I recently wrote a little article for our local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) newsletter. We have a Mentor Mom corner, and I happen to be a mentor mom. The question asked was how to maintain focus on the real meaning of Christmas. I remember what a struggle this was for me when my kids were toddlers, and I wish I would have had a calm mentor mom help me through it. So with that in mind, here's my response:
Keeping Christ in Christmas, for Real Moms
“How can I incorporate a celebration of Jesus’ birth in all of the busy-ness of the season?”
Dan and I started a tradition when the kids were little where we read from a children’s bible about the story of Jesus’ birth. A great resource for this is “The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories” by Mary Batchelor and John Haysom (available on Amazon and most book stores, or your local library or inter-library lending system may have this). What I love about this particular bible story book is that the illustrations are lovely without being cartoonish. We would read the story of Jesus’ birth right before we opened presents on Christmas Eve. You could easily incorporate a little tradition like this in whatever way works for your family. The key is to keep things short and sweet for babies and toddlers.
Advent Coloring Pages for older kids
The History of Advent (lots of activities on this page):
Family Matters: Keeping Expectations Realistic
“I feel like a child again when I go back home for the holidays.”
Most of us feel like we’re five years old again when we walk into our parents’ or grandparents’ homes for Christmas. Don’t take offense - these are the people who heard you laugh for the very first time, saw you take your first steps, skin your knees, lose your first tooth, get your braces on/off, get your driver’s license, and all of those other wonderful “firsts” in life. Think about how much you love those milestones in your own baby’s life. Isn’t that a great feeling? It’s no wonder our parents and grandparents keep bringing up those memories. Cut them some slack, smile at them, and take it for what it is: holiday reminiscing. Yes, you might get teased. Take it with a grain of salt and be glad that you have people in your life who love you. Not everyone has that.
“I don’t get along with my in-laws, which stresses me OUT!”
Something my husband and I adopted back when we were engaged was that he would handle his family’s things, and I would handle mine. For example, if a relative from either side was undermining basic rules for our kids, then whichever side of the family the relative belonged to determined which one of us would handle the situation. We knew that handling things gently and respectfully was the best. We agreed to let the little stuff slide, and that most things were little things. It is critically important that you talk to your husband privately and at a good time about this before you arrive at your extended families’ homes. You’ll need a game plan for those inevitable sticky situations, and back each other up when they happen.
“I like order and schedules, but the holidays with family are crazy times for me!”
Realize that normal routines WILL be disrupted, and that everything will get back to normal. Nap schedules, routines, and even meals and food choices will be jumbled up during time with extended family. Yes, the baby will get cranky. Maybe you’ll get cranky, too. But remember, you’re the grown up, so you will be given opportunities to show grace in the midst of stress. The holidays will pass, you will be back home, and everything will get back to normal. Parenting is a marathon, and even if your child is given Cheetos and red Kool Aid at 10AM by some family member doesn’t mean it has undone all your work in helping your kids to eat right. Yes, I speak from personal experience on this ;-). Try to focus on the treasure of being able to spend time with those who love you most. You don’t know if you will have another Christmas with them so take a deep breath, pray, maintain focus, and love on your family/in-laws.
“I so want our Christmas celebration to be wonderful!”
The best way for you to make lovely Christmas memories for your children is to be at peace with the Lord, and reflect His love for them by being patient with them (and your husband) during these busy times. Reflect on the time when you realized you were falling in love with your husband - what a wonderful gift. Continue to do the little things that make this season so much fun, like making easy Christmas treats or hanging the ornaments on the tree. Take the time every single day to look your children in the eyes, smile at them, hug them, and remember how you longed to hold them in your arms when you were pregnant with them. The bible says that children are a gift from the Lord! As you’re reflecting on the wonders of Christmas, God coming to be with us in the flesh, I hope you’ll also be able to catch glimpses of His great love for you.