Don’t stress about presents
Best family gift this year? The lack of pressure might surprise,
This is a good year to take your foot off the gas when it comes to the holiday season.
After nine months spent improvising and worrying through a pandemic, it’s not the year to hold ourselves to a standard that includes Instagram-worthy holiday decor, mountains of frosted cookies and perfect gifts for everyone you know.
This period in our lives has brought so many new burdens that it would be unreasonable to add to these the usual set of pressures manufactured through Normal Rockwellesque holiday mythology, television advertising and those neighbours with the most enormous front-lawn inflatables.
As it’s looking, our holiday plans will be made automatically simpler by public health orders to keep festivities within our own households. Without big crowds to cook for and a calendar jammed packed with too many events — some fun, some obligatory — our schedules should be far less hectic.
That’s as long as we don’t mess things up by trying to overcompensate for not getting to go to Grandma’s house, or for 2020’s disappointments in general, by going overboard on the parts of the holiday season we can control.
“We do not have the mental capacity to carry any expectations of having the perfect holiday or anything like that,” said parenting author, educator and speaker Ann Douglas. “We should have trashed those expectations years ago, but if anybody still has any kicking around, let’s just … put them in
the cold storage for a very long time, because that’s just not possible this year.”
Her own holiday plans are limited to baking one kind of cookie, putting a small display of holiday houses on a shelf and using the black and red napkins she ordered for the table.
Now, based on what I’m hearing from parents and seeing around my neighbourhood — admittedly an unscientific overview — some people may actually be finding happy distraction in going big on things like holiday decorating. After all, there’s not that much else to do and since home is where we’re spending the season, why not deck the halls?
The point is to do so only if it brings happiness, not because you think you should or because everyone in your social feeds seems to have a tree or menorah up before you. My
hope is that the genuine struggles so many of us have had this year — sickness, grief, loss of income, separation from loved ones — will help crystallize just how inconsequential things like holiday decor and big-ticket presents really are.
Just as some of the fortunate among us have enjoyed silver linings in having a less jammed calendar all year long, so too may we discover that, as a consequence of not being able to have big gatherings, we’ll have a much more restful
Douglas said she can’t help thinking that she’ll see people posting on social media that they were initially pretty bummed out about the restrictions but that they “ended up just playing Connect Four and having hot chocolate and it was actually really nice.”
Amy Leask, a mom and business owner from Milton, normally has a pretty full calendar this time of year between celebrating with family and their employees.
But there are some good things about the simpler agenda this year.
“We’re not running around as much … You don’t have to dress up and you don’t have to prepare things. You know, you’re going to be in your pyjamas for part of the day. And there’s a little bit of ease in that.”
She said while it’s sad they likely won’t be with their families for Christmas and Hanukkah, she, her husband and 10-year-old daughter, Ruby, are “rolling with it.”
“Our decisions throughout the last nine months have been based on what’s going to keep us and our family safe, and we’ll continue to do that.”
They’ve planned an online celebration with their staff at work and, just as they held a virtual party for Ruby’s birthday with extended family earlier in the pandemic, they’ll likely do the same during the holiday season.
Meanwhile, they’re leaning into hands-on fun — “We’re baking; we’re doing crafts” — and stuff they can do in their car. “We’ve already been to two Christmas movies at the local drive-in theatre.”
Leask points out that for those of us who haven’t had to juggle front-line or precarious work, there’s been time in 2020 to re-evaluate priorities, including some of the ways we previously filled our kids’ ambitious extracurricular schedules.
“And it’ll be really interesting to see in future holidays. Are we going to be as crazy next year, even if we can go out and celebrate, or will we have found that we really like the extra quiet time?
“If there’s one really good thing about the last nine months, it’s that we have spent more time together as a family. The pace hasn’t been frantic. And, you know, I knew my kid pretty well before this, too, but we’ve had some amazing conversations, and my husband as well.”
Now that the holidays are here, said Leask, “I’m looking forward to being able to sit together and actually talk and relate to each other. And that’s a bit of a gift in all of this.”
“If there’s one really good thing about the last nine months, it’s that we have spent more time together as a family.”
MOM AND BUSINESS OWNER