I met a woman in Giant this weekend, and we bonded over orchids and the cleaning ritual we practice before decorating our homes for Christmas.
Each of us spent about 12 hours dusting places we usually ignore, using the vacuum attachments we typically neglect, sorting through ornaments and decorations, and working to make our homes spotless.
And for about two hours, my house was perfect.
Then the kids built Lego castles on my perfectly-polished table, soup cans and various bottles cluttered the counters while waiting to be taken to the recycling bin, the bathroom looked like it suffered a tsunami after my three children had bath time, and glitter from ornaments and pine needles littered the living room floor.
Though it was a light mess–and one that was easy to clean–it reminded me not to stress about things that can wait until tomorrow.
The 12 hours I spent cleaning would’ve been better spent doing anything with my kids. Our homes can wait. Our children, on the other hand, need to spend meaningful time with us.
And I must be reminded of this every year, because I found a few notes scribbled in a Christmas scrapbook that are worth repeating:
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of the season. There are houses to decorate, gifts to buy, travel schedules to coordinate, family to host, presents to wrap, cookies to bake and school events to attend. But if we let that stress distract us from the people we love most, then we’re missing the whole point of Christmas.
These seven tips ensure we have a way to spend meaningful time with our kids every day of the week:
1. Take more walks. My family takes plenty of adventure walks during the warmer weather, but it’s OK to do it when it’s cold too. Just bundle up the kids and head out to see what nature has to offer in the winter. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, winter walks are charming ways to bond with your children. And everyone looks cuter with a red nose.
2. Play with their toys. Playing is something kids do very well, and adults could learn from them. Sometimes you just have to leave everything behind you and spend a day playing with Legos or a game system.
3. Tell the story of every ornament. As though it’s our version of an Advent calendar, every day I tell the story of a different ornament on our tree. The natural storytelling is a nice supplement to the books we read each night.
4. Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. Before our family had a full commitment toward vegetarian and vegan living, we celebrated Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. We had fun finding recipes every week, and sometimes Taco Tuesdays were Burrito Tuesdays. We learned pretty much anything worked in a burrito–including peanut butter and jelly, which we often sliced like little pinwheel cookies. Having a set theme each week makes for easy meal planning the whole family can participate in.
5. Make them your special helpers. Kids love to help. Whether you’re cleaning, cooking, decorating or writing Christmas cards, it’s easy to find jobs for them. My 9-year-old daughter likes sweeping the kitchen floor and helping me cook (still waiting for her to enjoy cleaning her room), my 5-year-old son helps me sort and put away laundry, and my 3-year-old son is handy with a sponge (though he rarely uses it on what he’s supposed to).
6. Serve banana sundaes. For each person who will be enjoying this treat, place one banana in the freezer. Take it out and let it thaw a tiny bit before putting it in a food processor. It creates a delicious ice cream consistency that can be adorned with your favorite toppings. And the best part of all–it’s healthy!
7. Wear funny clothes and be a couch vegetable. Sometimes the fun of the season is found in festive socks, handmade scarves, your favorite hoodie, furry slippers and comfy throws. The kids and I like to wear these things and snuggle while we act like couch vegetables (because it’s not just for potatoes) and watch our favorite Christmas movies.
Even if you only have time for one of these things, I promise you’ll have a happier day.