Some Advice You'll Forget By Next Christmas
As adults, we put way too much pressure on children for Christmas.
"Now hold on there, One F," you're saying in a thick Scottish accent because it's my freakin' article and I can make you Scottish if I want, "All a kid has to do is open a mountain of toys. What kind of pressure is that?" I'll tell you, it's more than most can handle.
Christmas is the ultimate in overstimulation for kids. We make them dress in clothes they don't normally wear, associate with people they may not regularly see, force them to tell those same people details about their lives, expose them to other children who they also don't see and may have completely alien manners and expressions to their limited set of experiences, ply them with new and different food, and then shower them with gifts they may or may not have to wait to use.
It's absolutely maddening. Young kids like routine. It makes them feel safe in a world over which they have almost no control. So when you change everything, it can make them go a little loopy. They won't eat the food, or kiss grandma, or any variety of acts that we feel are embarrassing to us as parents. The best thing to do is let them burn off their anxiety in any activity that doesn't out and out endanger them, and allow your family to do some of the policing and watching as well. Don't hover and follow the kids around. They need some breathing space, too.
Buy the Big Black Garbage Bags
Tall kitchen bags are not going to cut it when you start hauling out all the pretty boxes and magically expanding plastic that surrounds your child's gifts. Hell, probably everyone's gifts. Regular bags get sliced open by plastic edges or by the sharp corners of compressed and bent cardboard. Make sure you have one box of the big lawn bags ready for dumping, and allow nothing in there but gift refuse.
As a side note, do not take that bag out until after Christmas is over. It's always a good idea to empty it back out on the floor one time to make sure someone's gift card, laser pistol, LeapPad game or whatever didn't get dropped in by mistake.
Save Your Gift Bags
Seriously, the price people charge for gift bags is ridiculous. Keep all your gift bags and put them in a sack with the rest of your holiday stuff in the closet. I guarantee it will save you $20 to $50 a year on wrapping, not to mention that it's perfect for when you've wrapped all you can and can stand no more.
Pick Three Things That Matter
When I was getting married, someone told my wife and me to each pick three aspects of the experience, it doesn't matter what they are, and those will be the things you don't compromise on. Everything else is negotiable and not worth fighting over. It's the best advice I've ever received, right after never let a goth girl hold your camera unless you want a dozen self-portraits of her.
Christmas means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it's participation in the religious aspect. For others it's a family meal, or getting their kid the one perfect gift, or baking, or ridiculous light displays. When you're looking at this article printed out and taped to the box of lights next year, remember to try and find the thing that means the most to you during the holidays. Do that first and well, and try not to take the rest too personally.