Ah, December! One of the busiest, sweetest, coziest and most joyful months of the year. It can also be overwhelming, overstimulating and riddled with complex emotions. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years (and trust me, it’s take me YEARS to learn this and I’m still practicing the mastery of it, lol!), is to just slow down and enjoy the season day by day.
In fact, I set up my year intentionally so that I can spend my December slowing down and taking time to be present with my family. I try to extend that slowing down and savoring focus across the board- school, work, activities and life in general. When I start to get overwhelmed or start to worry about all the “things” that we need to do, I take a breath and remind myself that it is a WHOLE season and not just one day.
It feels like it has almost become taboo to tell people to “savor these days”, or to tell the young mother with small children (or monkeys), that “it goes by so quickly”, but truthfully, it does. I promise (and then you have bigger, different, no less harder problems to solve…..it will ALWAYS be something), I really, really promise, and if we aren’t careful, we are likely to miss the joy and wonder in this season of life, whatever point of the season we are currently living. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is a struggle. Yes, the days feel so long. Yes it goes by so quickly. Yes, there is so much to do. But are you PRESENT? Did you see the twinkle in your child’s eye today? Did you notice the way that their face lit up when you turned the lights on the Christmas tree? Did you hear the sparkle in their voice when you told them that you were baking cookies this afternoon? Those are the moments, those are the times that make the struggle worth it, but if we are making ourselves too busy for the sake of the season, or we are giving ourselves permission to not carpe diem because some mom blogger one time thought that was a bad idea, we are likely to miss it. Don’t let yourselves get so tangled in the tinsel that you don’t see the star shining above it all.
It is not surprising that we feel the need to max every day to its fullest potential and cram every day so full that we end up counting down the days to Christmas with a sense of joy that it will all be over soon. As a whole, it seems like we spend our entire lives rushing things- it isn’t good enough to have children reading by first grade, now we spend money on programs to make them readers before they are 3. We compare and base our worth as parents on when and how we potty trained our children (sometimes we even attempt to “potty learn” babies!), we rush our children into learning, we raise our expectations of them so high, and then we wonder when they got all grown up and why they aren’t excited about Santa coming to visit. I’d like to invite you to spend this Season with me, savoring the moments and acquiring memories.
One of the areas that I found that caused stress during the Holiday season was trying to stick to our normal school schedule. Somehow those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas always seem to get filled with a mix bag of tricks- seasonal illness, colds/flu, broken heaters, doctor’s appointments, dental visits, throw in a birthday and it would become impossible to catch up to where we “should” be in the school plans versus where we were and inevitably that would cause more stress. Enter Christmas school! It’s a more laid back, LIFE approach to school and it’s been a major life-saver for me the last 3 years I’ve embraced it. Since we are studying Countries and Cultures this year, we are spending this time learning about Winter Holiday traditions around the world, reading fun books, doing a fun Usborne journal and cooking lots of treats (yay edible math!), I add a nice sprinkling of crafts spread through for my art loving child. It’s low-key, low-stress and the most important element is FUN.
I set my yearly plan up in January so that December is my month to plan, dream, and gather new ideas. I also make the time to take any classes that I might be interested in, because I’ve slowed down the other areas of my day, I have time to invest in myself and in learning. Realistically looking at things, if I haven’t made something happen in the other 11 months of the year, the last 3-4 weeks of the year are not going to make a drastic difference, so I would rather not spend the time stressing, but prefer to take the time to enjoy life.
Finally, I invite you to embrace the Season for what it is, not every day has to be an over the top winter wonderland that rivals a day spent at the North Pole. Not every day is going to be happy or joyful. Holidays bring with them so many emotions and that means that somedays are going to be sad. When we have allowed ourselves to slow down and to really savor each day, we start to realize that life is full of good AND bad, that happy AND sad work together and that without each other, that life just isn’t as rich and as full as it can be. Two of my favorite Holiday movies are definitely not the picture perfect Winter Wonderland, but I think that is why I love them so much and turn to them every Christmas Season: Love, Actually and Inside Out. If you haven’t seen them, or if you just need a movie and PJ day, you should definitely make time to watch one or both of them.
I love that sweet reminder that these hard days, those times of struggle, even those saddest days are creating memories and giving others a chance to be something special. I love the relationship that Joy and Sadness form in Inside Out and that reminder that yes, these days are long, yes this is hard, but boy, am I making a memory that will last (and let me assure you, that down the road when your teenager is sassing you and just making you want to cry, you’ll be grateful for those memories of the day when your 2 year old was acting, well, like they are 2 and you will need that memory to remind you why you love said teenager….not that I know from experience or anything…….)
I am so thankful for each of you that has been on this journey with me and I can’t wait to see where it takes us in 2019. I wish you and your family the best this Christmas season and may you find small moments to savor, remember, you can celebrate the entire season and do not have to stress about filling it all in one day (you also don’t have to stop celebrating and savoring just because December has ended!).