Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekly Column: Imperfect Holidays

I realize this article will be a little bit retroactive -- unless any of you are celebrating Thanksgiving late? -- but I think it's fairly broad in its purpose.  Here's to imperfect holidays!

What is it about the holidays that makes me begin to envision my children as perfect angels, just waiting to fulfill my unrealistic expectations?
I wake up on a day like today, only to be faced with all the regular trials, blessings, or injustices of a life with small children.  That is, I wake up to a normal day.  But because it’s Thanksgiving, I expect my children to have grown – overnight, mind you – all sorts of skills and capabilities.  Reasonability.  Understanding.  Compassion.  Patience. 
They do exhibit these qualities on a regular basis, but it’s a process, you see.  We’re working towards patience and compassion, and we’ll get there.  But probably not in time for the next holiday.  So how can I learn to enjoy Thanksgiving while not expecting my children to behave perfectly? 
Here’s what I plan to do, in order to keep our holiday calm and joyful:
Slow Down
Part of the problem with holidays is that there’s usually a LOT of activity stuffed into a regular sized day.  Family gatherings, special meal preparations, and traveling can easily take up more time than usual.  Knowing this, I want to slow down.  We can cut out unnecessary plans where possible, and enjoy at least a little bit of time relaxing or playing, instead of rush-rushing.

Shift the Focus
Going into a day like today hoping that all of my dreams will come true is the wrong approach to take.  Rather, I should be finding ways to make this day special and memorable for my kids.  Nothing huge – after all, I AM trying to simplify.  But if they want to watch endless footage of slow-floating balloons in the televised parade, that’s what we’ll do.  If they want to color turkeys and wear pilgrim hats, that’s what we’ll do.  A Thanksgiving that is special for my children, will also be special to me.

Work Together
If there are things to be made – pies, side dishes, treats – for a Thanksgiving feast, I’ll make as much as I can beforehand in order to keep our day less cluttered.  But for those things that must be prepared on the day-of, I’ll be enlisting my family’s help.  Working together to make a favorite dish or decorate some special treat was a big part of the holiday traditions I grew up with, and those are some of my fondest memories.  I’ll do my best to choose activities that can either be done ahead of time, or with my children’s assistance.

Enforce Rest
With so much extra activity, my little ones are bound to be worn out.  Exhausted from noise and games and company, I won’t expect them to behave like little gems of perfection.  Instead, I’ll build-in a small amount of time for rest.  It probably won’t be a full nap, knowing the busyness of the day, but a few minutes spent with a quiet room and a snuggly pillow will go a long way towards keeping my girls happy.  And if they’re happy…

I’ll Be Happy
My own attitude might be the most important factor on holidays.  If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that the stresses of doing so much and going so fast don’t usually bring out the best in me.  This Thanksgiving, I (pinky-swear) promise to do whatever it takes to remain joyful.  Even if a tiny hand dumps the gravy boat.  Even if a tiny voice screams during a late-night car-ride.  Even if a tiny person ruins my homemade dinner rolls. 

Because this day isn’t about perfection.  It’s about being thankful for the fullness of blessings in a life filled with craziness.


  1. Refocusing my expectations has been huge for us. Very good, very sage advice.
    And, attitude, well, yes. That's huge, too.

  2. I always have a hard time with all the rush-rushing at the holidays. So many gatherings to attend, often all jammed into one or two days. These are good suggestions--here's to accepting imperfections!

  3. I had to chuckle. all too familiar. Wanting our kids to someone have matured beyond their years overnight and "straighten up" and BEHAVE! Good reminders... if the kids are happy-so are we. yup yup. :)

  4. Great tips, as always! My favorite is to choose recipes that can be done ahead of time or with help.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?