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Living Fully – Why I’m Not Bringing Our Holidays Down a Notch

Bring the Holidays Down a Notch

Yesterday, I refused to take Grace to Girl Scouts because it was snowing and the roads weren't plowed or treated. She was disappointed.

Last week, I broke the news to Grace that we are not going to participate in the homeschool co-op next year. She was disappointed.

Last month, Grace's friends at church went to Disney World (for two weeks!). They came back and told her all about the rides and the food and the characters. Grace asked if we could go to Disney World. I told her that maybe, some day we could, but it's very expensive and will require years of saving all our extra money. She was disappointed.

When I was still working, we went out to eat two or three times a week. Grace remembers that, and she asks why go out to eat so rarely now. She's disappointed; she feels like she's missing out.

My point is that our kids are disappointed because of the decisions that we make all the time. Handling our kids' disappointment is another part of parenting, just like dealing with wiggly teeth and scraped knees and stinky feet.

Oh, the stinky feet in this house.

Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan posted yesterday about her kids' disappointment because no leprechaun visited their home on St. Patrick's Day. She writes:

I don't like the feeling of disappointing my kids. But I refuse to give into this holiday overkill. I'm overwhelmed enough as it is… I can't have these haphazard, once-monthly overblown holidays take over my life.  I can go big for Christmas and Easter. That's all I can handle.

But I can't do this alone. Fellow parents . . . teachers . . . sunday school workers . . . I beseech you. BRING IT DOWN A NOTCH.  Y'all are setting up expectations that I just can't maintain. Wouldn't we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY?

For the sake of overwhelmed parents like me, I beg you. Stop the madness.

Her post touched a nerve. It has 1,000 comments and has been shared 121,000 135,000 times on Facebook. Readers are divided – some gave the post a standing ovation, others lashed out in anger, calling Kristen lazy (among other more colorful things).

In the wake of the post, Kristen posted an addendum, stating that it was sarcasm and hyperbole and adding this:

If you are feeling offended, that wasn't my intent. But it might be wise to consider why the offense is there, and in what ways we all (myself included) might be contributing to a culture in which mothers feel like the need to “do more” is distracting from the main event: quality time with our kids.

I am typing this with a green boob. (Well, sort of green. It's faded some.) I believe in holiday magic. I go out of my way to make it happen, not at the expense of quality time with my kids, but to its enrichment.

My children will be children for a very short time, and I want to pack as much fun and excitement and magic into their childhood as is possible.

Is every day fun and rosy?

Obviously, it is not. This is life, after all. People get sick. Pets die. Children misbehave. Disappointments come in so many forms.

I can't control them, and I gave up trying a long time ago.

You know what I can control?

Lucky the Leprechaun. The Tooth Fairy. Christmas and birthdays and Easter and Valentine's Day and tea parties and Rice Krispie nests.

I can live fully. I can teach my kids to celebrate their days, to enjoy life, to have fun. I can teach them leisure and affection and resilience by watching the disappointments roll by and still choosing happiness.

I'm not going to bring our holidays down a notch.

I'm sorry that other people's kids might be disappointed by my choices. Each family makes its own decisions, and doing more is what's right for mine.

© 2013 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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21 thoughts on “Living Fully – Why I’m Not Bringing Our Holidays Down a Notch”

  1. I really love this post. I completely agree with you … and yet I part of me agrees with Kristen too. As parents we’ve got to parent the way WE want to and need to for our family and ourselves. Comparing ourselves will only drive us crazy.

  2. Long before Pinterest, or blogging, I was taking handmade gifts to my kids classroom for every holiday and helping them craft something fun, I was throwing elaborate parties, and making goofy fun food. I was scrapbooking all of our memories. I made yearbooks for each of the kids in the class documenting every field trip they went on and every fun activity they did throughout the year.

    It’s what I enjoy. It’s what makes my kids happy.

    I don’t plan on stopping what I do and what I have always done.

    • That’s pretty much where I am, too. I do it because we love it, and I love it. It’s fun. I feel badly for people who do the same things out of some sense of obligation or just to avoid their kids’ disappointment. I think they’re missing the point.

  3. I completely agree that our children grow out of the wonder and awe far too soon, so I commented on Kristen’s post that I use the KISS method in much of my parenting. You may think knitting a halloween costume might be simple, while that would stress me out. I like taking little steps to make something seem wonderful for my children and one thing I dislike is when other parents/adults speak about what is real and what is a fantasy. Let us decide that for our own families. I still believe!

    • Agreed. I didn’t comment on Kristen’s post because I didn’t think there was a point. There’s not going to be any real conversation between commenter 1,027 and 1,028, know what I mean?

  4. I definitely see both sides of this one. When my daughter was 4, a classmate brought an American Girl doll to show and tell. REALLY? My daughter, who before only wanted “fairy pencils” wanted the “most beautiful doll in the world.” And while I could tell her that mommy and daddy didn’t think a $100 doll was appropriate for a 4 year old, how to explain Santa can’t make her one? Aunt stepped in a year later and got her one so that problem was solved, I suppose.

    And the Elf thing? I mean I can barely clean up after myself and the kids…I am supposed to create a mess and then get stuck cleaning it? OH, THAT WACKY ELF! And while I don’t mind explaining to my kids that sometimes we don’t have enough money or time for something, it is harder to explain why a magical creature visits their friends but not them.

