I wrote about this in my email to you a couple of weeks ago, but I feel like I need reminding, so that makes me think you could use reminding, too: This time of year is a trap for kids. And adults. All of us.
It’s a big set-up. Adults are supposed to provide the perfect shiny happy holiday (whether it’s religious Christmas or Hanukkah or cultural Christmas or some mix) OR hold the line against someone else’s holiday encroaching on your family. But at the same time the larger world is smashing us from all angles: other people’s values, magical thinking in public schools that you then have to figure out how to explain without confusing your kid, church obligations, school obligations, giving gifts to teachers, not ante-ing up into other parents’ expectations/obligations, all your family stuff, all your kids’ other parent’s family stuff, doing all the normal stuff you’re supposed to be doing, spending lots of money, trying to deal with the darkness in the morning and evening, and hyped up kids.
And it’s a huge trap for kids. They’re told constantly that they’re supposed to be excited. SUPER EXCITED. That this all means something. And that they get presents. A lot of presents. Brought by a stranger who comes into their house. (But maybe this stranger doesn’t bring them presents, and does that mean they’re “bad”?) And sometimes they have to go see this stranger and are supposed to sit on his lap, which is the opposite of everything they’ve always been told about talking to (let alone touching) strangers or tricky people, and they’re supposed to tell him a secret. And smile for a picture of it. And go to daycare or school every day and do all their normal work, but have everyone be excited about candy and cookies and the mysterious stranger who’s coming into some kids’ houses but not others’, and it’s all very confusing. And then they’re told that all the presents are coming and they’re supposed to be grateful but they’re not supposed to want all those presents at all. And then they have to go to other people’s houses and be well-behaved while a bunch of adults who know them but who they don’t know touch them and ask them all sorts of weird questions. Or, worse, a bunch of people come to their house and kids they don’t know play with their toys and they’re supposed to be happy about it. And they don’t get enough sleep and there’s too much sugar and their parents are stressed and snapping at them and they don’t know why.
IT’S A TRAP.
Kids can’t get themselves out of the trap. Only the adults can.
Step back. Think about what it feels like for your kids today. Think about what you’re expecting of them, given what’s happening, and how reasonable and kind that is. Think about what it feels like for you today. Think about what you’re expecting of yourself, given what’s happening, and how reasonable and kind to yourself that is.
Drink a glass of water.
Make a list of everything you Have To Do and all the things your kids Have To Do. Then go down that list and cross off everything you can.
Be kind. Be soft. Be sweet. Let your children be soft and sweet to you. If you have a partner, be soft and sweet and kind to him or her, and allow them to be soft and sweet and kind to you.
Hide out at home doing normal things. When you do the holiday things, be realistic about how they’re affecting everyone in your family.
If it isn’t helping your heart or your mind or your spirit, don’t do it.
You are worth being treated kindly. So are your kids.
(If you missed it in the email, here’s the Advent Calendar for Depressed People. You know who you are.)