Y'all, I am all written-out. But I'll tell you what, as the pace for the month begins to pick up, I've been thinking a lot about what I wrote last December on the matter of boundaries as it applies to relationships and gifts during the holiday season. So I'm republishing this today as a reminder to myself more than anyone else. Let's all be proactive in cultivating a peaceful holiday season for our families this year!
This week, we've been talking about what we are teaching our children about the holidays. In part 1, we talked about the importance of seeking and maintaining internal peace.
Two aspects of the holidays that send my Peace Meter plummeting are family dynamics and gift giving and receiving. Here's what I've been pondering this season:
This is a difficult area for me. I am, by nature, a people pleaser. If I perceive that someone is unhappy with my choice, I live under the burden of their unhappy feelings, and that is exhausting.
A friend of mine who is a counselor shared this little self-talk script to help me keep my feelings about the feelings of others in check:
I am not responsible for fill-in-the-blank family member/friend's happiness.
If _____________ is mad, that is his/her feeling, and it doesn't have to affect me.
I cannot make _________________ happy.
It's okay that I am happy and he/she is not.
Good boundaries mean that I don't let his/her attitude ruin my holiday.
Good boundaries also mean that my feelings matter just as much as his/hers, and I might need to call him/her on it.
That was so revolutionary to me!
And of course, I still remember that as a follower of Christ, I am to love wholly and sacrificially. Boundaries serve the purpose of keeping bad stuff out and holding good stuff in. For those of us who always have our "feelers" out, it can be very hard to hang on to that internal peace we talked about last time and allow ourselves to be vessels of the love of Christ when we've abandoned boundaries and are allowing the responses of others to take the lead.
Practically speaking, I can't please every single person when we are being pulled on from all sides. Inevitably, someone will be hurt by a choice we have made for our family. That doesn't mean we don't love the person who is hurt, it just means that we have to use wisdom in charting our course through these days.
That script helps me to have a firm grasp on the fact that the way I guide my family through the holidays is not dependent on what will please people outside of our little family of four.
(And I fully recognize that there are some reading who have different temperaments, whose feelers are rarely out, and whose general approach to these dynamics is "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit!" That would be my husband. If you are like him and struggle to understand us feel-y types, please just have grace for us as we work to enjoy the freedom of boundaries and seek to experience that which comes so easily to you!)
Speaking of healthy scripts - this is the time of year I am always reminded of bean dipping. This doesn't apply to us so much anymore as we have moved out of the stage of parenting when everyone has advice (most notably the baby stage, especially The First Baby stage!). I am also more proactive in addressing issues as they arise before unsolicited advice is offered. (Such as, "Oh yes. Three has been a rough age so far! We are learning lots about how to handle these Big Feelings!")
But I wanted to link (again) to this article at Get Off Your Butt Parenting about The Bean Dip approach. Essentially, remember you don't have to engage people in conversation over your parenting practices. You don't have to justify or explain. Plain and simple. "We have done the research and we feel comfortable with our decision. Hey, could you pass the bean dip? Thanks!"
Gifts and Giving
This topic has come up continually in my posts here about Christmas as well as in the discussion of several of my Simple Mom columns on gifts.
In practice, I still get a little freaked out this time of year. Yesterday, Jaime and I were emailing about putting together art supply sets for our almost six year old daughters, and as I realized that shipping deadlines were cutting me off on all sides, I wrote to her that I was not feeling the internal peace!
Intellectually, I know this: We can be smart and intentional about gift-giving. We can set a budget, and I can keep an updated spreadsheet to remind myself of what we have spent on whom. I can start early and not freak out in the last days. This is ESPECIALLY helpful in those last days before Christmas when every time I go into a store, I start to panic and feel like we haven't bought enough.
Kyle and I agree that as the girls get older, there will be less emphasis on what they receive and more emphasis on what we, as a family, will give. I would love to change the social norm from asking children, "What are you getting for Christmas?" to "What are you giving for Christmas?"
About what they get for Christmas.
This time of year, there are always conversations about what to do about the sheer quantity of gifts that pour into our homes, as well as what to do when the gifts our children are given don't mirror our what our families cherish.
Oh my, opinions abound on this matter! We have decided to be at peace with the idea that gift suggestions are just that - suggestions. They are not demands.
The gift-giver gets to choose the gift, and we get to choose what happens to that gift once it enters our home.
As a result, we have many things in our home that we would never have chosen, but our girls have absolutely loved. Other things have predictably fallen out of favor and have found new homes somewhere else. We don't stress over it. We focus on teaching gratitude and graciousness to our children.
* * * * *
How is your internal peace meter right now? Are you feeling anxious about the month to come or are holding steady with peace? What do good holiday boundaries look like for you?