Managing Expectations During the Holidays

One expectation for this holiday season that I can almost guarantee will  happen is that I will be wearing comfy pants several days in a row before showering and putting on clean comfy pants.  I might know that because it’s happening already today.  Other than that, I HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS.

That’s the goal.

One of the healthiest things I’ve learned in my life is to have no expectations, good or bad. ESPECIALLY around the holidays. It’s incredibly helpful with kids now as well. If they’re not happy, I’m not happy, so why do it?

It’s all part of living in the moment.  Not looking toward the next thing, but being present right where I am.  That way I don’t miss anything.

I try my hardest to expect nothing.  From anybody.  And I certainly don’t mean gifts.  I mean behavior.

As a recovering person – and hey, aren’t we all in recovery from something? – expectations can play havoc on my sobriety.  My peace of mind, my mental health depends on me managing my expectations.  For myself and my kids.

Expectations, positive or negative, are many times quite wrong and also lead to huge disappointment.  Why do we set ourselves up for that?  Let alone our kids?

Just like me, my kids need their naps, their bedtime and to eat good healthy food to be at their best.  I know how I feel when I don’t do what’s needed to take care of myself and think about how that all manifests in little kids.  Misbehaving, tantrums and screaming bloody murder anybody?  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Schmolidays are the worst when it comes to expectations.  We want the fairy tale.  The perfect tableau.  Well guess what?  That ain’t happening for 99% percent of us, and the 1% it is happening to, well they’ve got other problems.

I CANNOT CONTROL ANYONE BUT MYSELF.  Repeat repeat repeat.  And you know who I really can’t control?  My kids.  Sure they are taught to behave and make good decisions, but when they’re hungry, angry, lonely, tired, all bets are off. JUST LIKE ADULTS.

Some days I do better than others at respecting my kids and their limits and before you jump down my throat and say YOU ARE THE PARENT, I know.  I know I am the parent, but kids are people too.  And they are to be respected.  They know who makes the rules and who is in charge, but it goes both ways.  I don’t want my kids to fear me (well maybe a tiny bit of healthy fear) or not trust me.  That broken trust, man.

I am wary of gifts.  Have been for a long long time.  We have so much.  We have everything.  I don’t want my kids to get too many gifts.  I don’t want them to think that’s all Santa and the holidays are about so I over compensate.  We talk often of giving away to others who need things more than we do and of what we are thankful for.  Sometimes I gotta just let them have the ultimate magic and not try to teach the bigger meaning behind it. So I’m trying to let that happen more.  AS I GRIT MY TEETH.

We have a family that showers us with gifts because they love so hard.  This family we have is so appreciated for so much more than gifts.  But they love us and these kids so much and want to give us gifts.  I get it.   And I am so thankful.  I am trying to be graceful.

Giving and caring and sharing.  That’s what the holidays, and every other day of the year is about.  We have much.  Many do not.  So we do what we can to be kind.  I’ll say it again, when our kids are kind, I am super proud of our parenting. *FISTBUMPS HUSBAND*

SO.  I’ve found a few things that help me cope.  That help me get through the holidays as an anxiety ridden, present eschewer.  I am a work in progress and that’s the best I can do for myself and my family.  To keep trying.

I’ve instituted a no hugging or kissing unless they initiate it act. I don’t care who you are. If I see you trying to get my kid to kiss you and they aren’t feeling it, I will be snarling.  Luckily these two are hug and kiss monsters, so most of the family gets them anyway.  It stresses me out to see them being stressed out about having to show affection toward someone they barely know.  So, the options are, hug, kiss or high five.  Sounds fair to me, right?

If situations are overstimulating for me, just imagine how it feels to a three-year-old or two 3-year-olds feeding off each other for that matter. If I have an expectation about creating memories for my kids that they couldn’t possibly live up to, then I need to manage my expectations not demand that they alter their behavior. I am in charge.  If an event is going way past bedtime, we go home.  I don’t expect their routine to be completely upset just because it’s a holiday.  Kids don’t operate that way.  Hell, I don’t operate that way.  No apologies.  People understand boundaries.  And if they don’t well, oh well.

At times it’s a fine line between what we have to do and what we want to do. We always have a choice. There are always consequences – both good and bad – but we always have a choice. We are responsible for making the best choices for our kids while they’re still little. They’ll have plenty of time to make their own choices as they get older but for now, I am trying to do right by them.

As I physically stop myself from doing every single holiday activity known to man this month, I remember, this is about them, not about me and I reel it back in.  My husband is the professional reeler-back-inner.  So I will carefully choose what we do and what we don’t do.  I hate forced fun, so why would I inflict that on my kids?

This is the first year they’ve been really excited to see Santa.  To decorate the tree.  To see all the lights.  It’s heady.  It’s so exciting and fun I may burst.  I am taking it all in and doing my best not to push it.  It’s not all this good, but damn, when it is, I don’t want to forget this.

I want to do better each day.

Because it’s Christmas.  And at Christmas you tell the truth.  WINK.


See also:

How to stay happy joyous and free during the Schmolidays


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