It was the last Sunday school class before Christmas and as I watched other children hand their teachers gifts, I felt like a heel. I had six kids but hadn’t remembered to purchase anything. Giving them something in the new year seemed lame.
I was so looking forward to taking the kids to the live nativity event at an area church, only to discover that it was over the week before.
I spent the holidays season, not in a state of contemplative peace, but in my car, driving from store to store trying to find dress pants in the right size, the gift I’d forgotten to order, and the ingredient I hadn’t gotten for a Christmas dish.
This was my Christmas before I understood the power of planning.
I know that not everyone struggles the way that I did. I had six children with numerous irons in the fire and a healthy dose of ADD. But I believe that everyone’s holiday can be happier with a plan. Here’s how.
Planning Allows for Spontaneity
The biggest complaint about planning is that it doesn’t allow you to enjoy the holidays in the moment. Who wants every part of the holidays to be scheduled when you can decide, “Hey! Let’s go see the lights tonight,” or “Let’s watch a Christmas movie!”
What those who eschew schedules don’t understand is that planning makes these spur-of-the-moment activities possible. If mom promised six dozen cookies for the church cookie sale and she hasn’t even been to the grocery store yet, she is going to say no to the lights and the movie. Or more accurately, she’ll say, “I can’t. I’m too busy.” When everything is done or you know when you’ll do it, you have the freedom to do whatever you and your family think of.
Planning is More Likely to Create the Holidays You Want
Carefully made plans do not guarantee the Christmas of your dreams. I’m remembering the Christmas our entire extended family, including my little ones, had the stomach flu. I hadn’t had “Use the carpet scrubber all night long” on my bucket list.
But a plan does make it more likely that we will have time for the things that truly matter to us, whatever they are. I shared with my neighbor that I generally don’t like to make homemade gifts because they take too much time. She responded that for her, that’s what Christmas is. If she doesn't make gifts, it isn't Christmas. For my neighbor, planning time for this priority is crucial to creating happy holidays. Whatever our priorities are, we need to have time blocked on our calendars for them.
Planning is More Likely to Lead to Peaceful Holidays
As important as it is to schedule time for the activities we want to include in our celebration, it’s equally important to make sure we have margin in our days. Most mothers I talk with don’t recount all the things they did and places they went over Christmas in glowing terms. Instead, they complain about how rushed and tired and cranky they are.
When we see everything we’d like to do on our calendars, we can easily spot potential for overwhelm. We can then make decisions about what to skip. We can discuss potential adjustments to holiday plans with friends and relatives. We can leave empty spaces that allow for the unexpected or the spontaneous.
Planning Restores Our Confidence
Few things have made me feel more like a loser than messing up over the holidays. “Oh, I forgot (or more likely didn’t read) that the kids were supposed to dress up for this.” Now my kid is the only one in a kneeless pair of sweat pants. He probably would have been the only one in those anyway, but you know what I mean. I forgot (or more likely didn’t read) that I was supposed to bring recipe cards to go with the dish I was bringing to the party. (I guess that means it wasn’t supposed to be store-bought?)
Don’t get me wrong. Making these mistakes at Christmas does not make me a loser. It makes me human. But I’m not as happy as I could be this time of year when I’m making those mistakes. I like to save my stress for big things, not the small ones. Planning allows me to feel confident and in control at this busy time of year.
The Easy Way to Plan Your Holidays
I hope I’ve convinced you that planning your holidays is a good thing. Here’s the easy way to do it.
It’s never too early to plan. In fact, if you’re reading this, it’s time to start. The earlier you begin, the less time and money you will spend on the holidays. Example: you forget to buy that one must-have toy for your child and you end up paying four times as much for it on Ebay. Yup. Been there.
The holidays aren’t a solitary affair. To plan well, you need to talk with your spouse, children, and other relatives about their preferences. Sometimes we think that the super time-consuming, stressful tradition is a must-do when your family couldn’t care less if you skip it.
Explain your family’s needs and preferences to extended family and seek to reach a compromise. Maybe grandma isn’t flexible on not seeing you on Christmas Day, but she may be okay with changing the time or length of the visit. I encourage you to pray over these emotionally-charged discussions.
Have a Command Center
It does no good if your reminder about your kids’ concert practice is on a sticky note in your purse that you never clean out. You need one calendar and one to-do list or a reliable system from moving these reminders from a mobile list to the central one. Because my phone is always with me, I use a calendar and to-do list app on it. With my ADD, I’ve created a rule for myself that I have to input events and to-do's as soon as I know about them.
Break Up Your Planning into Smaller Pieces
If you have a lot going on during the holidays, planning can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to focus on one area at a time. In my book, The Organized Homeschool Life, I help you focus on early holiday planning and we work on one piece each week. Each small step within that piece (what I call a challenge) can be completed in about 15 minutes. You can work over four weekdays or spend an hour on the weekends.
By starting early, planning with your family, creating a central place for your events and tasks, and breaking up your planning into smaller pieces, you can have happier holidays. What are you waiting for? Grab your digital copy of The Organized Homeschool Life for 25% off with code LIFE now through November 24th, 2017.
Dr. Melanie Wilson is a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six. She blogs at Psychowith6.com, podcasts at HomeschoolSanity.com, and is the author of Grammar Galaxy language arts curriculum.