#3 in an Unplanned Holiday Series!

Title 1: Is this your first Christmas as a family?

Title 2: How to find your new family’s unique path in the Christmas Chaos!

Title 3: A Parent’s Survival Guide for Baby’s 1st Christmas!

Haha! I couldn’t settle on a title for this 3rd of an unplanned Holiday Series!

If this is your first December 25th as a family, there are a lot of questions that surround this massive, culturally driven, pretty much everywhere in the western world event.

It’s hard to ignore. And it can be challenging to navigate when two lives join with a whole host of family backgrounds and expectations.

Not only that, there are social responsibility expectations and it is a time of huge material engagement! You want to make it a nice time for each other and for your little one, and you want to establish your own traditions making Christmas an experience that you can truly look forward to every year.

How does a newly established family celebrate Christmas in a way that expresses who they are?

A family could be a couple or an individual who is a solo parent.

  • How do you want to respond to what seems to have become a “happy” requirement?
  • How can you go about establishing the things that will make it special for you, reflecting who you are and your hopes for the future?

Here are some questions to help guide you through the massive maze of Christmas!

1. Your own backgrounds: What are the values that you hold around Christmas?

Is this a faith-based celebration?

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that for people of faith, there are actually two separate events going on. One is addressed in the next bullet – a fun and festive time of year – and the other is the re-visiting of an event that is part of a spiritual journey. I’ve given up trying to combine them and have learned to appreciate each individually.

Is it simply a fun and festive time of year?

Christmas kind of feels like a collective birthday with presents (we are almost all little kids when it comes to presents!), food reserved for special occasions, and for some, being able to see family and friends who live far away. I really enjoy the month-long feelings of celebration and anticipation, preparing for surprises and get-togethers – mostly – sometimes I can feel overwhelmed!

How do you want your children to experience this time of year?

This is a big question! And this can be where you want to protect them from the part where you feel overwhelmed. A good way to do this is to limit expectations to what you can actually accomplish without too much stress!

What do you want to teach your children over the years?

The answer to this can be combination of the first three points.

Take time to understand what is most important to you and to clearly define the values that you hope your children will absorb.  For example: One of the fun things about Christmas is a larger-than-usual element of kindness and giving to others. I wish this part could last all year! Actually, it can if we want it to and if we work at it.  The idea of looking out for others, especially those are marginalized owing to loss of financial stability, or loneliness, and those who had experienced a death of someone close, can be re-boosted at this time when we celebrate giving in general.

2. Are you interested in how your Christmas might impact the environment?

Gifts: do you exchange? Not exchange? Limit to kids? Nuclear family?

Exchanging presents can become more complicated very quickly when siblings find life partner and have kiddos. My family of 5 – me and four kids – has grown to 18 in the last 10 years! We’ve has to re-think what is feasible for both finance and time spent shopping. We seem to re-visit this question on a yearly basis to see what is most suitable for the most this year.

Purchase from within your community?

I love to support small businesses and especially when they are in my community and I’ve come to know them as acquaintances or friends. The problem can be that their products are more expensive because they are not mass produced. That thought leads nicely into the next question:

Toy quality and quantity:

If this is your first-year parenting, may I suggest: go for less and get better quality!

Quantity: Cheap clutter can invade your home in a blink, and the little kiddo is not likely to participate in the daily clean-up, and they form attachments – so you can’t even get rid of it! Whatever you’re asking for, imagine 10 times that in the next year or two!

Quality: Generally speaking, a toy that has one function or completes it function by pushing one or more buttons, doesn’t help to build creativity. The best toys are ones that leave lots of scope for imagination. As a base for your imaginative purchasing or list-making for relatives, consider that many kids have as much or more fun with a big box than what came in it. My next personal measuring stick is what the toys are made of and I love wooden toys! They are durable, can last a long time, can be repainted, and wood is a natural substance. Lastly, books can be timeless gifts and treasured for years to come.

Wrapping: Did you know that “Canadians Throw Away The Weight Of 100,000 Elephants In Wrapping Paper Every Christmas”???

That’s crazy!

I’m ready to take a deep breath and do things differently this year. Yesterday, I saw a queen-size flat sheet in a thrift store; it looks brand new and is a beautiful fuchsia colour. I think I will cut it to size, just like paper, and wrap with it, finishing with a satin ribbon.

