Do you say this 8,000 times per season?
In my family, the chaos starts at Halloween. My kid wants to carve a pumpkin. That we got a pumpkin patch. Then he wants to spend every day looking at costumes on Amazon. This year, he wanted to be a character that was part of a threesome, and launched a massive campaign to rally friends to be his counterparts.
Somewhere in there was a dead-serious request for a haunted house to be built.
Ah, November. We can breathe.
Oh wait. That’s a lie. Because November has his birthday right before Thanksgiving. The planning happens early and often, and gets more grandiose with each passing day. This year, he wanted to invite four friends and their families to come with us to a hotel in the city so they could all go swimming and eat pizza and watch cartoons together. Bwahahahaha. (He’s anything but practical.)
My mom likes to cook Thanksgiving dinner, and wants it to be a collaborative effort. But then she cooks everything days before (huh?) and there’s nothing to help with, and zero desire to eat any of it. (And then she complains that she can’t enjoy Thanksgiving because it’s so much damn work and nobody helps.)
More wine, please.
In December, the kid’s expectations are the following:
- A nightly discussion about Santa Claus and what he’s bringing and where will he put it, and how the heck does Santa deliver all those presents in one night. (This usually adds an hour to his bedtime routine.)
- A trip to ride the holiday carousel and visit the gingerbread house displays at a local hotel lobby.
- Baking Christmas cookies (and asking about it repeatedly every day until the day arrives.)
- A trip with his dad to the coast of Washington for a few days at the ocean (that somehow, because I went along once, I now am required to attend every year for the rest of my life.)
- Christmas Eve dinner and celebration with our extended family.
- Attendance at a fireworks show (preferably not from a distance) to ring in the New Year.
I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but it honestly is enough to make anyone insane.
The first few years after my divorce, I rolled with his preferences because I really did want him to enjoy the holidays, and I didn’t really care because they weren’t the same for me in the wake of the family being split up.
And one day it dawned on me: I hate the holidays.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the holidays – I do. It’s that the traditions had become more important than anyone actually enjoying them (namely me.)
So I bailed. Stopped participating entirely – unless it was something I wanted to do. I had a couple Thanksgivings of hanging with people I didn’t know very well, but I was there because I wanted to be. I had a couple of total meltdowns from the kid because I wasn’t joining on the trip to the ocean. I stopped picking out gifts for family members altogether.
If I didn’t want to do it, I just didn’t.
Sure, there was pushback. But they got over themselves. Besides, it wasn’t (and isn’t) my job to reinforce their ideas of a fantasy family that doesn’t involve real people with differing interests and desires.
Guess what? I like the holidays again.
When I stopped doing all of it, what I realized is that there are actually parts of the holidays that I love.
- I love the lights.
- I love cutting a fresh Christmas tree and decorating it.
- I love drinking apple cider.
- I love the sense of community and friendship that comes from spending cozy times together.
- I love the wonder it brings out in children.
- I love the food. Scratch that. I love cooking the food.
- I love the breaks from routine.
- More than anything, I love that my focus is on doing the things I love, and not doing the things that I don’t.
Do you dread the holidays?
I’ve put together a little something for you to get through the holidays with ease, grace, and doing more of what you want. I’ve opened up a couple of coaching spots that start this week to support you through the holiday season with new tools and a place to work through making it more enjoyable for you.
I know this is a tough time of year to fit things in…but the really great news is that the habits you break here will serve you all year long. If you can make the space during this season, you can make it any other time during the year.