This morning I think that it took my eight-year-old daughter almost an hour to eat breakfast: really an hour! She kept getting distracted and wanted to talk about the meals that we will have. She could not keep her attention on any tasks and the idea of staying still was not in her vocabulary. She cannot wait until there is no work and no school!
This time of year most children struggle to meet our expectations. I think that there must have been something functional in the myth of Santa’s generosity being tied to a child’s behavior. It certainly isn’t very Christian since “the least shall be first”. My faith tradition –United Church of Christ — even takes it even farther and shouts that “ALL ARE WELCOME HERE.”
Children are struggling because they are so excited and happy. They want everything to be perfect just like you. The difference is that they don’t have the same idea of a perfectly enjoyable day as you. Take a moment to see the holiday through their eyes. Look for ways to build their joy and satisfaction with the holiday. Accept that they cannot control their joy. Would you really like them to stop their joy and take it all so seriously? The magic of Christmas is their uncomplicated joy. The older children might be disappointed. That is OK. You will be disappointed too. You will also have a whole lot of other feelings. Help your child learn to cope with disappointment. Accept your feelings and theirs and teach your children that is okay to feel let down. They will be able to move out of that feeling a lot faster if they don’t have to convince you that they really feel that way.
When you are starting to panic about something you planned or wanted think about how you will feel about this by New Years. How will you feel in a year? In five years? Will it even matter? What will still matter?
One last thing: is this time of year sad for you this year? One year my grandfather died suddenly the week before Christmas. I also lost a cousin just a few years later who has just a teenager during the winter holiday several years later. This is a time of year when we are reminded of loved ones who are not with us. Let yourself grieve before you turn your attention to the loved ones who are near. Your grief is a reminder of how important the memories that you will take from the next few days are to you.