I’m hoping to start a new trend in my circles! The recipient can keep it in their gift wrap and start a collection of their own. By the way, the sheet was $3.50 and will be used for many presents. That’s pretty affordable!

Here’s another fun, easy, and free idea: I recently saw a child’s large birthday gift wrapped in a blanket (from the linen closet) and tied with a scarf as a ribbon (returned to Mama after!). That save lots of paper, tape, ribbon, time, and clean-up!

Are you working towards minimalism – or reducing the amount of stuff that comes into your home?

Again, this is advice to those starting out, or not too far down the road of material overwhelm!

Try to keep things small and limited – you will be so glad for this choice a few years down the road!

Perhaps your gifts could be consumables – beauty products, amazing food, gift certificates, clothes, music, baking (I’m thinking of a 4th  post in this unplanned holiday series – on baking!)

How about the gift of experience? You can read more about Containing Christmas Gift-Buying Craziness here.

Here’s one more idea to help keep the amount of stuff at a manageable level: what about a one-for-one exchange?

For every gift coming in, try to find an item that can be donated.

These are ideas that feel a bit odd to us but that is only because that is what we have grown up with. Whatever you start with your kiddies when they are little, they will grow up with that as being the norm.

This next one can be a huge factor with newly merged households:

3. How to combine the histories and traditions of two families.

Here’s the scenario:

Both families want you to be there so that they can have “ the whole family together.

But only one family can have the whole family together because, if you are a couple who wants to spend the day together, you can only be one place at a time.

I’ve been there and done that both as a mom of kids, and as a mom-in-law. It took time for me to grow into letting go of expectations to make room for others and their thoughts, ideas and hopes for their own expression of Christmas for their family. Sometimes, that might mean being on my own for part of Christmas day, and that’s not so terrible. Actually, it’s kind of nice!

Christmas as a Grandma is not how I imagined it when my kids were younger, but that’s ok. We usually work something out over a couple of days around the 25th. The current plan is that every other year my kids go to their in-laws on the 25th, which works for 3 out of my four kids. I’ve made a decision to be at peace with arrangements that don’t look like a Hallmark Card but, nevertheless, are emotionally satisfying in their own way. And that’s ok because being able to support the happiness of others is part of the season. Right?

4. That’s a lot of stuff to think about! But there is a way to figure it out.

This is a process that doesn’t need to take long – maybe 15 minutes – or however long your little one gives you. For those who imbibe, it’s much more fun with a glass of wine!

Step One: Get 2 big pieces of paper and brainstorm! Each of you, separately, write 3 things:

  • What your families did every year at Christmas and what makes Christmas special to you
  • What do you imagine you will do as a newly formed or growing family
  • What are each of your families are expecting from you now that you are your own family unit.

Scribble it all down:

  • Who shops for who?
  • Do you send Christmas cards?
  • Do you do an annual family photo?
  • Presents – do they go under the tree as they’re wrapped or does Santa bring them on the 24th
  • (Speaking of Santa – did you write letters, leave treats?)
  • When did you open your gifts? On the 24th, 25th? Morning? Evening?
  • What are your favourite seasonal movies and music?
  • Did you go to church on Christmas Eve?
  • What are your traditional Christmas foods & meals?
  • Who is expected to show up where & when?
  • Is there dress code?
  • Are you expected to sleepover?
  • Where do you fit in to all of this!?!?!

Step Two: Circle the things that you love and want to keep! Think of these levels of inclusion:

  • Just you, your partner, and your kids
  • Extended family
  • Friends

This is a super-quick way of seeing where you agree and figuring out where the surprises are before they pop up:

  • Unexpectedly
  • At the last minute and
  • On the way out the door.

Potential disaster! But this doesn’t have to happen.

Step Three: As for those surprises that are bound to surface; it’s ok if you don’t agree!

This is a safe place of quiet conversation and sharing the things that are most important to each of you.

Maybe what you can agree on is to give it a day or two of thought. Then you can come back together with a fresh perspective, a kind understanding of what is important to your partner, and a willingness to be flexible with each other.  

Together, you can define your own story, your own expression of Christmas. Together you can write the story that you want to live out and pass on to your little ones!

If this post speaks to you, let’s book a free 15 minute call. Let’s to find out how we can work together to make your parenting experience better.

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