But seriously…..some questions from our loyal readers:
Sometimes I wonder if the need for such crazy Christmas spending is all in my head. My kids always seem so satisfied with the smallest things on Christmas day even though we have gone to such extremes to make huge gestures. I often ask myself is it for me or them that I do this…
You are not alone. I believe that we parents invest disproportionate energy and expense in Christmas. The frenzy we get ourselves into eventually rubs off on our children who learn that it is normal to expect gifts of colossal expense. Very often kids start out with modest and balanced expectations (one of my kids once asked for a corn on the cob from Santa) and then it’s we, the parents, who question these requests and fuel the mountainous, material expectations.
The warmest, happiest memories children will cherish are the ones in which their parents were relaxed and happy. Santa might bring a toy that was second on the wish list. The goose fat the potatoes are roasted in might not be the one Marco Pierre White insisted upon. None of these things matter to children. They just want to be played with and talked to on Christmas Day (and every day). So, ironically, it’s by doing precisely the opposite of what we drive ourselves to do which will resonate much more powerfully with our kids.
A parent who is stressed out their mind to achieve what they believe is perfection misunderstands the needs of kids. Christmas is a great time to give our children focused attention and, to paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge (when all was merry and well at the end of his journey through time and he’d learned the value of friendship and kindness over wealth) the real challenge is to ‘keep Christmas the whole year round.’
What are the non-food based ingredients necessary for the perfect Christmas Day?
A colleague once described how she stayed up until 4am one Christmas Eve painting her kitchen so that Christmas Day would be perfect. Then, on Christmas Day, she could barely move with exhaustion and, while her family were grateful for her efforts, they were surprised by her fixation and a bit sad that it ruined her day in the end.
We Mum’s can fall into the trap of becoming over focused on things that we feel must be done before we can relax. We develop the habit, as part of our instinct to nest, of thinking the laundry basket must be emptied, the kitchen must be spotless, every room must be in order and every floor shining before we can put our feet up and enjoy our family. Ask yourself: ‘who am I doing this for? Do my children care about perfection? When I am in the throes of this frenzy am I being pleasant? If I allow my standards to drop slightly so that I have more time for my kids and give less energy to creating domestic faultlessness might the net effect be the very thing I am trying to create – a happy home?
We Mum’s could benefit from adjusting our focus so that the things we are doing to reach our goal of creating the perfect home is not, in fact, the thing that prevents us from achieving that outcome. So, this Christmas try the following:
From the 20th to the 27th of December play with each child 1:1 for 10 minutes every day; if this means choosing to do this over cleaning up a mess, hoovering or folding laundry, challenge yourself to pick play. Playing with our children 1:1 is a habit we need to get into for their development, our wellbeing and our relationships. When you allocate time to it you will find that it feels good and improves the atmosphere in your home. Like exercise, making yourself do it is psychologically hard but once you’re doing it, it feels great and you wonder why you don’t do it more regularly! Christmas is the perfect time to re-think these kinds of habits.
I always allow my kids to eat whatever they like on Christmas Day, but I can’t help worrying if this is wise. Can you advise?
Take it easy on yourself and them. If we keep an eye on balanced nutrition all year around and then take our foot off the gas over Christmas, that’s ok. Like my attitude to nearly everything in life the key word is balance.
The great thing about kids is that if given some free rein they will find a happy balance themselves. If we hover around and control every decision they make, their natural inclination to know when they have had enough can be impinged. Let them gorge on chocolate Santa’s, tubes of fruit pastilles and Roses for a few days. If, after this they don’t say at least once, ‘I’ve had enough,’ I’ll eat my hat.
Thank you to Joanna for this brilliantly funny account of the Christmas countdown and also for this helpful Q&A.
The SMARTS Education writes and builds educational programmes for schools and families. The school’s programmes use play and arts led teaching methods to support children with their behaviour skills. This programme is being implemented in 30 schools around Ireland. For more information visit www.thesmartseducation.com.