Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Spirit

The holidays can feel like a lot of hard work when you have children. At least, if you think about all of the preparations as burdens on an already busy schedule.

Shopping, decorating, baking, sending cards, wrapping...whew! Who has time for that?

I know some people who work on these things throughout the year so that the to-do list isn't stuffed into a few weeks. If that works for them and they enjoy it, it's a great idea. Many of us, however, aren't so organized.

Let me make a few suggestions to lighten your load and allow some real holiday spirit to enter your home.

LET GO — Do you really have to send cards? Do you really have to make six kinds of cookies? Do you have to buy gifts for the five helpers in your son's class who you really don't know? No, you don't. If these things don't fill you with joy and excitement, let them go. Think differently. Send out cards to your loved ones on Valentine's Day when they aren't expecting them. Limit your gift list to people who have really made a difference for you this year. Play in the snow with your kids instead of the crazy, messy baking scenario. If your family and friends don't like it, they'll have to work through their disappointment.

DELEGATE — The holidays should be about teamwork. Preparing for guests and events all by yourself is no fun. Plus, what makes you think that you do everything better than anyone else? This year, my kids decorated our Christmas tree. They are 7 and 4 and did a fabulous job. Some ornaments were broken. Some things were on the tree that don't normally go there. But they had a great time and I felt a surge of gratitude. The same thing happened when my husband not only bought a lot of the gifts for our children this year, but he also wrapped them! He used duct tape, but who cares???

GIVE, REALLY GIVE — Feeling overwhelmed with the whole holiday scene, I decided to make a few cookies with my girls on a Saturday and take them over to the local nursing home during coffee hour. It wasn't part of an organized event. I don't have any family at this nursing home. I just thought it would put me in a more positive mood about giving.

I was reminded by this experience that giving from your heart really does give more back to you than you could ever imagine. Passing out cookies, visiting with the residents, watching the smiles on their faces as they watched my girls run around, singing a few carols with some Girl Scouts who were also made my month. My girls had a great time, too.

If you can find one thing this year or next to do with your family that involves giving to others — not out of obligation but from true caring — do it! It's the best thing you can do for your family, yourself and the world.