We know the commercial side of the holidays—it’s blasted at us from every conceivable portal: television, Facebook, Instagram, radio. We are bombarded with all the ways that presents affect the holidays. We focus our December, or October/November for the control freaks like I used to be, on finding the perfect present at the best price. It’s the weirdest survival hunt ever. On one hand, it can be fun to think about the ones you love and then find them the perfect representation of how much they mean to you. But this is rarely what happens. We are so stressed out by our part-time present shopping job, that we just get something to check it off the list.
There has got to be a better way to show people we care. What about sharing our presence with them, instead of a bunch of presents?
The true meaning of the holidays for me is giggle time spent with family and friends. It’s not checking a box on a list of presents. I have the presence of mind to choose how I want the Holidays to feel, and so do you. I have a challenge for you: fast forward to Christmas night, when all the presents are opened, the food is eaten, the dishes are done, and you're relaxing with a glass of holiday cheer. How do you feel? Did you spend your time and energy wisely? The answer to this question for me used to be a resounding “No!” I pushed my family through chores to make the perfect dinner. I stayed up late putting together toys, wrapping presents, and creating spreadsheets to keep it all straight. This is the opposite of Presence.
So, right now, take stock of your holiday season. How did Thanksgiving go for you? Did you feel all warm and fuzzy inside after dinner, or just fuzzy from all the wine you drank trying to drown out the sound of your inner control freak pushing you forward to make the next thing perfect? Now, let’s look toward Christmas. This post is a little late for much Hanukkah change, but the concept is the same.
Would you feel better spending time and money buying a bunch of gifts that your kids probably won’t play with for more than a week? OR would you rather spend time making memories by doing crafts, taking a family walk, playing a family game, or getting the kids to help in the kitchen by putting 80s dance music on and making it FUN?
You will never regret spending time and energy making life fun. It takes more focus than clicking Add to Cart, but it doesn’t result in big credit card payments that come due in January. So, there’s that.
Presence is the current intention to spend future time together. The future can be in the next ten minutes or ten days. The timing isn’t important. The intention, the presence of mind to prioritize face time; that’s the important bit. But first, you need to unload some of those tasks. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Divvy up holiday chores BEFORE the big day. Tell kids they are on dishwasher duty, because we are all responsible for how the day turns out. This is one chore you don’t need to micro-manage, as dishwashers can be loaded any old way, and it will be just fine.
2. If you’re on laundry duty, change it up. Everyone brings their dirty laundry into the laundry room and sorts it into bins. If you’re persnickety about laundry, like me, then give the damage proof stuff like sheets and towels to the bigger kids. Then pull the little kids in to help you fold the more delicate items. Again, it’s about presence and spending time together. Then everyone puts their own away. This teaches them autonomy. When they can’t find a top or dress, they are the expert on where to look. They will figure it out.
3. Stop solving your family’s problems for them before they even know they exist. Let them ask for help, and then give them just that—a solution. Resist the urge to do it for them. This takes practice, but it’s so worth it. I used to notice an issue with my kids and solve it before they ever realized it was a problem. I thought this was efficient. I was wrong. What it did, very efficiently, was eat up my current peace of mind, and time, in trade for a hypothetically perfect future. I now know that the slightly imperfect future is just fine without my involvement.
With all the free time this shedding of chores creates, you can go read a magazine in the tub, or have coffee with your friends, because you’ve all read this blog and you’re trying this new tradition of presence together. Have a lovely holiday season, and make some fun memories! I’m taking some time off to create some holiday cheer of my own, and this newsletter will be back December 30th.