Slowing Christmas Down

Regardless of your reason for celebrating, the Christmas season can be full of warmth, relaxation, and joy if you take a little time to reflect on what works for you and your family! If you keep the focus on the simplicity of being together you will experience all the true magic the season has to offer.

Before we had a family, Christmas consisted of cramming as much visiting and food into 48 hrs as humanly possible. We were driving an absurd amount trying to fit everyone in to our tight schedule. It was exhausting and super emotionally charged. Once we had our own family, it became clear that our old traditions stopped working.  I remember wondering one Christmas day when my daughter was a baby, “Why did I just drive an hour to my family celebration to nurse my child in a room by myself on Christmas day?” It didn’t feel very festive. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just time to make traditions that reflected my new season of life.

At first, we didn’t know how to change them without hurting people’s feelings or feeling like we were missing out on what was important. But when we started talking to our family about it, everyone was quite understanding and we eventually came up with a few solutions that felt right.

The first thing we did was extend the season of celebrating.  It took so much pressure off and also gave us more to look forward to over the month. Food even tasted better when it became spread out over several events, rather than 3 back to back turkey dinners.   We started new traditions like our Sibling Christmas dinner one week before the big day. We also invited people to our house when possible. And we learned that it was actually nice to be able to enjoy Christmas day with the 4 of us. After all, we were a family now too! It was so wonderful to be able to slowly savour the excitement of Christmas day when we didn’t have to rush off anywhere. We could stay in our pajamas, play together, and watch the snow fall where it may without having to go anywhere. 

If you are looking to make changes to the way you celebrate, here are some ideas to help you sort it all out:

  1. Reflect on what events/celebrations actually bring you joy. Ask your partner and kids how they feel too! Pare down what you will attend by offering to alternate years with people (ex, this year you will go to your parents, next year your partner’s parents).
  2. Try spacing out events over the course of the month and if possible, only commit to one event per weekend (Especially if you have any introverts in your family!)
  3. Keep a list this year of what worked and what didn’t and remember to read it in November of next year so you can modify your plans (we do this every year and I cannot express how helpful it is!).
  4. Buck tradition. Tradition shouldn’t be a chain that ties you down, it should be something that brings you happiness and comfort. If it’s time to make a new one, that’s okay! And don’t let the new one be set in stone either. When our children are growing, each phase allows for different possibilities, so it’s natural to need to change things up every few years.
  5. If your extended family is less than supportive about your new ideas, be gentle but firm. Encourage them to be open to coming up with a new solution. Sometimes people forget how difficult it is carting young children around who are tired and/or over-stimulated from so much excitement! Your family should always be top priority.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to what other families are able to do. Each family is unique and has different needs and energy levels. Make a plan that feels right for you.
  7. Make sure you are getting enough rest and taking good care of yourself during the season. Take those supplements, dial UP the self-care (not down!).

Regardless of your reason for celebrating, the Christmas season can be full of warmth, relaxation, and joy if you take a little time to reflect on what works for you and your family! If you keep the focus on the simplicity of being together you will experience all the true magic the season has to offer.

Halloween Without Sugar Overload

What I learned that night,  was that sometimes a thing isn’t about what you think it’s about. I thought Halloween was about collecting and eating a pillowcase full of candy. But it turns out, it’s about getting a little spine-tingling thrill, sharing with your community, and finally feeling (and looking) like the superhero that you really are.

We may be unconventional in our house, but I have come to believe that you can still participate in many traditions without violating your own personal values.  So, when my son was old enough to start trick-or-treating, we started to think about how we would celebrate Halloween in a more healthy way.

We weighed the obstacles:

  1. Typically, the candy being given out is full of ingredients and practices that we are not comfortable with ( ingredients that are artificial, detrimental to the environment, or produced using slave labour).
  2. Too much sugar weakens our immune systems, and negatively effects behaviour and sleep cycles (as well as a host of other things).
  3. Knowing all of the above, I would, without a doubt, end up eating most of that candy, which is a) terrible and b) completely unhelpful to me

That being said,  it’s super fun to trick or treat! I wouldn’t want my kids to miss out on any kind of old fashioned fun, especially when dressing up is involved. So, with a slight alteration, we found a way to join in.

We would dress up, we would trick or treat to our heart’s content, but when we got home we would swap out the candy for a special treat that we parents approved of. We also tried to purchase candy for the trick-or-treaters that was sweetened with fruit juice and contained no artificial ingredients.

When the big night came, we took a very spooky and exciting tour around our  neighbourhood. When we got back home, Fynn promptly poured his bag of treats into the bowl for trick-or-treaters. No fuss. No disappointment. We quickly handed him his treats-to-keep and he was delighted!

