Middle school years were awkward, painful, and uncomfortable. If anyone regales you with tales of fun times and worthwhile memories during those excruciatingly acne-prone years, then they’re lying. Or they were raised on a remote island and their only friends were covered in fur, which would make acne a moot point.
Fads come and go in those “want to be like everyone else” years and I remember pegging my jeans and wearing my shirt inside out and backwards–wait, maybe I was the one raised on a crazy remote island–but the one memorable fad was “cool points”. If you tripped in the hallway or dropped a tray of food in the cafetorium: minus 20 cool points. Got out of detention by saying you had a funeral: plus 30 cool points. I can’t remember if we actually kept track but I do remember the dialogue and script that ran in the background of our pimple-filled screenplay.
So, maybe you weren’t raised on the same island as me and had cool points to collect, ratify and bestow but it seems that unconsciously we’re all still stuck in the 7th grade hallway keeping a running tab in regards to parenting. I feed my children spinach-tofu-quinoa-starfish smoothies everyday: plus 40 cool points; you forgot to send homemade Pinterest-endorsed valentines for your child’s class: minus 50 cool points.
It seems to get worse around the holidays in how we ramp up, catalog and peacock-around our Holiday Traditions.
You know what? I am in the negative. I stink at building snowmen, my gingerbread houses typically collapse and staring at 20 plus plates of cookies waiting to be delivered makes me break out in hives. Sending Christmas cards and spending too much on pictures that will just make it into the next edition of Awkward Family Photos makes me wish I wasn’t so darn friendly or had a bottomless bank account. In fact, every year I order the cards, they sit on a shelf, they often don’t get sent and then I throw 80% of them away. I must not be a Closer.
So, indulge me in passing along Five Legit. Holiday Parenting Cool Points because I couldn’t make it all the way to 10—remember, not a Closer.
- Holiday traditions are important only for the instrument that they are to convey meaning, love and a pattern to our lives. They are the candy wrappers of memories: the tool of remembering good and sweet times with those we love. Like anything in life, they can be take to extremes: “It’s so much work, why even try?” to “I have to have a formal breakfast on Christmas morning!” which is why we have so many people spreading the gospel of Bah-humbug instead of Christmas cheer.
- We eat healthy and exercise so we can hopefully live long enough to see the ice caps melt and swim over Cinderella’s Castle.
The same goes for parenting: it’s the longest-term investment you can ever make. You sacrifice, love, enjoy and teach these little ones so they will one day be the kind of people you’d want to be neighbors with: attentive, generous, sympathetic and hard-working people. So, make sure your traditions are purposeful. What are they pointing toward: Family? God? Community? Service? Just plain fun? Make sure the time, money and effort is for a good reason or at least enough good reasons that everyone enjoys them.
- Parenting is all about being chronically inconvenienced, really. Your efforts to make the Holidays memorable for your children should be like how you feel after you give blood—slightly difficult but worth it. If you feel like you’ve donated 6 liters and just gave your last drop of your soul then you might want to scale back and focus on what your family enjoys. If that’s singing at Rest Homes, great. If it’s hosing down a friend’s front steps with a motion-sensor camera to capture the pre-ER prank, perhaps it time to find another family tradition.
- Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and do what works for your family. One of my favorite bloggers says “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Stop trying to make your memories and traditions look magazine-worthy and just make it family-worthy. Pinterest is great for ideas but don’t get bogged down in the comparison game. If setting up different “elf fighting army men” scenes gets you all hyped then go for it but if Elf+Shelf=bile in the back of your throat, feel free to create another ritual.
- Give yourself a break. You’re probably not doing as bad of a job as you think you are and if you were, you’d have your own reality TV show by now. Most kids turn out moderately normal and well-adjusted despite all the starts and stops with traditions, chores and well-meaning discipline. Just do your best today, not yesterday. Not your neighbor’s best or your great-aunt Betty’s best whose house was always immaculate and had homemade cookies and hot chocolate ready after each sledding day—just do your best and that’s going to fluctuate depending on daily life circumstances.
Part of growing up is getting to decide who you’ll be, what your family and relationships look like and if you’ll make your kid eat Brussels sprouts. You get to create this new cast of people and make new memories and traditions. Parenting is the most important job in the world and it can get a little intense with all the giving and taking of cool points. Be intentional, flexible and enjoy these moments because unlike 7th grade, they don’t last forever.
Merry Christmas, y’all. Remember your front row peeps, in all you try to cram in this time of year. Ask yourself, “Is this creating a positive memory? Is this bringing us closer together? Is this worth the time, money or sanity?” Learn to let go of unreachable or unworthy expectations. Cherish the unexpected and messy moments with the people you love. YOU get to write your own story so make it worthwhile.
PS. Congrats to Carlee who won the inaugural TPIL Giveaway! Thank you to all who entered, shared and have made this dream of mine a reality! I hope you have a wonderful time this holiday season!