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Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: What I get to do this Christmas!

By Stacy Turner

In my early days of momhood, I used to feel frenzied about getting all the cleaning, shopping, baking and wrapping done in time for the holidays.  When looking back at photos and talking with my family about our favorite holiday memories, I realized that many of the “must do” activities we rushed around to take advantage of didn’t even come to mind. 

When my kids were tiny, many holidays included the additional chore of packing up Santa’s loot, prewrapped and stealthily hidden from prying eyes in a jam-packed car for the half-day road trip to spend the Christmas holiday with extended family.  If we didn’t make the long trek, often amid winter weather advisories, to their home near Chicago, they would make the same track to our house, and we’d be frenzied, prepping to feed and house six additional humans for three or four days of fun and festivities. 

It took a lot of patience and a great deal of planning, and to be totally honest, it was kind of a pain in the butt whether we traveled or hosted. It would mean weeks before spent at a frenzied pace, getting all the details taken care of, before the actual fun could begin.  I’m sad to admit that I often let the stress of prepping for the visit, or packing up a picture-perfect holiday distract me from enjoying the day-to-day joys of the actual holiday season. 

Now that the cousins are mostly grown and living on their own, we’ve stopped making those hectic, hard-to-pack-for trips, and they have too.  Honestly, as much as I’m relieved to not be making the effort, I’ve missed those big, extended family gatherings.  Looking back, I’m glad that we made all the effort, now that the opportunity to gather is much harder to come by.  I know that times will continue to change, whether we’re ready or not.  And with those changes comes the opportunity to reimagine what holidays can or should look like. 

Meanwhile, the adults in the family have gotten distracted keeping score of which group has traveled more frequently to the other’s home, and whose schedules are easier to upend in order to allow time to gather.  Our kids, not bothered by such nonsense, have asked us to set that all aside to go and visit their cousins.  So after many years of not gathering, we’ve agreed to hit the road and spend Christmas together.  This time, however, I’m making a point not to get distracted by all the planning and packing, and to enjoy more of the process.  I choose to focus on the simple fact that this Christmas, my kids and their cousins will be able to be together, in person for the holidays.  Because we don’t know when we’ll have an opportunity like this again. 

I now realize that we don’t have to go through the process of planning, packing, and traveling. It’s something we get to do that will enable us to gather together in this moment.  I’m choosing to see these things as gifts not only for our kids and their cousins, but to us as well.  This little shift in mindset has made a big difference; maybe it can help you, too. 

During the holidays, it’s easy to let the stress and frantic pace of activities wear down your patience and turn what’s meant to be a season of peace and joy into one of stress and frustration.  Changing our perspective from what we have to do to what we get to do is a gift we can choose, that will continue to bless us through the holiday season and into the new year.