Much to our surprise, what made him even happier, was handing out candy to all the trick-or-treaters. He stayed by that door all night, waiting to dish out generous supplies of candy to pirates, ninjas, and princesses galore.

What I learned that night,  was that sometimes a thing isn’t about what you think it’s about. I thought Halloween was about collecting and eating a pillowcase full of candy. But it turns out, it’s about getting a little spine-tingling thrill, sharing with your community, and finally feeling (and looking) like the superhero that you really are.

That’s something I can get on board with.

halloween

Happy Halloween!

If you would like more information on chocolate made without slave labour, check out  slavefreechocolate . You might be surprised to discover that GiddyYoYo, an amazing local company (Mono, Ontario) has made the list of ethical chocolate producers 🙂

 

Lessons in Learning to Ride a Bike

We worry over milestones constantly. And our adult minds are so quick to meet trouble halfway when all we really need to do is to wait and hope*.  Even when we aren’t sure, it is our duty to encourage the impossible.

A few months ago, we bought my son a bike for his birthday. We tried the pedal-less running bike. It worked amazingly. In a few short sessions, he was zooming down the driveway, looking and feeling pretty confident about “riding his bike.”

After a few weeks of that working, we decided to jump right in and put those pedals on. It did not go so well. It was much harder than he (and I) had expected to pedal and balance at the same time. Suddenly, riding his bike was not so fun and the bike started to get pretty comfortable resting in the corner of the living room.

As summer was coming to a close, I realized if we didn’t do this soon, it would be another year before any bike riding would be taking place. So my husband suggested taking just 5 minutes every day to practice.  I think I was even more reluctant than my son about this regime. The thought of trying to practice something that you can’t do is kind of discouraging.

After 2 days of holding on to the back of his bike while he focused so intently, I started to wonder, “Is this even possible?”  However, on the 3rd day of practice, I felt this moment where I could tell my son was balanced, so I just let go. And before he even knew it, he had ridden his bike for about 5 seconds.  He was so happy. was so happy. Deliriously. Because when our children feel joy, we feel joy 10 fold.  That is one of the sacred gifts of parenthood. The immense pleasure of being a witness to our children’s lives.

The next day Fynn said he was going to try riding his bike by himself. And then he did. Up the street, down the street, and back about 20 more times, every single time, yelling out at me, “I can’t believe I can ride my bike!”

I’m not sure why bike riding is such an important skill to master as a child. Maybe because it is our first taste of freedom, of feeling that our bodies can propel us forward. We feel the wind in our face and the strength of our limbs. We can move ourselves, in any direction we choose.

The following Saturday Fynn rode over 20km in one day with my husband.  He is now a full fledged bike riding machine/maniac. As I watch those two riding down the street together, off on another adventure, I can hear a page turning in the chapter of Fynn’s life.  There is a new boys club in my house, a cool, special bike riding club that both father and son are getting HUGE amounts of fun from.  And my heart is soaring for both of them.

As parents, we always want our children  to feel successful in their endeavors. We worry over milestones constantly. And our adult minds are so quick to meet trouble halfway when all we really need to do is to wait and hope*.  In each lesson our children learn, there is always a lesson for us as parents. On that day I learned that even when we aren’t sure, it is our duty to encourage the impossible.

* “Wait and hope” ~ The Count of Monte Cristo

How We Lost a Tooth without the Tooth Fairy

A few months ago, my son informed me that his front tooth was loose.  Ever the skeptic, I said, “Are you sure?” And as I pressed gently on this tooth, I was shocked to discover it WAS loose.  Why was I so shocked? Well, he wasn’t even 6 yet, and, how could he possibly be loosing teeth when it feels like he just got them? Didn’t I just pour my love over him through sleepless nights of teething pain? And now, it’s on to the next stage already.

A few months ago, my son informed me that his front tooth was loose.  Ever the skeptic, I said, “Are you sure?” And as I pressed gently on this tooth, I was shocked to discover it WAS loose.  Why was I so shocked? Well, he wasn’t even 6 yet, and, how could he possibly be loosing teeth when it feels like he just got them? Didn’t I just pour my love over him through sleepless nights of teething pain? And now, it’s on to the next stage already.

Parenting seems to have a constant forward momentum. We just master one developmental age and then, suddenly, it’s over, and we are starting from scratch again. It is very humbling.

In my house we tend to do things a bit unconventionally. We are still finding our footing when it comes to our beliefs and values and the way we’d like to help shape childhood in our family. After considering the concept of the tooth fairy, we decided against it. (Insert gasp here). That tradition didn’t fit into the idea of earthly magic and wonder that we’d like to cultivate. That being said, we very much believe in celebrating milestones in our own way.

