Before Thanksgiving, I was talking to a friend of mine about the holidays.
Three days before the big turkey day, we still didn’t know where we would be going. My parents, who are close-by, have hosted the holidays for decades and in recent years, my sister and I took turns hosting at our homes. I’m nine months pregnant and my sister is in the last stages of her PhD.
So he said, if no one wants to host, that means you have to.
Normally, I’d agree. If no one else can do it, “someone” has to.
Instead, I said, “no, we don’t.”
It sort of surprised us both but I felt really confident in my decision.
It’s taken me a long time to feel this way but –
We are under no obligation to meet other people’s needs, especially if it impinges on our own.
So I started thinking toward Christmas. Our second child is due mid-December. We’ll be pretty busy and a lot tired on the actual holiday.
This year, I’ve decided, with my husband, that we’re going to have a simplified Christmas. We’re going to enjoy each other’s company. We’re going to ease into people visiting the baby. We’re going to let our daughter and son get to know each other.
Honestly, I’m not sure how people are going to react. I love them dearly and setting boundaries has no reflection on how much we care about them. It is, however, a reflection of how much I love my kids and my sanity.
The holidays bring about the heavy burdens of expectations, layers of family history, and centuries of traditions. They can also bring joy, wonder, and peace.
With all of the hullabaloo, it’s easier to fall into the first part and forget the second. It takes time and conscious effort to cultivate the second.
It can be even difficult to start to see where the obligations end and the magic begins, especially when they can be wrapped up together. For example, if you have a family tradition of carolling around the neighborhood, but the kids have a concert, your partner is fighting a cold, and the work Christmas party is tomorrow night. For the sake of joy, it might be better to pick the concert or the carolling but not try to do all of it.
Then – here’s the key – don’t feel bad about missing the other event.
This is probably the part I struggle with most. My husband is much better at making decisions and settling into whatever may come. I hem and haw then worry. There’s probably a great middle ground of being conscious and then confident in our decisions.
It’ll probably take a lot of practice. Each day, month, and year, I’m working very hard to honor myself and the family life we want to cultivate.
This year, let’s choose calm instead of chaos and presence over presents.
May you have a beautiful holiday season and Happy New Year!