The week leading up to Christmas can be a very stressful one for us homeschool moms, maybe even more so because the children are with us all day long. We have gifts to wrap, cooking and baking to accomplish, trees to decorate, relatives to appease, and it all must be done with a gaggle of super-excited children under our feet.
It can seem completely overwhelming and make one long for the good old days of July Fourth when all you had to do was throw some meat on the grill and make sure everyone was slathered in sunscreen.There are ways to make the week a little calmer and thereby a little more pleasant for everyone.
1. Have Dad Take the Kids Out
Generally, I am not in the habit of farming my kids out whenever the going gets tough but Christmas week is different. If you try to make some magic for your children on Christmas morning, the element of surprise is helpful, and to provide that you need some kid-free time. Arranging for your husband to take the children out for a few hours the weekend before Christmas would work.
You could get gifts wrapped, something baked without “help” or the house thoroughly cleaned so you start the week with a sense of order. I have also done a kid swap with a friend for this purpose. I will take her kids for a few hours in the morning and then she takes mine for a few hours that afternoon. We each get some time to tie up loose ends in the house and the kids get two playdates in one day.
2. Gather the Clothes Together
Whether you attend the vigil Mass on the eve or morning Mass on Christmas day, it can be hectic getting everyone ready and out the door. Gather all the Christmas outfits a few days early and store them in your own room so nothing disappears. Don’t forget shoes and socks. Have you ever flown into Mass late because one kid can’t find one shoe? Be prepared early and then the dressing will be easy.
3. Stay Home as Much as Possible.
So many nice events accompany Christmas: the parish Santa breakfast, the Knights of Columbus party, the homeschool families’ caroling party. It can keep you even more on the go than usual.
Be very selective in what you say yes to doing and where you go and how long you stay. Staying home ensures bedtimes are observed, sugar intakes are checked and excitement kept to a manageable pitch.
Spend time home as a family reading Christmas books, watching Christmas movies, singing hymns and carols and just observing the season in a way that is meaningful to your family.We love to drink cocoa while I read aloud A Christmas Carol every year. There is also the annual contest to see who has memorized “Twas The Night Before Christmas”. It is all very silly, but a lot of fun. We also read the Nativity story from our collection of picture books as well as from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
4. Keep to Your Routines.
This is a tough one. It really does help to get the children to bed at their regular bedtimes as much as possible, to have meals occur when meals usually occur and to limit the screen time as much as you usually do.If you allow a free-for-all in the name of holiday merry-making, what you will have is some overtired, over sugared, bug eyed little people at Mass on Christmas morning and that rarely works out well for anyone. Don’t ask me how I know this.
5. Plan One Surprise.
When my older children were quite young, I put a letter to each of them from Baby Jesus in their Christmas stockings. Very formal paper and flowing handwriting told them how special they each were to Him and asked them to always be close to Him in prayer. They were thrilled.
Another year, I gave each child a few red hot candies and took them out into the front yard and had them sprinkle them around. The next morning there were plastic candy canes sprouting all over from their “seeds”. Their little faces were worth my husband and I digging in the cold to plant those blasted things. One little bit of extra Christmas magic will create such special memories and foster family bonding.
These days with your family are meant to draw you ever closer to each other and to God, not to stress you out or make you miserable, so enjoy your family, hold close to your traditions, and let the love of a Child fill your heart.
Family Fire image © irina / Dollar Photo Club