Family Stress at Christmas-Time
Do the holidays stress you out? Instead of appreciating the season do you dread it? Why do we feel this way?
I believe that this stress is self-induced. Let me explain why I believe this.
Years ago, and I mean years and years ago, the holiday season began by my planning my home decor, making tons of lists - a list of recipients for my year-end family newsletter, a list of gifts I had to buy, my guest list for my holiday parties and get-togethers, multiple grocery lists, etc. - and spending money I didn't have. I did this for many years until life took an unexpected turn.
I became a single mother of three children all under the age of 6. The first Christmas was a difficult one for many reasons. One of the reasons was that I had a budget that did not include gifts or extras for all the things I used to do. I couldn't even fall back on using a tree that I already had because the year before my budget-friendly tree had broken in several places.
What could I do?
I turned it into an adventure. I told the kids that we were going to make our own tree and decorations? But how were we going to do that? Well, simple. Someone had given me a roll of white paper, similar to the exam table paper you see at your doctor's office. I wish I had a video of that day. The kids had a grand old time making this tree. It was the best tree we've ever had in my opinion. What do you think?
Gifts, what was I going to do about that? God is good and knows our needs before we even realize them ourselves. Someone at our church came up to me one Sunday and gave me an envelope with $100. I was rich!! I took $25 and bought the kids gifts and stocking stuffers at Dollarama. The rest I used to buy the boots which they dearly needed. God is good always!
That year I learned many humbling lessons that I carry with me to this day. One of them was that children only expect out of life what we as parents emulate. My kids were just as happy with those gifts as they were when they received pricier items.
A year or two later, I was still on a budget and couldn't afford to give them money to buy each other gifts. So that now-famous roll of paper came into play again. I tasked the children with a challenge, to MAKE gifts for each other. If you meet my children, who are now 29, 25 & 22, ask them about the year they made paper gifts for each other. I tear up when they laughingly talk about those precious memories of the gifts they made and received.
A few years after that, I had completed my schooling and was working and had the money to buy them "proper" gifts. But the hard-learned lessons were still in my mind. I started the tradition of having them give away their own toys. What a horrible mother I was, right? Nope. Because they always received more from me and their extended family.
They had to go through all their books and toys and give away things that were in good condition and that they themselves would like to receive. I wanted my children to realize that Christmas was not about receiving but about giving.
I think my objective has been reached. I took what was a bad situation and turned it into learning moments for my children. Today, they are generous and thoughtful adults.
“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow