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"It's All Good"
by Cheryl L. Butler

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To Prepare for the Holidays, Think Like a Kid

By Cheryl Butler

Looking back, I can hardly believe how I used to prepare for the holidays.  Instead of spending the lazy days of summer collecting seashells by the seashore and fretting over how I looked in a bathing suit, I was making a list and checking it twice, shopping and wrapping so in December I wouldn’t be paying the price!  By Labor Day, my attic looked like a stockroom from Toys R Us and shamefully, I admit that my family was no longer being tortured to pose just so for the perfect Kodak moment Christmas card because I painstakingly scratched that off the list by 4th of July—all in the mere spirit of the fast approaching holidays!

Thank goodness I came to my senses a few year’s ago and learned to thrive on the adrenaline of sheer panic and self-induced stress like 99% of the frenzied gift-giving club most of us join when Tom Turkey is being cleared from the Thanksgiving table.  But hey, I catch on fast and soon realized that now the free-for all (silly me, did I say free) pace I was pushing on myself to pull off the perfect holiday had left the true meaning of the season stuffed away in one of my 99 festive gift-wrap bags.  To rectify the situation I think I may have actually penciled in spending time with friends and family at the bottom of one of my many to do lists crammed on the very last line next to dust behind the Christmas tree and impress neighbors with front lawn decorations.  Pitiful!  

Clearly, this wasn’t working for me either and it certainly wasn’t working for my family.
This was confirmed when I overheard my Fourth Grader mumble “Shouldn’t mom put her broomstick away now that Halloween is over?” to my husband one night as I was carping off about how the holidays would never take place if it weren’t for my die-hard efforts.  Now that hurts.  I received my wake-up call loud and clear and parked my stick of straw along with my lousy attitude right in the hall closet and tried to finally get it right.

While I can’t speak for everyone, I know that the majority of people I encounter in my pre-holiday travels are stressing over what to buy, how much to spend, quality versus quantity, and bottom line—how much debt the holidays will set them back come the first billing statement from their credit card companies in early January.  The time investment alone is a drag.  It would seem that the joys of the season should be filled with sounds other than the noise of cash registers singing ca-ching ca-ching.   That’s why I’m happy that I stumbled upon a wonderful essay written by Brian Kramer titled, Like a kid at Christmas, Survive the Holiday Season With Your Sanity and Checkbook Intact by Acting Like a Kid Again.  His humorous yet heartfelt message about preparing for the holidays was short and sweet, and I liked it so much I cut it out and framed it.  In a nutshell, here’s what he viewed as important.

He vividly recalls that at the young age of just six, he started to learn that the holidays were not just about receiving, but giving as well.  His mother introduced him to the delights of wrapping a package, and that first year he wrapped everything from orange juice cartons to his own favorite toys simply for the sheer enjoyment of packaging a gift for someone that he loved to open.  Now when he reminisces about how great it felt to innocently give a gift from the heart, he reminds himself to think like his 6-year-old self and rely on creativity and sincerity when the holidays roll into town.  For example:

  • Kids don’t feel obligated to spend money on gifts but instead share something that’s special to them.  The author chose to share his special marinade recipe that his dinner guests always raved about.  He bottled the mysterious marinade in basic containers and topped them off with a pretty ribbon and the recipe as well.
  • Kids never turn down consumable gifts despite their excitement in finding this year’s hottest toy waiting for them.  This is proven when they open little treats like those plastic candy canes filled with holiday M & Ms--they can enjoy them the moment they receive them.  One year the author took this as a cue to focus on giving small but fabulous gifts that could be enjoyed immediately such as oversized chocolate bars from a favorite sweet shop, bags of fresh-roasted coffee beans or a bottle of chilled sparkling cider from a local orchard.  These gifts were simple but the joy was there for the immediate taking.
  • Kids like action more than stuff says the author.  His fond memories of ice skating on his cousin’s pond and playing charades into the night with friends and family stand out far more than any toy he ever received.  One year he gave the gifts of verbs rather than nouns such as enrolling his parents in gardening classes and giving friends with small children the gift of childcare for a much- needed evening out alone.  Hmmm, I think he’s on to something here.

Like with so many other events in life, if you sit back and observe a child’s innocence and pure delight in the simplicity of how it unfolds you can hardly believe how serious and carried away we adults can get under many of the same circumstances.  Children don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s, forget about playtime or over extend themselves just because society and all its consumer demands persuade us to do or buy just one more thing all in the name of perfection or how others might perceive us.

So as Brian Kramer suggests why not take a lesson from our inner child and approach the holidays like a kid again?  If nothing else we’re sure to have a better time in the process, and I’d much prefer my kids associate their childhood holidays with me riding in a sleigh with a cozy wool scarf dragging behind me as opposed to flying around on a broomstick with a mile-long to-do list wrapped around my neck.


© 2007 Cheryl L. Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the patient mother of eight children under the ages of 13. When not sorting laundry she writes the column "Family Zone" for two magazines in Southern RI and the column "It's All Good". A freelance journalist, she's published in anthology series such as Chicken Soup for the Mothers of Preschooler's Soul and Misadventures of Moms and Disasters of Dads. She lives in Saunderstown, RI with her go-with-the-flow husband, Brian, and their fun-loving brood of five boys and three girls. Contact her at [email protected]


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