I was all wrapped up in the holiday spirit. The stockings were hung and stuffed with exciting treasures. The gifts were nestled under the decorated tree and wrapped with Martha Stewart - precision and pomp. Bing Crosby was crooning old-school carols and I was camped out on the couch, sipping cocoa in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace.
WAKE UP! It was just a dream. Reality is - a stocking is lost, the tree isn't up, and the gifts are still in Wal-Mart bags under our bed. The only sound I hear are kids fighting and grumpy from too much sugar. So much for my perfect Christmas!
The reality is, there are no perfect families; so typically, there are no perfect holidays. For most of us, holidays are a mixed bag - some good, some bad and some in the middle. Throw in the stress of preparation, travel, expectations and extended family and you can have a lot of tension. But I believe you can influence your experience by asking: "Do I want to focus on holy days or be wholly-dazed?"
Moving from Wholly-Dazed to Holy Days
1. Ask, "What is most important?" (Focus on your child's heart and the true meaning of Christmas - that God became a human baby and lived with us; don't focus on your child's Christmas list, or your expectations or plans).
2. Focus beyond the holiday to the 364 other days (especially if your child is with your ex on THE big day, not with you) and ask, "What can I do on those 364 days to impact my child's heart and connect with him/her?"
3. If you are alone on the holiday (Ex. your children are with your ex). Plan something. Look for ways to serve others. Invite. Engage. Reach out and model caring and compassion for your children (and yourself).
4. Create new traditions. Especially if your family has gone through a difficult year, a loss, divorce or you are now a step-family. Traditions shape identity, create a sense of belonging and reinforce positive memories. Step-families and families from a recent divorce need new neutral party family holiday traditions that are age-appropriate, fun and current.
5. If you are in a step-family, or divorced: plan a fun evening prior to Departure Day (the day they go to be with your ex during the holidays). Invite some of their friends, play a table game, watch a Christmas comedy movie and serve some tasty food.
6. If you are in a step-family, or divorced: Send your kids off with JOY and a smile. Some of you will be happy to see them go and give you a break, so the smile will be genuine; but others may whine, look dejected and act like a victim. This creates a burden for you child. Focus on the joy of that first Christmas and that will help you get perspective.
When it comes to families and holidays, we don't get a do-over, but we can start now and make a brand new beginning.