All Kids want for Christmas is You

ALL KIDS WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU

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Toss out the word “Christmas” in a word-association game, and chances are “family” will be among the responses. What could be more traditional than Christmas with family—those who live in your home and those who make long trips to see you?

So why are so many parents snapping at their out-of-school children to get out from underfoot? Why are we abandoning the trimming-the-tree-together tradition, and buying pre-decorated trees? Has “saving time” and “getting everything just right” really become the new Christmas spirit?

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And as for another classic family tradition—visiting Santa at the mall—take a good look at the next Santa’s-lap line you pass, and see faces of all ages reflecting only impatience and annoyance.

Chances are, if most of those kids dared ask Santa for what they really wanted, it would be “Tell Mommy and Daddy to smile more and play with me more.” That means more to any child than eight stockings of presents.

The most valuable present is your presence. But you can’t give it when infected with the hustle-and-bustle virus that tells you December will be wasted without bought-out stores and a “Best Decorated House” award. However far you’ve already gone this year, inoculate yourself with these tips that will also help you get (and stay) in the Christmas spirit:

  • Limit yourself to one or two all-adult parties; include the kids in everything else. Take them along when viewing holiday lights or shopping at the outdoor Christmas market. Let them help greet your guests, hang the mistletoe, and set the table for the big dinner—without a word about “neatness” or “hurry.”
  • Tailor activities to the youngest member of your family. If you worry about your toddler wandering away in crowds, watch the big parade on television and pass around homemade cocoa. If your seven-year-old bores easily, plan on staying at the community festival for forty-five minutes instead of three hours. Never mind what you’ve always done. Your kids will only be this age for a small part of your life.
  • Limit time in crowded places such as events and malls. Not just because young children get cranky—and sometimes lost—amid bustle and noise, but because it isn’t real family time if you’re surrounded by strangers. Don’t be so eager to show your kids every possible bit of “fun” that you forget the joys of being home together and sharing apple cider, singing carols, reading the Christmas story, or just watching the fireplace. Anyone with children under twelve should plan at least three quiet family times for every outing (one night a week with kids twelve and older).

I mentioned that this was also a “how to get yourself in the Christmas spirit” list. That’s because you also need quieter periods and family togetherness so your soul can recover from “acquire and achieve” attitudes. Christmas was, from the beginning, a spiritual holiday in the best sense. Let’s all do our part to keep it that way.