Thursday, 21 December 2017

Do We Need To 'Make' Christmas Magical?

I'm feeling a bit guilty at the moment. I keep seeing families taking their children on all sorts of fancy Christmas experiences, that they've booked well in advance ... and what have I done with my kids? Taken them to the local lights switch on at the end of November and the local lantern parade last weekend. That's it. Apart from a quick trip to the German Market in Leeds we have no other plans.

We had talked about doing something more this year, but we just didn't get anything organised. And it's not just lack of organisation - finding something that fits around school and weekend clubs, that's suitable for both kids, and that won't be too busy and overwhelming for Girl Child (who can be quite sensitive to new experiences and busy environments) has been nigh-on impossible. And there's always the risk of forking out and travelling miles for an experience that one or all of us will hate.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

But then part of me thinks, how necessary are these experiences anyway? My best Christmas memories are of singing around the village Christmas tree, going to the school fair and so on. I don't know if these big Christmas events just didn't exist thirty years ago or whether it just wasn't practical for us to go, but I certainly don't feel like I missed out. I remember feeling that Christmas was magical without going on any day trips.

It's not just the events. Social media is awash with elves on shelves, recommendations for where to get a personalised letter from Santa and Christmas Eve box 'must-haves'. Again, if you want to do these things and you're happy to put in the effort and/or money then great! But it does feel like there is an element of pressure, especially as children hear their friends talking and come home wanting to do the same things. And again, none of these things existed when I was a child.

It feels like there is a pressure to 'make' Christmas magical for our children, and at a time of year when there is enough stress going on, do we really need it? When there are cards to write, presents to buy, endless school events to remember - do we need the added strain of a family day out, or positioning an elf in a funny scenario every night? If you enjoy it, great, but how many parents actually dread trying to find the energy to TP their living room and suspend the elf from the ceiling once the kids are in bed?

And I know I'm not immune to this. A comment on my Book Advent post got me thinking about whether this would be too much pressure for some families. I did collect the books over three years rather than having to get all 24 in one go, and the books just appear one at a time in a Christmas gift bag hung on a hook on the kitchen door. As we have bedtime stories anyway it's very little extra hassle for me, but perhaps for other families it would be too much?

Then there's the Advent Acts Of Kindness too, which were fun last year but this year have been more of a chore, for me and for Girl Child. It's made me question whether I'm buying into this sense that I have to do something to make the run-up to Christmas more exciting, when as a child a chocolate before breakfast every morning was excitement enough! (Actually I remember having picture advent calendars when I was very young, and I still felt excited by them!!)

I sometimes think social media has turned parenting into a performance. We see other people sharing photos of their kids doing exciting, magical stuff and feel that what we're doing isn't enough. Events pop into our Facebook feed, with a message about how many of our friends are going to them, and we feel we should go too. But is it about what our children want or need? Is it about what we as parents can handle on top of everything else? Or is it about being seen doing Christmas 'right'?

This post is not for the people who enjoy Christmas events, or Elf On The Shelf, or any of the other modern 'traditions' that have sprung up in recent years. This post is for the people who feel they have to do all this even though it adds to the stress of the season. This post is for the people who haven't done anything more than buying Advent calendars and putting up the tree.

Christmas is magical enough as it is. Just do what you can do, what you want to do. The kids will be happy with whatever it is.


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