dungeon-worthy cookie press. Bakery treats? Absolutely. I will not attend every party or dinner to which I am invited nor will I stress about making everything perfect for everyone. I will do my best, but that does not include draining my energy tank to mission-critical low levels.
Here’s what I will do: plan activities for the kids to do while they are on break. Playdates, museums, and a day trip or two. I will bake and cook but not to the point of exhaustion. I will take naps, preferably with Lunchbox in his tiny twin bed. I will drink wine and watch movies (“Skyfall” arrived on Netflix last week. Double-O YES). And I will hopefully arrive at 2014 feeling happy, healthy, and infinitely grateful for the many marvellous things with which I am graced.
Daniel Craig, that includes you.