Each year we think we’ve simplified our calendar, only to find out that as Christmas draws near, we have somehow confirmed our attendance at 12 Christmas functions. We often grumble as we head into the holiday season that we have over-committed our young family and have too many obligations. The problem is that I don’t know how to say ‘no.’ My difficulty with this is not coming from a place of not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, although this is inevitably a factor. I feel that the most gripping reason I can’t decline Christmas offers comes from a place of not wanting to miss out on any part of the opportunity to spend loads of unstructured time with family and friends.
Christmas is a time when I get to be in community for days, even weeks at a time, and there are so many things I love about it! It is a wonderful break in a way, to have so many sets of caring eyes and pairs of loving hands attending to my littles. A change in routine is good for all of us. It gives me a chance to experience space in my relationship with my children. When I watch them with others, it allows me to take note of how they interact with others. When I am with them every day, it is difficult to pull back enough to ‘observe’ our interactions, because I’m too busy being involved. When I have the opportunity to observe them, I find I fall in love with them even more.
Time with others is also wonderful for my children. The holiday parties have offered them more freedom. They can explore the boundaries of others, but often will come up against the same limitations that I place on them. I feel this reassures them in our relationship, that I’m not being difficult by setting limits for them. They get a clearer picture that limitations are placed on them for a reason. When limitations and the reasons for them are the same from multiple sources, it makes it easier for them to accept.
What has been a true blessing this season has been the ability of others in our lives to truly indulge my children! I am not referring to the thoughtful gifts brought for them, but the biggest gift of all in my opinion, the gift of self. I am not able to say ‘yes’ to my children as much as I’d like, since there is only one of me, and three of them most days. But this holiday, the most common response to my children’s requests was ‘yes,‘ and not just in words. So many relatives and friends played with my children. Let them lead the games. Listened intently as they detailed their latest stories. These are the true gifts of the season.
So here we are, at the end of the parties, and I am thankful for the the holiday we’ve had. We talk every year about how to simplify. I think my approach to simplification next year won’t be focussed on how to reduce the amount of time spent with others, but on how to create spaciousness within the time spent together.
Blessings for a Happy New Year!