A parents guide to making Christmas perfect—seriously!
Our thanks to Julie for submitting this blog post.
I have this disease. It’s called “perfectionism.” Now, I know what you’re thinking… is that even a real “thing?” No, I don’t take medication. No, I haven’t ever been to a doctor for it. And yes, I am self-diagnosed. But I call it a disease because sometimes, it “gets in my way” and prevents me from living a normal life.
I’m serious! Have I mentioned yet that I have 3 kids??? Do you know how hard it is to live with this “disease” while cohabitating with children?
To make matters worse, there’s this big series of events that happens every year called “ the holidays,” which includes Christmas, and inevitably “Christmas Break” for the kids.
I mean, I’m supposed to shop for everyone on my list, secretly shop for gifts from Santa, secretly shop for stocking stuffers, secretly shop for my spouse, have each kid secretly shop for their siblings, and secretly wrap the gifts, all while planning a trip to see Christmas lights and bake gingerbread cookies for the neighbors, because you know, this holiday is about giving and not receiving. And the kids are OUT OF SCHOOL!!! Who came up with this???
I think I could almost DIE!!!
This is where having children while trying to balance my need to be perfect truly puts me to the test! I know I’m not alone in this. Even the most normal, well-balanced, unstressed mom who has ample time to make lists, shop a month in advance, and clean and decorate the house to perfection prior to the family Christmas Party will have moments of “I-want-to-kill-anyone-and-everything-that-gets-in-the-way-of-my-efforts-to-make-this-holiday-perfect.”
Don’t even get me started on my home-schooling friends – I don’t know how they do it. My hat’s off to them, every single year.
And sure, if other people weren’t in my “bubble,” I could do whatever I want, have the house looking exactly as I want, all the gifts wrapped by Black Friday, and have everything absolutely perfect.
But I’d be alone. In a bubble. By myself. For Christmas.
At times like this, I feel extreme gratitude for the training I received prior to becoming a foster parent many years ago. I know that if I teach my kids what my expectations are PRIOR to the chaos, my chances of actually being able to relax and enjoy myself at Christmas time increase dramatically.
We call this preventive teaching, and if you think about it, it really makes a lot of sense.
Expecting our kids to do what we want, or behave a certain way when we haven’t taught them first is completely ludicrous. I mean, they’re kids. These are the little human beings running around the planet that spend the first 2 years of their lives needing diaper changes and someone else to brush their teeth – I think it’s safe to assume they really “don’t know anything” until someone teaches them.
I kinda want to be the person who does the teaching – as opposed to the unruly 7 year old in my son’s 1st grade class that taught him the word “boobs”, invited him to lock himself in his sisters’ room, and destroy their already made beds the very first time he came over to play. I’m sure you’ve been there too.
So, for all the parents who are slightly dreading the chaos that’s about to ensue, I’ve decided to share a few tips. I call this “A Parents Guide to Making Christmas Perfect – Seriously!”
Tip #1: Use Preventive Teaching
I distinctly remember taking our 3 young kids to the movies a few years ago. The youngest was 2 at the time, but history told us if she got to cuddle with her mom, occasionally walk down a few seats to sit with dad, and eat popcorn, she’d do just fine. Except she didn’t this time.
The audience was very full, and she did not have the freedom to move or walk around AT ALL like she was accustomed to. She tried to meet her movement needs by standing in front of us, and pushing her little body part way between the seats of the people in front of us. Then she tried to sit on the floor – which doesn’t fly with me because, you know, it’s like dirty and gross and stuff.
So then she stood back up and tried to play with the seats again, they do rock and recline, after all. This went on for about 20 minutes. At this point, the hubs was starting to lose it, and spent half the movie standing with her in the aisle.
On the way home, we started discussing a plan to rectify this in the future. The hubs was leaning towards bagging the whole idea and waiting until she got older, until I pointed out that she actually didn’t know what was expected of her at the movies, and we should probably just teach her.
When we got home, we didn’t yell at her. We simply taught her what we needed her to do at the movies.
Then we had her practice.
We pulled out a few chairs and we sat on the couch behind them. We pointed out things she had done earlier, and corrected her behavior, giving her an alternative. We let her practice sitting in “her own seat” and asked her if she liked that. We explained what the consequences would be next time if she couldn’t behave the next time we went to the movies.
The next time we were headed to the movies, we pulled the chairs out and reminded her about the expectations, as well as the potential consequences. And guess what! She did great. Yes, our 2 year old behaved for 90 minutes, in a public place, where she was confined to the space of a movie theater chair. It can be done – you just have to teach them what you want.
So how does this relate to the holidays? Well…tell them what you want them to do! I know from experience, that if my kids start yelling or running through someone else’s house, I get embarrassed and stressed. So I point this out to them, and remind them this is not the way to behave.
There are two parts to this really, the things you WANT them to do, and the things you DON’T want them to do. Most of us tend to focus on what we DON’T want them to do, but you have to have BOTH.
What I WANT them to do:
- When we open presents we all take turns.
- When someone gives us a gift, or a treat, we say thank you.
- Come get help from a grownup if somebody’s not getting along. You know sometimes, it’s not easy with all these kids getting together all at once! (Please tell me we aren’t the only ones that have this issue!)
You get the idea. If you want them to help clean up after dinner, warn them in advance. Then when it’s time, it’s just a reminder and no surprises.
What I DON’T want them to do (which is usually based on past experience):
Kids are much calmer and obedient when they know what’s coming. So tell them! Use your past experiences as a guide. If you know what kinds of problems tend to come up in a particular situation, you can use preventive teaching. It’s so much better than sending everyone to bed early and threatening to cancel Christmas.
- Don’t run or yell in someone else’s house.
- No rough-housing, pushing, pillow fighting, or fill in the blank with what your kids are tempted to do.
- Don’t play with someone else’s new toy/present unless they said it was okay.
The best part is, you can really use Preventive Teaching for ANYTHING.
My parents have enjoyed spoiling the grandkids at Christmas for many years, but they both got laid off this past year and are now semi-retired, working part time until they can fully retire. The last thing I want is for my kids to make comments that would make my parents feel bad. This particular thing is a NEW situation that has never happened before, but I can see the potential for something to go wrong, so I’ll use preventive teaching.
The bottom line is, if you have had or can imagine the train-wreck, you can take measures to prevent it. So get out there and start preparing your kids for your perfect Christmas! And to all my fellow perfectionists out there, God bless us, every one!!! We can do this!