    At the same time, I am that crazy craft mom. “Pinterest, You’re Drunk” follows me. And I’m proud of that fact.

    I don’t sew, I don’t garden. And I definitely don’t garden and then take my organic vegetables and make my own baby food, which I then do NOT jar with homemade matching labels.

    So, we all have our things that we enjoy doing with our families…and things we just skip on. Hopefully there is enough overlap between the things we do and the things that are magical and special for our children.

    I do get the sense, though, that parenting has become a competitive sport…and that’s unfortunate.

    • I agree with you for the most part, Candace. I think you’re right that a lot of parents feel like it’s a competitive sport, and I don’t understand that feeling.

      I do what I do; you do what you do. We can all be content that we’re doing what’s best for our own families.

      Why do some feel the need to compare or compete? I think it comes from insecurity. I have plenty of insecurity, but not about my parenting. 😉

      • I don’t think Kristen’s post came from a place of insecurity. I think it also comes from just sheer exhaustion. I remember the first preschool my daughter went to. EVERY SINGLE holiday and birthday involved GOBS of candy coming home. I said “no” to 90% of it but it does become frustrating. Our kids are in school for so much of their waking hours (if they go to school) and it can sometimes feel like schools ramp up expectations for every holiday, major or minor. Kristen definitely called out the schools as much as or more than other parents on this.

        I certainly don’t remember this craziness from my childhood. So, I do think that expectations are being ramped up.

        I don’t think it is an issue if Parents A like to garden and Parents B like to sew and Parents C like to throw awesome parties…it becomes an issue when the kids come into school on March 18 and have the prompt, “At my house, the leprechaun…” or on December 12 have to draw what their Elf did last night or have to bring in 25 homemade Valentines by February 14.

        We enjoy making homemade Valentines but no one should call me lazy if next year I buy the $3 pack at CVS.

        • I didn’t mean to imply that Kristen’s post came from insecurity. I meant that I think the feeling of competition comes from insecurity. Like, mom A wants to do the things that mom B does so that her kids think she’s a good mom. Does that make sense?

          Our daughter’s preschool was like that, too. We embraced the celebrations and hid the candy. 🙂

          Since we homeschool, I don’t have any experience with the prompts thing. I understand what you’re saying, though, and I think that would be insensitive of a teacher to assume that everybody’s family does the same thing. When I taught (high school), I went out of my way to make sure that I wasn’t excluding any kids, even going as far as to allow them to do research-based activities in school rather than for homework because some kids didn’t have access to a computer.

          Even if someone called you lazy for your $3 pack of Valenintes, would it really affect your future choices? I agree that the insult would sting, but if you’re confident in yourself and your parenting, other people’s opinions shouldn’t matter.

          • I understand the concept that if you feel bad about your choices, it is an insecurity…but I am still sympathetic to the parents who just feel the weight of pressure from all these sources. You do avoid a lot of that if you are homeschooling.

            My point is more that it is a valid thing to say you are fed up with all the pressure…even if you don’t bow to it. And it is a valid thing to point out the negative effects of trying to do it all.

            I think it is important to point out that OK, maybe they throw these incredible parties and their house is always neat but your concentrating on teaching my kids another language/traveling/crafting/whatever. At the same time, I think it is easy to see how the pressure to do ALL these things can become frustrating and overwhelming and people just need to vent sometimes…not about the one mom who genuinely enjoys quilting personalized pillows for each graduating kindergartner…but about the culture that has created 20 moms in the kindergarten class who feel the need to go all out for everything all the time.

          • I wanted to add…one thing I’ve been fond of saying since before I was a mom is that just because someone appears to have it all together, that does not make it true…and that you never know, someone else might think YOU are the superwoman. I know some people look at my facebook posts, my blog, or even just see me in public and think, wow, she brings her kids to all these interesting events…and does crafts with them…and makes it educational… but if they saw the room where I hide the mess when we have company, or took a good look at my flower beds that still have last fall’s leaves in them, they’d know I am definitely not Superwoman.

      • Also, I think it is important to get both out there–the tutorials and the inspiration for those who want them…and the moral support for those who just want to put on a green t-shirt and call it a day. That’s part of what blogging is about…getting things off our chests and letting others know they aren’t alone!

  5. I’ve never been able to keep up with all of this. The leprechaun never visited our house. The tooth fairy forgot a whole bunch of times and instead came a day (or two) late. Finally our oldest caught my husband in the act of putting money under the pillow, and then proceeded to tell his sister that we were the tooth fairy. I really could appreciate that scene in the movie Grownups where the frazzled mom just said she’d give her the money. That’s so something I would do. I’m far from the perfect parent…but at the end of the day, I don’t really want to keep up with everyone else. I just want to be me. My kids know I love them, and that’s what counts.

  6. I love this post! I completely agree with you! I love doing these things! I want to embrace the brief childhood that my guys have <3

  7. I get where both of you are coming from on the subject. I also can’t afford to send my girls to Disney and they aren’t able to participate in certain activities. I don’t make as big a deal as some parents over certain holidays, but we do enough, they are happy with that.

  8. Tara, I wanted to say that I loved your input on HuffPost Live last night.
    I was supposed to be on the panel as well, but had a scheduling conflict.
    You did a great job! All of you did! We are very similar how we both celebrate big.
    Here is my post that I wrote a few weeks ago about being one of those moms:

    Glad to have found your blog, looking forward to reading more!

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