What do children really want? I recently read a study that said that what children really want isn’t a WiiU or an iPhone 6 or a mini Mustang Convertible that can go zero to 60 in, say, three years.
What children want is parents who are in a good mood. (What teenagers want is incomprehensible so don’t even try).
Children, however, are smart. The mom who isn’t growling at her boss and the dad who isn’t anal about the spot on the carpet and the crumbs in the carseat are far more likely to say yes to an extra story, a longer cuddle, ice cream cones. A parent in a good mood boosts personal happiness a millionfold for a kid.
The thing is, how are you supposed to be in a good mood during the holiday season? Especially if your service member is deployed? Let me be your little slacker friend here. I’ve got some parenting tips for the holidays that I am not too shy to share:
1. Cut your to-do list by 20 percent. Literally.The day that school lets out for the holidays is your come to Christmas moment. Sit down and go over your to do list and ruthlessly cut 20% of the things you expect yourself to do.
I mean that you go down the list and slice off every fifth item. I don’t care if that item is the teacher gift or the appetizer you were supposed to bring to the command party. There simply isn’t time to do all that and have the energy to be in a good mood.
My list says that before my mother-in-law arrives tomorrow I need to finish this blog, set the table, buy one more present, make three side dishes, and polish the silver. My silver hasn’t been polished in three years. So that’s the first to go. I’m cutting that gift shopping too, cuz I am an awesome slack maker.
2. Don’t buy that last gift.After years of being the main gift purchaser for this crew, I’ve noticed one thing: the last gift you buy ends up in the garage sale first. You buy that gift because you suddenly feel like everything you’ve done isn’t good enough, isn’t magical enough, isn’t Christmas-y enough to inoculate your kids from disappointment. Know that you will be especially prone to this if your service member is deployed!!!
So you rush out and buy something to fill a gift bag. No child’s favorite gift was ever bought last. Save the energy you would have spent agonizing and play Minecraft or sing Frozen with your kid instead.
3. Stare out your kitchen window.One of my favorite Christmas movies is The Family Stone. In more than one scene, Diane Keaton stands at the kitchen window over her sink and watches the snow fall. I’ve seen my grandmothers do that (my mom would, too, but she doesn’t have a window over her sink. She has to look out her back door which isn’t quite as good.)
The point is that a real slacker mom takes the time to be in the moment. That is the secret. You take a deep breath and remind yourself how old you are, how young your children are, how much you have that matters. And if your service member is deployed, think of your favorite memory of them during the holidays and smile.—even if you cry while you are doing it.
4. Turn the page.At a recent USO Special Delivery event, I was talking to Mary Ann, the spouse of an Air Force pilot who retired after 27 years in the service. They have six kids. Her secret to happy holidays? “My father always said, ‘turn the page,’ Mary Ann told me.
She said that it meant that you let go of negative things that happen with kids quickly. The leaky sippy cup. The tired tantrum. The forgotten mitten. Turn the page. Let those things go. Get back into a good mood as quickly as possible.
5. Do what you all like.I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast earlier this year about best parenting practices. One of the tips from these economists was to drop the activity that people didn’t enjoy (which was usually piano practice).
That works for Christmas, too. Drop the thing that doesn’t make any meaningful memories, the one that makes everyone complain.
Just this year I took advice from Rebekah Sanderlin’s 11 Holiday Hacks for Deployed Parents in her Must Have Parent column-- and dropped the Christmas photo. No one wanted to shave for the picture during Thanksgiving. Including me. We played Hearts instead.
6. Plan a Christmas NapOne of the nice things about starting your own family is that you get to make the rules. If you plan to be in a good mood on the actual holiday, go slacker all the way and make an afternoon nap a cherished tradition.
This shocks my mother and my mother-in-law. Funny, how slacker mom me doesn’t care about that. Everyone nestled all snug in their beds for an hour puts people back into a good mood. And ready to play cards again. Because playing games during the holidays puts everyone in our family in a good mood.
Here is wishing a good mood on you and yours this holiday season. Let the slacking commence!