The singer Robbie Williams recently said something about his wife in an interview, and it’s been floating around my head ever since:
“She’s like a Professional Memory Maker when it comes to the holidays.”
Initially I loved this! How sweet, he really sees what she’s done, if only we all got that kind of credit! Then it got me thinking about the idea of “Memory Making” for our children, while also attempting to stress less for ourselves during the holidays. I think subconsciously we all strive to make the holidays something out of a Hallmark movie, but when it comes to execution we seem to forget that Hallmark movies are produced by a LOT of people. Therein lies the greatest of Holiday secrets: We can’t do it alone. The magical holiday season you strive for every year – it needs to be done with help – with your own Hallmark production team.
I know, you just read that and went “M’Kay sure sure”, but hear me out.
Getting Dads Involved
I don’t like the idea that this holiday “Memory-Making” is all on Moms. If you’re in a partnership, you have a partner in all this Memory-Making! We now live in a day and age when Dads are more involved than they’ve ever been, and the notion that Moms are the only “Memory Makers” is silly. So start by asking him directly – what are his favorite traditions; from both his childhood and also from your life now? Then put him in charge! We are not the only ones recreating or creating these awesome memories, and we need to stop treating Dads like we’re the only people in the house that can “do it right.”
Here comes the hard part though: This means letting go of some perfect holiday vision you’ve created in your mind, or on your Pinterest board. If we’re being honest, my husband’s wrapping is cringe worthy – seriously, no one needs that much paper or tape. But I let it go. When we decorate the tree as a family, he doesn’t seem to realize which ornaments “shouldn’t” go on the front of the tree – But again I let it go, because does it matter? No. Our son will remember the decorating together, not the two red Santas that should be neatly spaced just so.
Here are some examples of how my own husband takes on “Memory-Making”: Last year he woke up at 6 am, after having gone to bed at 1am due to Midnight Mass, just so he could film our son coming down the stairs Christmas morning. He takes us on a trip to the Mall every year (this is from his own childhood memories, he loves this one). We wrap all the Santa presents together. He makes breakfast Christmas morning. He makes the batch of eggnog in the beginning of the season, and builds gingerbread houses, and then he and our son smash them up on Christmas Eve. Those are some of his favorite things, so he takes charge!
Even If you and your child(ren)’s Dad don’t live together it doesn’t make his traditions any less valid – these will become YOUR child’s memories. I’ve gotten to see this first hand, as my sisters all had other houses growing up – whole other traditions were created that weren’t a part of my memories. A couple I’ve heard about include getting an M&M ornament every year, and eating Swedish food on Christmas Eve. If you’re on good terms, talk about some of the holiday-time events he can take over. Christmas lights at one home and gingerbread houses at the other are still memories for your child(ren). The memories may not be what you always imagined – but that doesn’t mean they’re not special.
Getting Grandparents/Family/Friends Involved
If you just read the last paragraph and said “cool, that’s great”, but you’re a single mom trying to rock this holiday season while also working, and trying to keep your sanity and your budget intact, then let me offer some alternatives. My Mom rocked the single mother scene until I was 7, so all of my core childhood memories and traditions rest firmly in her hard work. They weren’t expensive – decorating the tree, ‘letting’ my sister put the lights on herself, making cookies or crafts. Even making all these memories by herself, she still recruited neighbors and babysitters to help us create ornaments, and gifts for her.
Involve Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, Friends, Cousins – ask them to wrap presents with your child – this will leave some awesome memories for your kid, and also tick a box on the holiday checklist. You may be surprised who’ll be up for it- my Dad, who’s “not really super into Christmas” still wraps every present – he sets up a card table in their bedroom, and watches TV while he does it. To help with her stress levels, each year my nieces come over on Christmas Eve for the day while my sister-in-law works. We make a craft, make cookies, watch a Christmas movie, and I generally let the 3 kids run rampant to get that holiday energy out.
Take a moment to think which of your family members and friends would be willing to take your child(ren) and make a memory? It’s OK to ask for help!! Even one day, one person, could be the sanity saver you need, and it might even create a beautiful memory or tradition for your child.
Doing It Early and Sharing The Load
I’m the type of person who has stockings started in March, makes ornaments in May, and is halfway done with her shopping by the time the first day of school rolls around. I get a lot of eye rolls and “that’s a bit ridiculous” looks if and when I venture to tell people this – but while others are running around spending hundreds of dollars in Target the week before Christmas, wondering how they’ll get them wrapped, AND see the lights AND go the holiday concert AND make-everything-magical-and-I-
Have 20 people on your list? Give your partner 5 of them. Trust that they can figure it out. Don’t enable or get frustrated and take them back. My husband is in charge of a gift for his Mom, and he usually has an idea put together by September. He will then execute that idea on December 23rd, which leaves me *slightly* worried, but she’s never not had a gift to open. He purchases more than enough gifts for our son – he shops online during the year and hides them throughout the basement (shh don’t tell my kid). Is he the only partner who can do this? NOPE. Believe in your partner!
Summary: You can’t do all the “Memory Making” alone. Stop trying- you’re gonna hurt yourself! The great secret about professionals is that they have help! So, if we’re going to pull off this ideal of being “Professional Memory Makers” we need to admit, allow, and adopt help.
Let yourself walk away from 2020 stressing less and “Memory-Making” more. Happy Holidays!