I grew up in a tiny little town in the Midwest, surrounded by family. I never thought much about how traditions or memories come about, they just happened. I mean, of course we went to Grandma’s house for Easter. And of course there was an egg hunt. (Doesn’t everyone have a giant egg hunt for the adults where the prizes are money and eggs are hidden in all sorts of fun places; like under dog poo and up in bird nests? No? Just us?)
As I got older, though, I realized that even though I’m very much a Midwestern girl at heart, God also called me away from my sleepy little town and my giant extended family. I knew in high school I would roam for Him, and it probably would never be close to “home”. So here I am, lots of years later. A wife and mama of three, 500+ miles away, still trying to figure out what this whole “making memories” thing is all about. I’m torn between what I experienced growing up, new ideas I’ve gleaned from my in-laws, friends, and yes, Pinterest. And you know what? I’m hard on myself! And I’d bet my Chestnut Praline Latte you are too.
Over the last few years I’ve learned a few things that help take the pressure off. I hope they’re freeing for you too.
1. Don’t forget – what you normally do IS making memories! It sounds so simple but it’s true! You know why the blue plates were tradition at Grandma’s house? Because she had blue plates. She didn’t go make a whole thing about it. She just set the table. Let’s give ourselves a bit of grace and just set the table, shall we? No, really! There’s an entire industry specifically for setting a dinner table “fit” for Thanksgiving, and a whole different vibe for Christmas. Don’t let William-Sonoma dictate what dinner must look like. Listen. Hate dishes? Paper is king, my friend. No shame in the disposable game. LOVE the idea of a proper table and have all the pretties to pull it off? Do it! We can’t wait to see the pics! And your kids will already know which fork to use at Prom. 😉
2. Do what fits your personality. God created YOU. He created everything about you! From the way you always cheer for the underdog, to the way you can use dry shampoo 4 days a week and still be the most put-together mom in car line. And in case you haven’t realized it yet, He created you with unique gifts and talents and interests. Don’t squash all that God-given goodness just because it’s not quite what the next girl has. Your strengths are worth celebrating! Don’t apologize for them!
3. Do what fits life today. As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, time, money, and motivation can’t be ignored. Don’t let restrictions get you down. Get creative! I really love a beautiful Christmas tree. Unique ornaments with all their stories. Gorgeous lights. Family togetherness. The whole shabang. But a couple years ago there was just no margin for this. We were tired and stressed. There was very little time and basically zero motivation. So we did what fit. We put up the tree, but only the lights. No ornaments. No topper. No fussy tree skirt. Just white lights and a piece of burlap on the bottom. And you know what? It was simple and gorgeous. It was easy and relaxing. In the dark you couldn’t even tell it was naked. 😉 It fit and I loved it.
4. Don’t forget that real traditions aren’t forced – they just happen. This is the hardest one for me because I SO want my kids to have amazing memories of their childhood, complete with traditions they’ll want to continue after they’re grown. But the truth is the best traditions just happen. You can’t force the good stuff. Our current favorite is Waffle House for 1st Christmas breakfast. It happened the first time because the little
punks angels would not go to sleep for ANYTHING and we were over it. At midnight it was officially Christmas and my husband (who hates waiting as much as the kiddos) suggested letting them get up and open presents. I was appalled. This is not how Christmas works! What about the “visions of sugarplums” and all that crap? But I was also annoyed and tired and I couldn’t muster a 4-on-1 fight. They got up and opened presents. It. Was. So. Much. Fun! They never expected us to actually say yes, so it was the biggest surprise of their lives. After playing, the kids realized they were hungry. (Of course they were. It was 8 hours since their last meal!) I was not about to cook a full breakfast in the middle of the night so we scooped up our pajama-clad crew and headed to the nearest Waffle House. This was the best part. WH was packed with all kinds of people –folks coming from midnight church services and parties, travelers, college students home on break, truck drivers and military who couldn’t be home for Christmas. Everyone talked and enjoyed each other. It was amazing. Now we look forward to it every year.
5. Do what brings you joy. As women it’s practically second-nature to put everyone else first. Don’t spend your holidays miserable because you’re only doing what you think is expected. If you have the ability to make a 7-course Thanksgiving dinner that looks like it belongs in Southern Living, but you hate every second, don’t do it! Scale back and ask for help so less of your time is spent on the parts you really dislike. Remember your emotions will flow over the whole day. If you love what you’re doing, people will gather to be with you! This togetherness is what makes memories, much more than the food. But if you’re angry and offended because you’re trapped in the kitchen, again, everyone will stay away. Those are memories all right, but not quite what you’re shooting for. I don’t know what brings you joy, but you sure do! Take that passion and figure out how to fold it into your holidays this year.
Years from now I want to remember this holiday season as a time I thoroughly enjoyed my family. The tree may end up naked and Christmas dinner may not include a ham. Thanksgiving won’t be spent with all of my cousins and most of my grandparents are just a memory. But when I remember I’m not just helping my children make memories, but I’m making my own memories of my children, everything changes. I want to be all in – I want to enjoy the time together because no other memories will be exactly like these, no matter what traditions we choose to keep.