A few weeks after the initial announcement of the loose tooth, my son called out from the living room, “Mumma! My tooth came out.” I ran in, and was so fortunate to witness that tender expression of pride and excitement. I held that little, tiny tooth in my hand, and felt the weight of that moment.  My husband came running in to investigate and share in the commotion.

That teeny tooth was a big deal.  I felt the pendulum swinging from childhood to youth. My first-born was heading towards something new.  It was thrilling and ever so slightly bittersweet as well.

We came to the conclusion that there would be no secret, stealthy fairy in the night getting all the glory. We would share this moment together. We would be the revelers, finding a new home for that tooth, and our son would know exactly where it was because he would get to choose its final destination.

The result? As per Fynn’s request, the tooth is to be buried at Grandma and Grandpa’s. That night, a candlelit dinner and dessert was served and heartily enjoyed. We decided to give him a small gift to commemorate this rite of passage.  My husband presented Fynn with a  geode, which he got to chisel open, and wasn’t he quite surprised to find that the unassuming rock contained an incredibly sparkling,  crystal world within?  Now that’s my kind of magic.

This Too Shall Pass

As we raise our children, we soon discover there is a fluidity to life  that we cannot stop.  Each moment seamlessly carries us into the next, and before we know it, that moment is gone and a new one is before us.

 “Well, that was life. Gladness and pain . . . hope and fear . . . and change. Always change! You could not help it. You had to let the old go and take the new to your heart, learn to love it and then let it go in turn. 

~Anne of Ingleside, L.M Montgomery

I used to think the phrase “this too shall pass” was just something we needed to hear in times of peril and suffering, but, after becoming a parent,  I came to see that it has a broader, bitter-sweet meaning as well.

When my son was born, everyone told us how quickly that first year goes. We didn’t believe it. We couldn’t ever imagine our little baby any different than he was at  that moment. Now, he is 6 and has a sister who is 3 (what!). That small, delicate, child is gone, and I now have the pleasure of knowing an equally delightful but entirely different little boy.

As we raise our children, we soon discover there is a fluidity to life  that we cannot stop.  Each moment seamlessly carries us into the next, and before we know it, that moment is gone and a new one is before us.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to remember that in the midst of sleepless nights and endless dirty dishes? Doesn’t it always seem as if a bad moment will NEVER pass? But it will. And so do good ones.  That is, the sweet, tender moments where your babe is sleeping peacefully, mouth fluttering all the while. First steps, first giggles, first words, first hugs. They go.

Why do we always wonder when our child will hit that next milestone. Why are we always wishing time away when, in these quickly passing years, we should be cherishing each moment. It is in our nature, and the nature of the world, to change.  Things can’t and won’t stay the same.  

So the next time your child does something that makes your heart soar, revel in it for a little while. Let it wash over you as you hold on to that beautiful, transient moment. Because, this too shall pass.

How to Make Amends with your Children

When I think of the unconditional love that children have for their parents, it almost hurts me. I feel it is such an honour to possess that love, and that we also need to be very careful with these little vulnerable beings who are so forgiving.

“The source of everything, is in our eyes. I see the good in yours, seeing the good in mine.” ~Sarah Slean

Sometimes, in my quest to be a good parent, I make a mistake. Sometimes, in spite of all that I know, I do or say the wrong thing to my children. I know the moment is coming before it even happens, I feel my patience thinning, for whatever reason, and instead of lovingly responding to my child, I do that ugly, reactive thing instead.

Those moments are very hurtful for everyone involved. But, after I am able to collect my true self, I realize that I need to make amends. The benefits of apologizing to your child are numerous; it let’s them know you aren’t perfect (which they sometimes believe in childhood), it teaches them conflict resolution, loving communication, and so on. But there is one really amazing thing about apologizing to your child.

They always forgive you. Completely.

When I look into my son’s eyes, hold him close, and say “I’m sorry that I…,” he says, with such love and understanding, “That’s okay.”

I can’t really explain what a gift that can be to a parent, who is really trying their best, but occasionally makes a mistake.

When I think of the unconditional love that children have for their parents, it almost hurts me.  I feel it is such an honour to possess that love, and that we also need to be very careful with these little vulnerable beings who are so free with forgiveness.

I have also learned something else from these exchanges with my children; I deserve forgiveness. Even though I don’t necessarily believe that all of the time, I am learning that everyone make mistakes, and that if we are sorry and try to make improvements, we do deserve forgiveness.

Because, sometimes when my children look into my eyes, I get this feeling that they can really see me. The real me. And they love that person.  That hopelessly flawed person.  So after I make amends, and am forgiven, I try to remember to give myself that forgiveness too.