Okay – I will not lie – for years I didn’t know how to just accept things the way they were and I allowed the fact that we had to travel on Christmas day to really upset me. It wasn’t ever that I didn’t want to see my family. This is the one time a year I get to see my cousins that I grew up with as well as my aunts, uncles and others. It was not that I didn’t want to have my children know their great-grandparents and grandparents. But, it caused me additional stress to have to drag the kids away from their gifts here at home, have everything packed and be on the road on Christmas morning. Often I had worked or taught up to just a few days before Christmas and, in the hustle and bustle of Christmas concerts, programs, parties etc, had not had time to enjoy he Christmas setting I had prepared in our own house.
Now – it really is not a big deal. I still wonder what the novelty of staying in my pajamas Christmas morning and lazing around the house would feel like, but admittedly, I bet I would long for being in the Fairfield/Middletown area with all of our family around us. Not to mention, that after 17 years, I have this down to a science. It is what I know. It is what my kids know. We’ve got this. So, I thought I would share with you some of the tricks I have established to make this trip enjoyable for all – including me.
1. Pack light. The kids will most likely get clothes or want to go shopping for new clothes with the money they receive. Underwear, tooth brushes, clothes for Greg and I pack light and do it sometime on Christmas Eve day.
2. Volunteer to bring something to the meal that doesn’t require cooking on Christmas morning, need to stay hot or cold on our travels and that we can live without if we happen to forget it. For me – it is baked goods (cookies mostly that I can make several days ahead and freeze or store in our extra building), Grandma’s salami and white chocolate candy.
3. Wrap as I buy. I love to wrap gifts but leaving it all to the last minute can make it stressful. If it is done before Christmas Eve, as with the baking, then I can take my “ME” time before we leave.
4. Pack gifts and treats according to where they go. For us, we have to stop at Mom’s and also at Aunt Janet’s. There used to be two more stops on our list. I would sort and separate into different bags and boxes which makes it easier to unload when we get there.
5. Give the kids something to do in the car. When they were little, Santa brought stocking gifts that could be opened in the car and used as entertainment – coloring books, little puzzles, small dolls, books for me to read aloud to them, a snack. I would dole them out about every half hour. This helped me know how many to buy and kept the kids entertained and anticipatory while riding in the car. As they got a little older, we continued this but we made it a game – passing McDonald’s, the next red light etc. Now – Hannah will have her DS and Sarah her phone. Or, gasp, maybe we’ll let Sarah drive. hmmmmmm I don’t know. 🙂
6. Let go of any notions of nutrition. We are blessed that our children do not have food allergies. If they did – this one would not be so easy. But, for the two or three days we are gone I do not worry about what my children are eating. They will not die if they eat too much candy or cookies. If they don’t eat any vegetables, they will live. As a rule, we are healthy eaters and I try to monitor the junk and provide good balanced meals. I am not going to stress if – when they were younger – someone was feeding them more chocolate, cheese, or more chips than I would normally want them to have. Or, now that they are older, they are doing it to themselves. We will get back on track when we get home.
7. Relax about the schedule. Truly, it is Christmas with family, not a business meeting. So, if we are a little later than we said, if we can’t stay as long as we had thought, if weather slows us dow, or vice versa, we did not anticipating arriving so early. Just roll with it.
8. Clear a few days after travel to enjoy my time at home. Realize and accept that we are going to bring home lots of stuff, the laundry is going to be piled up, and I’m going to have to put things away and tidy up before I can sit in front of our own tree and relax. And… that’s okay!
9. Finally, count the blessings of having so many family members around who love us and we love them. Enjoy playing games, singing songs, chatting, taking pictures and revel in the moment. Just like in the classroom I just need to stay present because that is the real present of the season.
So, if you have to travel this year. I’m right there with you. Take a deep breath, relax, let go of perfectionist tendencies (yep I’m pointing at me) and enjoy the season. They pass too soon and I wish I had some of Sarah’s early years back because I allowed the distractions and stress to keep me from fully reveling in the moments.