Finding Joy in Simple Ways

In the crazy, overscheduled, overstimulated world that we live in, it can be awfully hard for adults to find real joy and meaning in the holiday season.  I think that many of us are great at forcing it and faking it, but do you ever feel the same magic you felt as a child?

I am an incredibly nostalgic person. I spend a lot of my time thinking about the past in a very idyllic way. I know that life has never been perfect and I, for sure, did my fair share of complaining growing up about how unfair something was or how I couldn’t wait to be an adult. But the holidays were a time that always felt different – lighter, more fun, more cozy.  There was so much anticipation from Thanksgiving on it was hard to breathe.  There was the first snowfall, picking out the perfect best friend necklace at Claire’s to gift your pal, Christmas carols, Christmas movies, Christmas cookie baking.  Teachers lightened up on homework, dance teachers let you stray from your normal routine of plies and jetes to learn a fun holiday hip hop routine.  You could spend hours looking at twinkle lights or curl up by the tree and drink cocoa past your bedtime. It was like time stood still.

As an adult (and particularly as a woman and as a mom), I sometimes find myself getting wrapped up in how my holiday season APPEARS.  It’s like there is a checklist in my head: must make house look clean and magical and smell like balsam fir at all times.  Must make cookies for the whole block.  Must gift everyone in my family and Chris’s with the perfect gift.  Must make sure my child gets everything under the sun that might make him happy (when really, he’d be happy with a box and a wooden spoon).  Must make sure stockings are stuffed. Must send the perfect Christmas card. Must donate to charity. Must find all nearby holiday activities and participate in them.

The thing is – those are all things I WANT TO DO.  I ENJOY them.  They ARE magical and wonderful and done in the spirit of the season.  But sometimes when you turn something from a want to a need in your head, it takes away some of the spark in your heart.

So, my goal for myself this year was to simplify life.  Christmas cards and gifts would be ready by December 1.  I would embrace experience over the material. House décor would remain simple and tasteful and cozy.  Cookies would be made but with my kid and with the understanding that half the fun would be making a mess and eating the batter and listening to Christmas music together.  And that I was going to find joy in the little moments.

In the spirit of the season, I want to share with you some of those moments I have started to allow myself to notice.  My hope is that if you are currently in that stressed out, crazed mindset, this might help you take closer note of some pretty magical moments that might be happening right under your nose:

 

  1. I was singing Oh Holy Night to Logan while he was half asleep the other night. We were in his room, sitting on the rocking chair. His head was nestled on my shoulder and right in the middle of the song, he picked it up, looked at me and smiled ear to ear and then fell sound asleep.

 

  1. When we made cookies together the other day, he was beyond excited to participate. I let him help mix, watched him lick the spoon and then smiled while he stood looking through the window of the stove to see them bake.

 

  1. Every morning, we add an ornament to the beautiful advent tree that Grandma Deb made. Logan picks a spot and that is where it goes.

 

  1. Every night, like clockwork, my little guy walks over to the record player and points. That’s my cue to turn it on.  And since we have ONE Christmas record, we listen to Johnny Mathis. Every. Single. Time.  Usually we dance.

 

  1. The other night, we walked around the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights. I didn’t rush him – I let him stroll and stop when he wanted to (which was often). It felt good to slow down.

 

I am not telling you this to give you the false impression that there is no stress in this head of mine – there is a lot. Anyone who knows me knows I am constantly making a list, setting reminders, and rushing rushing rushing to get one million things done at the same time.  Work has been stressful, there are still loose ends to be tied, and I am constantly convinced I am going to forget something. But I am telling you moms and ADULTS out there to give you hope that if you let yourself pause for just an extra moment on occasion, you may find the simple pleasures of a childhood Christmas again. Be silly. Dance with your kids. Give an extra snuggle and sing one more song at bedtime. Sit with your cocoa and stare at your Christmas tree in the dark for 5 whole minutes when you first get up or right before you go to bed. Refrain from honking your horn as you drive, hold the door open, make a donation to a charity or volunteer just a few hours of your time to a worthy cause.   Run straight outside when those first snowflakes fall and taste them on your tongue. Do all of those things or do ONE of those things – and don’t do it to check it off a list.  Give yourself grace. After all, your child will likely forget about 90% of the gifts you gave them once they become adults.  But they will always remember the smell of freshly baked cookies and balsam fir, they will remember the songs you sang together, and they will remember the way a cozy house filled with LOVE made them feel.

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