Keeping Your Child's Schedule Over the Holidays
Y’all we are in full Thanksgiving break mode over here. We have been home all weekend with seven kids (Jack has had a friend over all weekend), and you can imagine what the house looks like. Our 2 year old woke up this morning so grouchy and refusing to let me change his diaper, and there are toys and dishes and lazy dogs everywhere. Couch pillows and blankets are on the floor and kids have been staying up past bed time. FULL holiday mode.
And as much as I love the lazy vibe, I do have to say that it can start to kinda drive me nuts. There comes a point where I crave the order and schedule just to make sure that I haven’t let this train run completely off the rails. If you’re feeling like me—like it’s only Monday and you’re worried by Thursday that we’ll have turned into an unruly herd of dirty pigs, let me remind us both of a couple things…
No matter what the plans with extended family are, the under-5 set operates MUCH better if we stick to their daily rhythm. So for us during the last seven or eight years, Joel and I drive separately to the big Thanksgiving gathering. Right after the big meal at lunch, I load up all the kids that are under 5 and take them home for a nap. I know this sounds a little bit rude and aloof, but trust me; the years that we stayed and let them run themselves in the ground right through their naptime taught us what a terrible idea it was. And usually it only takes an hour or so past naptime when everyone around us wishes we’d already left, anyway, because the tantrums start. Even though we know all these family members and it’s the place Joel has gone for Thanksgiving all his life, the kids are inundated with new people and new sights and new foods. So much information for a little brain to hold and process!
It’s okay for you to set boundaries on how many of the family activities you participate in. I’m such a yes person (my nice way of saying people pleaser). I always want to say yes to ALL THE THINGS for both sides of our family, because I think “it’s just one day” and really it turns into three or four days. But I have to remind myself that many times saying yes to all the extra family activities means saying no to something else. If I say yes to staying up late and skipping naps, not only do I say no to much needed rest for my child and for me, but I also say no to our efforts at being consistent with discipline. What I mean is, I can’t expect the kids to behave if we haven’t set them up for success and given them adequate rest. So then we push all our boundaries, and I end up super depleted and back to square one at the end of the break. When it’s all said and done at the end of the holiday, I’m the one who has to put the wheels back on and keep our house operating. The people I’m worried about saying no to are not the ones who have to carry screaming toddlers out of the room because they’re still paying for the nap deficit, or struggle through helping my fourth grader get ready for school on time because we’re all so exhausted and she just can’t make any decisions about what shirt to wear the next week. It’s OKAY to see the next week coming from a mile away and put as many boundaries as I need in place to be able to do it well.
Here’s my last reminder to myself: this week and this break are really just the beginning of a MONTH of activities and busy-ness. If I let us run crazy and off schedule and trash the house to the point of no return, I can’t count on a season of hibernation afterwards that will allow us to reboot. The house won’t clean itself, and there won’t be any long stretches of time for a housekeeping session that puts everything back in order—not to mention the fact that we have to add decorations! Every single day in December is full of class Christmas parties and Christmas concerts and soccer tournaments and whatever the heck else it is that we do in December. The last month of the year is FOR SURE not the month I want to start with an empty tank and a full sink of dirty dishes.
I hope this doesn’t sound like complaining! I absolutely love the chance to see all our relatives, and I love having my kids at home for a week. But what this message is all about is that knowing that we love those things is obvious and easy, and sometimes remembering to love ourselves and honor our own boundaries is hard. The momentary reward of saying yes to all the things might not be as great as the long-term reward of setting good schedule boundaries and making plenty of time for ourselves to re-charge and re-boot. Your sanity is priceless! Keep it for yourself and your family. I’m praying that this holiday season is the best balance of seeing loved ones and rest for you and your family.
By the way, what do you and your family do for Thanksgiving? Do you have time-honored traditions, or are you just starting to make some? I’d love to hear about what your holiday will look like and how you’ll navigate it with your children. Please tell all of us in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can connect with you!