Monday, December 09, 2013

twenty-one | practising simplicity

Living a less-distracted life : observe your children at this busy time and respect that Christmas is both magical and overwhelming for them.

My children are usually quite difficult on Christmas Day. And I wholeheartedly get it. The anticipation and excitement in the lead up is huge; they've slept lightly and risen early. They seem to experience the full range of emotions: elation, happiness, delight, disappointment, anger and sadness. 

Early on in this parenting gig, Daniel and I decided that we would only have one celebration on Christmas day. Going from one set of Grandparents to another was just too much with a baby in tow - it made it stressful and exhausting, despite the fact that it was only a ten minute drive between houses. It's one of the best decisions we've made - both for the children and us (and our Christmas sanity). But still, emotions are high and patience is low. 

In retrospect, my expectations of the children have been unrealistic around Christmas time, especially when it comes to gifts. You see, I want to teach them gratitude but I also want them to be honest. There's a part of me that expects them to absolutely love their gifts and be so very grateful for them, regardless of the fact that they get more presents on that one day than they do for the entire year. We keep it simple but still; they are surrounded by new toys and books - they don't know where to turn.

This year, if need be, we'll stop whatever we're doing to make sure our day is enjoyable. Presents have been kept to a minimum to ensure the overwhelm isn't too great and if I sense the onset of a tantrum I'll know it's time to step away from the crowd and seek a bit of quiet and one-on-one time (cue: reading books in bed with full bellies). 

For us, the days after Christmas are always our favourites. We spend easy mornings at the beach, snack on left-overs and schedule a siesta every afternoon. There are no plans and no expectations; always a relief after the height of the busy season.

So: recognise that it's an overwhelming time for your children. If you make it easier for them you make it easier for yourself, too. 

ps. a few readers have asked what presents the children are getting. Are you interested in a post about lovely, simple gifts I've found along the way?


  1. Beautifully said.
    We've simplified Christmas for our children too - although it caused a rift in the family with some members not understanding our need to slow down. They are gradually coming to terms with it though.

  2. I agree! We had a huge family Christmas last year and as far as the kids were concerned it was a disaster! Way too many gifts, my oldest started refusing to open any more. Which was mortifying! This year we are staying home, telling family they are welcome to visit for morning tea or afternoon tea and grandparents are under strict instructions that no more than 2 gifts per child should be given. We'll see how it goes 😉

  3. one of my favourite family traditions in our house is one we started the year of the devastating Victorian bushfires.
    that year my children bundled up the majority of their toys and bed linen and we drove to deliver it to the people affected. it was an affecting & valuable experience.
    my children really understood first hand the sadness of being without anything at all.
    we decided as a family that every year in lieu of christmas money our children would decide together on a worthy cause to donate their christmas money to.
    a true celebration & recognition of christmas- the gift of giving.
    this year we are donating to the Red Cross appeal for the Typhoon in the Philippines.

  4. Yes and yes! A terrific post and one I wholeheartedly agree with!

  5. We like to keep things simple here too. Seeing as they're still young and don't understand Christmas (or ownership really) we're giving them things to share. My husband is making a toy kitchen and I've bought a five or so books for them.

    They have so many aunts and uncles (and of course their grandparents) even with just one present from each of them, the girls will end up with more than I think they need. I see a large toy donation being made in not so distant future.

  6. Well done on managing just one christmas celebration! This is our last christmas with just the two of us and there has already been drama. I dread to think what next year will be like ...

    I would love a post on simple presents you have found! Certainly here in Brisbane it is hard to see simple presents for all the millions and millions of other toys and gifts.

  7. It's so hard. I've done the silly thing of pouring gifts onto my daughter, and never will again. I was embarrassed as we watched her open present after present, and felt guilty. This year it is SIMPLE all the way!

  8. Very good advice Jodi. We can all take something from this. A present post would be lovely; I am always looking for these sorts of ideas x

  9. I try really hard not to go overboard, but I just get so excited. To try and curb my shopping, we decided that Santa will bring gifts from a different country each year. We will spend the month of Christmas celebrating, as much as is possible, how Christmas is celebrated in said country. This year we chose Norway (and Scandinavia). It has been so much fun, lighting candles from Queen b (oh those christmas candles are so special) of an evening starting on the first Sunday of December, and sitting around reading Scandinavian Christmas stories together. My husband and I will give him one present from ourselves. I do love CHristmas, but it is so exhausting. We try to keep it simple but our parents don't help us much, all wanting us to spend time with them. Divorced parents makes for a hectic time.

  10. Please, do tell us the gifts! I always love to see your finds for your lil ones! :)

  11. Perfectly timed post! This year is our first year of only going to one family grathering and saving the other for boxing day. One that wasnt easily made - as it meant one side of the family would have to wait, and the other would wait next year - both were not impressed! But after rushing around previous years (and also when I was a child) I couldnt shake the feeling of being overwhelmed everytime I had a thought about the day. So we are sticking to a slower approach - enjoying two days of Christmas instead of one. And our families/relatives will have to adjust if they want to celebrate with us. Came to the conclusion its too much to ask for our kids, let alone hubby and myself. Thank you for this post - it's nice to know I'm not the only one wanting a more simple, less complicated Christmas where I can take the time to enjoy the moments, instead of packing the car for the next house visit.

  12. I completely agree! We are only going to one set of grandparents this year and we have three! It is hard trying to please everyone but we really have to think of our girls (3 and 15months). My father in law is Italian, so we celebrate with him and his parents Christmas Eve. My oldest sister is in the middle of breast cancer treatment so this is a particularly important Christmas for my family and just being together sharing a nice meal is the focus. We've cut out Kris Kringle gifts between the adults and have set limits for the children and are keeping it simple. I'd love to hear what gifts you've come across for Che and Poet! Enjoy the lead up :)

  13. this is the first year we're only doing 1 family get together and we're even sleeping over on christmas eve so it will be so relaxed. I'm looking forward to it.
    I'd love to hear more about your gifts. :)

  14. yes please. this is our first christmas as a family of three. we'd prefer to keep our distance from all the 'plastic' out there and are doing our best to stick to handmade gifts, although with a little one its a tad harder than i had anticipated to find time to sit at the sewing machine, so we're in need of some gift inspiration!

  15. I remember as a child no one ever really being happy with Christmas. We would race through Christmas lunch only to sit in the car for hours to get to my other grandparents for dinner. We were always so cross by the time we arrived the last thing that we were capable of doing was being grateful for the gifts we received. My parents therefore made the rule that every other year we would spend with them and in the off year we do our own thing (which for most of us is spend time with the other family). Although this can still cause its issues at least we can enjoy where we are in any one year and appreciate the blessing of family.

    Merry Christmas


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