I’ll month long, I’ll be sharing daily pick-me-ups, tips, and doses of inspiration to help us all find perspective during the month of December. We invite you to check back daily for these mini pep-talks as we prepare for a very unusual holiday season. –Meagan
Last week, a member of our Facebook Community asked for advice when it came to encouraging – or discouraging – her six-year-old’s belief in Santa. Should she go all-in to inspire his continued belief, she wondered, or come out with the unvarnished truth?
I’ve ushered five kids through various lengths and intensity levels of belief in magical beings, and this bit of wisdom has held true for every one of them: when a child wants to believe, you have to work pretty hard to convince them to stop. And when a child is ready to stop believing, you have to work pretty hard to convince them to hold on.
My advice: don’t work too hard one way or the other, and you’ll meet your kids where they are.
After commenting, it occurred to me that this bit of advice applies to pretty much everything holiday (and possibly, everything motherhood, now that I think about it.)
Of course, caring for our families takes work, and creating magical memories around the holidays takes a special kind of effort. But kids – particularly little ones – are typically pretty easily pleased in this department. And easy to read: pay attention, and they will let you know what brings them joy and what leaves them cold.
You don’t have to be a Juilliard-trained actor to convince a Santa-believing child that their belief is real. You don’t have to be a member of Harvard’s debate team to convince a child who’s ready to move past it.
Likewise, you don’t have to be Joy the Baker to mold cookie dough into a roundish shape your child can destroy with colored sugar and frosting, or a style influencer to decorate a tree that thrills your little one.
In fact, I sometimes think all this focus on perfection and effort takes away from a child’s experience, rather than adding to it. Who doesn’t remember the messy, gaudy, tinsel-laden decor of our childhood with a nostalgic smile?
This year, I challenge you to think in terms of joy, not effort:
- If it gives you pleasure and satisfaction to bake five different kinds of cookies, wonderful! But if it stresses you out, consider: would your little one be just as happy decorating sugar cookies from a mix?
- If you love tasteful holiday decor and get joy from to channeling your inner photo director, go for it! But if you’re forcing yourself to create an Instagram-worthy home for holiday photo shoots and it’s not filling your cup, consider that your child may be thrilled to decorate (even if poorly) his or her own miniature tree and call it a day.
- And while we’re on the topic of photos – can we all admit that any time an entire smiling family is captured gathering around a Christmas tree in matching pajamas, there has almost certainly been a lot of sweat, a few tears, and a professional involved? Ask yourself: is all that effort adding to your family’s experience of the holiday, or is it more about meeting a manufactured expectation? (Side note: it is still perfectly OK to purchase a box of cards, jot a holiday greeting inside, and stick it in the mail. I promise.)
Let it go, mama. This is not the year to force anything – and you don’t have to.
There are easy ways to inject magic into your moments without piling on stress or thankless to-do’s. Focus on the things that are fun for you, and meet your kids where they are. The moments that bring them the most joy, the giddiest excitement, and the happiest memories are likely much closer to your lowest standards than you think.
ACTIVITY: Ask yourself–
– Which holiday activities/traditions feel the most forced?
– What unnecessary standards am I holding on to?
– Which activities bring the most joy to my family and me?
– What can I let go of to make more room for those things?
Please share your answers in the comments!