Survivable Holidays: Since When Did I Need a Checklist?

Why am I feeling so stressed this holiday season???? My then-two-year-old on Christmas morning in 2007. He was in time out. I think I might need a time out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Several of us have been lamenting on our GeekMom writers’ discussion board about how much more hassled many of us seem to be this holiday season.  We each have unique stories, which we’re courageously sharing with the web world this week, and I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one who was feeling more hassled than usual this year.

Our family has several traditions — some of which are from my family, some from my husband’s family, some we’ve made up since our sons came along.  For for past decade or so, many of our traditions just fall into place every season.  Even with military deployments (1997, 2003, 2008) making things a little more stressful than usual, somehow everything got done: the decorations, the cookies, the cards, the shopping!  In 2010, our family moved from Nebraska to Florida over Thanksgiving, and we STILL got everything done!

We didn’t even think too hard about it — it was a pleasure to do it all, we looked forward to each tradition.

This year we have no deployments impeding our family, but my husband is still recovering from back surgery from late October.  Yet, for some reason I seem to be missing the boat on the spirit of the holiday season and I’m getting all stressed out over “having to do” the traditions.

What’s wrong with me this year?

Instead of holiday giving and sharing that usually motivates our family, this year the motivation seems to be more like “it’s what we’ve always done, so we need to do it.”

For the first time in my memory, I had to come up with a holiday traditions “to do” list.  I won’t present the whole list in detail, but it includes:

  • decorations/tree
  • making cards (sometimes homemade, sometimes photo cards, meaning we have to take a holiday photo)
  • holiday newsletter
  • visiting Santa
  • cookies
  • gift shopping
  • gift wrapping
  • gift mailing
  • kids’ Christmas pageant
  • my husband’s office party (adult)
  • my husband’s office party (for the kids)
  • kids’ classroom Christmas parties
  • viewing the lights in our neighborhood
  • and going to church on Christmas Eve

For the first time in my memory, I’m really procrastinating, fitting in little bits of addressing cards, baking cookies and doing holiday crafts with the kids.

For the first time in my memory, I’ve been dreadful about the shopping.  I used to try to be very creative.  This year many folks are receiving the same gifts we had sent last year.

Does this mean it’s time for me to “load shed” a bit?  Go back to basics?

Does this mean I’m a bad person for thinking this way?  I’m feeling like many of these tasks are chores.  Gift giving should be a pleasure, not a chore.

In part I certainly blame the media blitz that now starts right after Halloween!  I’m very disappointed at how autumnal traditions were sort of swept under the rug, perhaps regarded by the retail industry as not lucrative enough.  So let’s bypass November altogether, right?

Early Black Friday sales?  Black Friday “preview” sales?  Stores open on Thanksgiving Day?  Consider how many families had to cut short spending time together because Dad/Mom/teenaged kids had to go to work Thursday night?

I wish I could just stand back and do a mental “reset” of our holiday traditions.  I feel like too many people would wonder if I was terminally ill for not doing those usual things.

But in reality, I think most folks in my life would understand.


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5 thoughts on “Survivable Holidays: Since When Did I Need a Checklist?

  1. Patricia I hear ya on the too short fall season this year. With my recent move to Texas from Maryland I felt that even more. It seemed like Texas was happy to move from summer into Christmas, we barely had any observance of fall at all! And my housing development has lots of mature trees, so the typical Texas landscape was no excuse. I feel like the stores encourage this mentality that has everyone looking for the “next thing” and living in the future rather then enjoying the present. I’ve resolved not to do that in our house anyway. I only just took down the fall decorations this week. And while we have our tree, it’s not getting decorated til Sunday at best. Happy Holiday!

  2. I could not agree with you more. I really, really need that transition from summer to fall and THEn to Christmas. Living in California, it never came. Granted, I have lived here my entire life, and I get that we only have one season, but did the retail stores have to destroy my imaginitive waltz through fall colors and autumn hues? And Black Friday? We abandoned it this year. Usually we sit down as a family and dig through the papers and make our lists and our game plans. How could you do that when you had Black Friday pre-week, Black Friday Thanksgiving and of course Black Internet so why even leave my bed. I feel robbed and betrayed and along with you, I just don’t feel quite right this season!

  3. Over the years many of our frustrations have occurred because of relative’s expectations of my family. When we balked at their demands, they became more insistent – to the point where distancing ourselves from them became our mental and physical health necessity.
    Now we face peaceful Christmas seasons being thankful for what we have – not what we’ve lost, or never had, such as materialistic items. My husband is going through chemo – his needs change daily. With the assistance of our daughter and her family, our peaceful environment allows us to manage his needs.
    Patricia, take time to take a breath and look at the marvels around you. Hope you and family have a very Merry Christmas!

  4. My kids are older than yours, but it’s interesting that *they’ll make sure that the traditions that are important to them are implemented. Other stuff? Maybe that’s my baggage. My youngest (16) took it upon himself to make sugar cookies the other day. I love that it was important enough for HIM to make it happen. I hope you’ll consider doing what’s important to *you and maybe letting some of the other stuff go.

    1. I would love for the kids to take on some of the traditions, Kris! They already have taken on the trimming of the tree(s) — which is wonderful! I like watching them make the decisions and when all is done, my husband and I couldn’t have done a better job ourselves….

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