Covering parenting and child development issues
"The things that one most wants to do are the things that are probably the most worth doing." (Winifred Holtby)
'Tis the season.
The lists are long, and some days, the pleasures are few, outweighed by obligations that are well-intentioned, but exhausting. Navigating traffic to buy presents. Navigating the grocery store to buy supplies for cookies. Navigating the sometimes choppy waters of family dynamics to keep the peace and a spirit of celebration.
How many of these things do we enjoy doing?
This is a question I'm asking myself a lot this year. As the calendar conspired to give us one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I fell further and further behind. Christmas cards, usually sent out the first weekend in December, still sit unopened in their packages, with less than a week to go until Christmas. The Christmas tree, usually up that same weekend, finally got decorated last Saturday night. And Christmas cookies? Thank God for the kind in the package you can just plop onto a cookie sheet.
I don't mean to be a Grinch -- I love Christmas! But that's just the thing. I want to enjoy the holiday season, not make it a mad dash from one obligation to the next.
This is not the first year I've had this feeling. But the collision of "I can't believe I haven't tackled this yet" with "does it really need to be this complicated?" has me thinking about simplicity, and, to a greater extent, the things that bring meaning to this season.
I used to love baking for weeks, hosting a Christmas open house, addressing multiple packages of cards to far-flung family and friends, and decorating every nook and cranny of the house, culminating in the decoration of the tree.
Now, no longer a member of the full-time work force, and the parent of a teenager who likes to bake, I'm happy to delegate, downsize and even dismiss a few things entirely. Add to that to-do lists inspired by a patchwork of professions that I love, but that don't lend themselves to regular business hours, and I'm relieved to deck a few less halls.
But, in a society that prides itself on making Christmas bigger and better than the one before it, I truly feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness. And in a family that might not yet see, let alone desire, this newfound simplicity, I need to make a few concessions.
The truth is, they're not really concessions. While I'm happy to put my daughter in charge of the baking, I'm not ready to relinquish the wrapping. And, there's no point in decorating the tree unless we do it all together -- even if scheduling a time to do so has become more complicated.
Now that I think about it, it's not just about doing the things I most want to do. It's about honoring traditions in a way that makes sense for the family we are now. I have to admit, I felt a twinge of guilt over not making the cookies we ate while we decorated the tree, but as far as I can tell, my daughter enjoyed being the one to do that, and I was gratified by the fact that she made an association between decorating the tree and eating homemade cookies (even if we were missing the cider). By handing off bits of our traditions, I am passing them along so that someday, my daughter can decide what the important parts of her Christmas puzzle will be, and which pieces perhaps belong in someone else's box.
This holiday season, regardless of your situation, I hope you find time to enjoy at least one tradition that matters to you, and that you make time to relax with someone you love.
'Tis the season.