Holiday traditions. Can you have too much of a good thing?

Oh, the holidays. It seems the second the jack-o-lanterns hit the compost we gear up to deck the halls. A holly jolly season ripe for memory making. Today, TV and social media are full of ideas on the latest, greatest way to create the perfect holiday memory.

And I soak it up like a sponge. A glittery, red and green, cinnamon-scented sponge.

Very early on in my parenting journey I set out to create memories and traditions for my growing family. Of course memories are created everyday, but the holidays are a hotbed of memory making opportunities. I learned the hard way however, that you can, in fact, have too much of a good thing.

It started years before with the home-made Christmas card complete with a picture of our growing children. At the time it seemed like a great way to connect with friends and family we didn’t see very often! Then came the holiday pj’s – who doesn’t love to come home on Christmas Eve to find a brand new pair of pyjamas to snuggle in to?

Business woman with Santa Hat is in panic because of something.

Year after year traditions were added to the memory making roster: gingerbread house decorating, trips to see the bearded guy in red, an afternoon of holiday baking, personalized crackers for the festive dinner table.

It was all very manageable until the year it wasn’t. And that year it really, really wasn’t.

It was the year I added a home-made advent calendar, cookies in a jar for the girls’ teachers (all eight teachers!) and home-made cake pops shaped like presents—all in addition to my usual annual tasks.

I found myself constantly walking around in a state trying to keep track of where I was on the holiday traditions to-do list. I had no time for anything else. Sit down and watch a holiday film with the family (as noted on December 14 on the family advent calendar)? Only if I worked on my Christmas cards at the same time. I was a multitasking maniac.

Then, it happened. It was past my bedtime on the night before the last day of school. I was tamping down ingredients in a jar (that takes forever by the way), my cake pops were falling off the sticks (who knew the icing-to-cake ratio was such a delicate balance?!), my gingerbread houses were leaning precariously and I lost it.  L-O-S-T it.

I had to give my head a shake. Somehow during all of this frantic memory making, I had lost sight of my goal.

I had been less than patient with my kids, my husband and my co-workers. I wasn’t sleeping well as I was constantly doing checks and balances on the spreadsheet in my mind!  The memories I was creating were of a grumpy, frantic, overwhelmed parent who wasn’t taking time to sit down and just be.

The following year I vowed to do it differently.  This does not mean that I gave up on traditions. I did the opposite. I focused on doing select traditions in a more meaningful way.

Happy family baking Christmas cookies at home. Little boy, girl and mother having fun in domestic decorated kitchen. Traditional leisure with kids on Xmas

After much thought and reflection, I was able to re-frame my mindset.  These tips helped me and I hope they will help you too.

  • Involve your kids (my girls actually came up with last year’s holiday greeting card idea and it was fantastic).
  • Just because you do it once doesn’t mean it has to happen every year. Maybe it becomes cherished because it’s done every other year. Just a thought.
  • Plan ahead and be realistic with the time you have.
  • Be present. Your kids are going to remember that you were there with them baking the cookies, not what kind of cookie you baked.
  • It’s okay to go for convenience. Home-made is awesome but sometimes store-bought treats and a snuggle on the sofa beat the two hours it would take in the kitchen to bake the treat.

And last but not least…

  • Stop and smell the poinsettias. Well, actually, don’t. They don’t smell like anything. But do take time to enjoy the season. You deserve it. ‘Tis the season to be jolly after all.

What do you think? Share with us, we would love to hear from you.

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Nicole O'Donnell, RN

Hi! I have been working as a nurse supporting children and their families in acute care, clinic settings and now in public health for over 20 years. As a mother of 4 girls I am walking the walk and talking the talk – from early elementary to high school; life is never dull! I am so thrilled to be connecting with all of you and look forward to sharing this parenting journey together!
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