Being Present at the Holidays

Being Present at the Holidays

Erin Burt

My second Christmas as a parent, I resolved to do ALL of the things. I had two tiny boys, and I was going to singlehandedly create the world’s best Christmas experience for. Determined to make up for the lack of Christmas tradition I had growing up, I scoured Pinterest and created a DIY Advent calendar. Each day provided a new fun activity for me to complete with my sons and I was obsessed with them loving it.

I wish I could say now that these “activites” were things like, “color a Christmas sheet” or even, “drink hot cocoa.” But, no, they were more along the vein of, “bake Christmas cookies and deliver to firefighters” and “decorate sweatshirts.”

Every. Single. Day.

I’m glad to say I am a recovering overachiever. I’d like to tell you that it was a result of self-reflection and contemplation…but in reality, it was after my third Christmas as a mom when I crashed from holiday stress. All of the self-inflicted holiday stress, I might add. The holiday magic wasn’t happening like I imagined…and it’s no surprise considering all of the expectations I was placing on my family. I resentfully staged memory-making opportunities only to be bitter when my children behaved like, well, like children.

So, what’s my new take on merrymaking?

  • Less is more. We don’t need to make every holiday treat. Why? That would mean we would be eating desserts after every single meal to get through them. And the last thing we need is a month-long family detox because I was forcing every Christmas treat.
  • Serving is essential. For my family, we DO want to highlight generosity. We still take treats to firefighters, police officers, and librarians during December. But it isn’t a major to-do. We also try to put together either an Operation Christmas Child shoebox or choose an extra Christmas gift for our Compassion child.
  • Put down the camera. Those years of mega stress? I was trying to create perfect photo opportunity after perfect photo opportunity. I recently heard on NPR that our brains are wired to forget things the moment we pick up our camera. So, we might be digitally cataloguing the moment, but it’s lost forever from our actual memory.
  • Relationship over experience. We just really want to spend a lot of time together. It’s more important to do a family night with the Charlie Brown Christmas movie and homemade popcorn than it is to go to every tree lighting within a 30-mile radius.
  • “Should is not a sustainable why.” Just because you feel like you “should” be doing all the things, that is not reason enough to sustain you all the way through December and, just like me, you will crash hard. Find your “why” for making memories and filter all activities through that lens.

Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at

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