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  • Writer's pictureLisa Paller

Seeing the Holidays Through Your Kid's Eyes

Once November 1 hits, the battle of Christmas begins. Do you wait for Thanksgiving to pass before putting up the tree, does the turkey need served and thoroughly respected first? Can you hang the wreath on the front door and start listening to your favorite carols on the radio, or must you wait until December?

Everyone knows someone with a strong stance on this debate, but perhaps you’re just excited for the holiday season to ring so you have an excuse to clear your schedule for more family time. The holidays are magical!

This year, I find myself thinking a lot about how my attitude toward holidays, in general, has changed now that I’m a parent. While I’ve always enjoyed giving and receiving gifts, looking at colorful, twinkling lights, and driving through a beautiful cascade of falling leaves or collecting snow, it’s far more meaningful when I see it through the eyes of my children.

Every holiday that passes gives me the opportunity to spend special moments with my kids. Visiting Santa gets more exciting every year as the kids get older and are better able to understand the concept of asking for things they really want and hoping to see them under the tree soon. They also gain a deeper understanding of what Christmas is really all about, and I get to teach them lessons that will carry them through life.

Then you have family strolls through the pumpkin patch or quick stops on the side of the road for apple cider, hot chocolate, or a pumpkin to carve and decorate. Some of my favorite holiday memories center on quiet afternoons at home completing crafts and various activities that eventually line the mantels, refrigerator, and walls.

Some of the simplest memories like discussing the St. Patty’s Day leprechaun while pasting orange cotton balls on his paper face to create a beard can make me smile in the middle of the most chaotic day. Little things like an elaborate Christmas light display have always stopped me in my tracks for a moment, but it’s the purest sense of delight watching the expression on a child’s face as they take in the same vision.

Family Traditions from the Other Side

As the holiday season sets in, I also find myself stopping to think about the family holiday traditions that I loved so much as a child. I have such fond memories of holiday gatherings that brought in droves of cousins, aunts, uncles, and random members of the extended family. With them came new faces as girlfriends, boyfriends, and friends without their own families came in and out of our circle.

Now that I’m a parent, I get to experience the excitement of classroom birthday parties, Christmas parades, Thanksgiving gatherings, and Halloween costume parties from the other side. I’m no longer the one enjoying every moment of these holiday events with joyful glee. I see the hard work that goes into creating that joy, and it makes me immensely appreciative of my own parents.

I now know the struggle of finding that one “absolutely must-have” Christmas or birthday gift when the stores are sold out and internet prices have doubled, if you can find it at all. I feel the pain of late nights up wrapping gifts at the last minute or assembling 100 parts, making sure that Santa comes just as expected.

Then you have the stockings and turkeys to stuff, the lights to hang, and the bowls of candy to fill. I’m realizing just how difficult it is sometimes to get even those small family traditions checked off in time for a grand holiday.

Parenting is exhausting, but the holidays are still so magical! I am reminded this year to take the time to experience these events and activities through the eyes of my children. I also strive to remember what my own childhood experiences were like so that I can savor the blessing of doing it all again for the little ones I brought into this amazing world.

What if You Don’t Have Amazing Holiday Traditions?

If you’re a parent and don’t have such amazing memories of family traditions from the holidays when you were young, this is your chance to experience traditions with your children! Think of the magic that you wish had happened when you were growing up and bring it to life for your family this year. Traditions don’t have to pass through multiple generations to feel powerful, so let’s discuss the new traditions that you can bring about right now.

New Traditions to Pass On

In addition to carrying on some of the best family holiday traditions from my childhood, I am always interested in starting new traditions for my family. Technology has advanced so much over the years, giving today’s parents so many opportunities that just weren’t possible when I was growing up. I also have my own ideas because I’m a different person than my parents, so I see the world differently and have fresh ways to explore the world during family time.

The family holiday traditions that you start should have significance for you personally and for your family, but I have some ideas that may help you come up with your own:

  • Professional pajama or costume family photoshoots

  • Holiday family movie nights

  • Spooky Halloween movie days (wrap it up hours before bedtime)

  • Drives through local holiday light displays

  • Trips to the pumpkin patch for cornfield mazes, hayrides, and more

  • Outdoor movie events in local parks (or put up a projection screen in the backyard and make your own)

  • Holiday crafting days (fill a wall with handmade crafts)

  • Themed holiday brunches, lunches, or dinners

  • Cookie decorating party (invite friends to make it a tasting party)

  • Baking competitions (excellent for older children learning to cook)

  • Family meetings to read about the true meaning behind holidays

  • White elephant gift exchange and other holiday games

  • Secret gift exchanges (everyone draw a name, set a budget)

Think about things you enjoy doing with your children and what they’re interested in individually. That will give you some clues for new holiday traditions that will get everyone excited to spend time together. It’s not just about exchanging gifts and seeing what’s under the wrapping paper. Bonding as a family and seeing the twinkle in their eyes as they take in the magic of a new holiday is so uplifting to the spirit.

Making the Most of the Holidays

I write this with complete acknowledgment that holidays are often stressful for parents. Getting the presents under the tree isn’t the most important thing, but it can feel mighty important when you have to make room in the budget for those gifts. Arranging your professional and personal schedule to clear the way for holiday parties and trips to a light display or pumpkin patch can feel like a burden at times as well.

I struggle with those concerns just like all parents, but I have some secrets that I want to share. There are some small things we can do to get through a busy holiday season with a genuine smile on our faces rather than a forced grimace.

  • Give yourself permission to slow down. The adult world is full of hustle, but it’s worth blocking off more family time around the holidays. Maybe you can’t make it to every party invite or school event, but you can make it to those that matter most to your children and yourself.

  • Slowing down may also mean focusing more on self-care. Give yourself that extra massage if it will help you manage stress.

  • Savor the small moments that are so easily missed. Stop on the side of the road and go for a quick walk when you see a beautiful house decorated for Christmas. Visit that roadside stand for fresh veggies and a Halloween pumpkin to carve. Put your phone down and watch your children as they enjoy Rudolph on television for the millionth time. Those are the moments of magic.

  • When a day turns bad, look for the silver lining. There’s always something positive to focus on, and that subtle mind shift can make the difference between a fun experience with your child and just another bad day.

  • Focus on experiences and bonding moments rather than things. One of the most powerful things we can teach our children is to cherish one another rather than objects. There’s a time and place for gifts but putting the emphasis on experiences will strengthen your bonds with your family for years to come.

Whether you started decorating for the holiday season on November 1 or you’re waiting for the turkey to settle in your tummy first, I wish you and your loved ones an amazing end to 2022. I will be here in the new year, ready to help you reach your goals and create even more moments of magic in 2023.

Until then, let’s celebrate the amazing way this crazy world works. I can’t wait to see what this holiday season looks like from the eyes of my children.

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