Oh the rush…I mean, JOY, of the holiday season. It’s gotten a little bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Christmas tree displays are up in stores before Halloween, fist fights pop up in shopping aisles on what should be a day of thanks…it’s ABSURD. And for us parents, there is so much pressure to make the holidays magical for our kids. I mean, do you really need to move a creepy looking stuffed animal around your house late at night just to convince your kids that Santa is watching? Most likely not—but if you do, that’s cool. Do whatever works for best for YOU and your family. For six years I have given in to the hustle and bustle of the holidays because I too wanted to have the picture perfect holiday card and Instagram feed (I mean, I am a blogger, after all). But this year I am taking a stand to slow down and truly savor the holiday season. NO racing around, no keeping up with the Joneses…none of that. And I am THRILLED. Shake the fear of missing out and take the pledge to slow down and savor the holidays along with me.
You know that moment when it is a Friday night and you are on the couch with no plans other than to catch up on some shows and you scroll through your phone during a commercial break? THAT’S WHEN IT HAPPENS. You see that mom from your kid’s school, or your cousin who was gifted with your family’s great hair genes that you never received, or even *gasp* your ex boyfriend…from high school. They are out having drinks, on an exotic trip, with their kids perfectly behaving, looking like they managed to lose weight during the holidays instead of pile it on like the rest of us. THAT AWFUL FEELING? You don’t need to experience it. Seriously. What’s the magic secret? Turn off your phone…or at least put it in another room and cuddle under the blankets instead. Because being cozy on your couch on a Friday night with junk food, wine, and a television full of all of your favorite shows is pretty darn amazing. Heck, I would even take a photo of that moment and see how many likes you get. Double tap, my friend. Double tap.
What is it about the holidays that gets people so stressed out? Is it the gift giving? Then knock it all out on Cyber Monday or instead of buying actual things, gift experiences. Even better? When it is an experience that you can experience with the gift recipient, so that you two can make memories together that are absolutely priceless. Another option is to suggest to your family that you stop giving gifts, or cut down on it immensely. In the past few years, we have done away with buying a gift for everyone in our family by doing a grab bag. And when that still got a bit too time consuming and ended up in a simple of exchange of gift cards, we kicked it up a notch. My family and I enjoy cocktails, so we did a blind booze exchange. Not only was it fun to pick up a quirky bottle that would look interesting all wrapped up, but we also had fun “stealing” the prime items…except for my poor uncle who got stuck with the Manischewitz wine (at least we had something to bring to my in-law’s Hannukah party!).
Or maybe it’s the fear of missing out. This is a BIG one, for kids and adults alike. And when you live in a city as vibrant as Chicago, there is always something AMAZING going on…which means that you are always missing out on something. So here is my solution. With your family, pick THREE things you would like to do as a family this holiday season. That’s it, just three. That way your weekends aren’t jam packed and you actually have time to BREATHE. For example, your family might really want to have breakfast with Santa. Awesome, here are some great options. Or maybe you have train lovers and are narrowing down between the Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Polar Express out of Union Station, or trying to catch the CTA Holiday Train. If your family is more low key, they might just want to check out some impressive holiday displays or the Home Alone house in Winnetka. Either way, there is no right or wrong answer. If you need help brainstorming, feel free to consult this Christmas in Chicagoland Bucket List, but don’t feel like you have to experience all of these events…because it would most likely drive you insane.
After picking out your family’s top three events, don’t think that you need to fill all of the empty time on your calendar. Because there is a sweetness to staying in your pajamas all day, playing board games together, and pigging out on sweet holiday treats. Is attending your neighbor’s potluck going to be more memorable and relaxing than that? Probably not. So learn how to say no and not feel guilty. Over the years I have learned that you can hold someone off by saying, “Let me look at my calendar and get back to you” and get a week of breathing room but that it is better to be direct and say, “I’m so sorry but we aren’t able to make it. Hope you have a wonderful event.” Then put your slippers back on, pour yourself another cup of coffee, and enjoy.
Lastly, let’s talk about the ELFphant in the room. Do you have to do the Elf on the Shelf? Of course not. Because honestly, it gets pretty tiresome around the 19th of December. But to be honest, my husband and I enjoy coming up with creative spots for Gibbs, our Elf, just as much as our kids love finding him. If you don’t want to take on this commitment, don’t. Easy as that. Your kids’ holiday season isn’t going to be less magical. It will still be filled with fun, games, love, and goodies because you won’t be so stressed about figuring out where to put that damn elf. Remember, tired and weary parents, that the holiday season is magical without you having to do anything. There are beautiful light displays and carolers out in the community, and most of the time people are a little bit kinder (except for Black Friday—stay far, far away then) and softer during the holidays. It’s that feeling of togetherness that our country and world definitely needs right around now if you ask me.
So, now that I have written this article I am going to change into my pajamas, warm up some hot chocolate and play UNO with my kids until their eyes get sleepy. We are on Thanksgiving break so bedtimes are a bit more relaxed and my boys are extra cuddly, and what I’m so thankful for. Oh, and if you are reading this, it’s probably Black Friday. Screw the stores, enjoy these fun things instead.