Written by Mrs. JoBeth Hooker
Holidays with the Family, a Blessing or a Dread?
With the holiday season fast approaching, I thought it might be good to take some time to reflect on some things that might help to make our time with our loved ones truly joyous and wonderfully memorable occasions. So I'm going to share some things that have helped me accomplish that.
All holidays are important to me, but Christmas is one of my family's favorite times of the year. Not only a time to reflect on all the blessings that God has given to us, but especially a time to remember and love one another. Now that my kids are grown, we can't get together every year like we did when they were all at home, so we get together every other year now. Last December was our time to be "on." And boy, were we "on!" However, let me explain: When we are "on," it is generally means for a week. Everyone is under the same roof for the majority of the time. And, as all are in Christian service and have saved all the money they could save just to make the road trip to be together, our plans have to be creative; we have to do things at very little cost. That means that most of our activities have to take place in, around, near or under that same roof. In spite of the craziness, we had a blast! However, there was a method to the madness that helped everyone to leave after a week of chaos and still be glad they had come.
I want to share with you a few of the things I did to help that time to be enjoyable and not a disaster. I realize now, as I realized then, that no matter how much a family loves one another, how close you are, or how much you can't wait until you are all together, there is potential for relationship disaster. When my crew gets together today, we are large in number and all strong in personality. There are currently 34 of us: 7 are powerful preachers, 7 are opinionated women, and 20 are aged 13 and under. Of the 20 under aged 13, 11 are boys. Of the 20 under 13, 11 are aged 5 or under. So when we get together, it's a happening! So while we are all trying to have a good time, maybe even getting into heavy topical conversations, boys are wrestling, fighting, throwing balls and making the girls scream, babies are crying, siblings are squabbling, someone is stinky, children are screaming and...well, need I say more? In addition, moms and dads, finally free from the pressures of work for a little while, are in vacation mode. They want to enjoy one another, stay up late laughing and talking, playing board games and doing fun things themselves. Girls want girl time, guys want guy time, grandma and grandpa want time with the adults as well as with the children, and everyone wants to eat when it's meal time. In my attempt to help everyone have a good time, I found that I was running myself ragged until I was not enjoying it nearly as much as I had planned. I did NOT want to spoil everyone else's good time by griping and complaining, or getting annoyed or frustrated. Neither did I want to spend my entire holiday in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes while everyone else played games, or exhausted from babysitting and chasing children when I wanted so badly to be happy while they were all there.
Don't misunderstand me, I LOVE spending time with the grandkids. I love stopping whatever I am doing to tell a story, hold a cuddler, or give a "sugar-spanking" all over a cherub face. I don't mind babysitting or being in the kitchen, changing diapers or washing dishes. That's my problem! I genuinely don't mind. Nor am I complaining that I am without help. I am so blessed to have daughters and sons-in-law who are tremendous helps during these family times, and I have never felt that anyone was purposely trying to take advantage of me. On the contrary, MY PROBLEM WASN'T THEM, MY PROBLEM WAS ME. I was my own worst enemy! In my desire for everyone to have a good time, I would take a lot on myself for the cause. Any one of them would do anything I wanted if I asked. My problem was, I WOULDN'T ASK! I would say things like, "Don't get up, I'll get it for you,""You guys go play, I'll watch the babies,""Come here, sweetie, I can hold you while I'm cooking," and "Who wants a piggy-back ride?" There is no one to blame but me when my back is broken! But to be surrounded by my grandkids to me was worth a broken back. At least, that's what I kept telling myself (tongue-in-cheek). It is BECAUSE I know me and that I will do these things to show my love that I have learned what I HAVE TO DO to help me to enjoy the holidays too and not wear myself out emotionally or physically. Want to know what I have discovered? Good. I'll tell you.
1. First, I get a MINDSET. Relationships are more important than things. I refuse to let things such as a destroyed house (hmmm...maybe a little exaggeration...), come between me and my precious family. There is nothing I own...no picture, lamp, vase, glass, etc..., that is worth the cost of a relationship (FYI- if an object is priceless, then I put it away. Why tempt fate?). Truly, there should not be any amount of mess, hardship, or sacrifice that I am not willingly to give in return for the value of influence in my children and grandchildren's lives. Sacrifice spells love and I must be willing to sacrifice and be inconvenienced to affect lives. If influence is the greatest power on earth, then that alone should compel me to make necessary sacrifices for the sake of others and the cause of Christ. Now, I am not saying kids be allowed to tear things up, disregard rules or to be disrespectful; I am saying that going into this time that I NEED to keep a right perspective so I don't let the trivial and unimportant things that clamor for my time cause me to miss the important opportunities for influence that really matters.
2. Secondly, I PRAY and ask God for HOLY SPIRIT POWER in order to love, have joy, bring peace, exhibit long-suffering, and to be gentle, good and temperate no matter what goes on. I need to be able to demonstrate my faith to each and every family member, and especially to have a meek spirit, one that enable me to give up my own will, way or rights for the needs of others.
3. Then, thirdly I ask for WISDOM to be "wise as a serpent, but harmless as a dove." I also realize I am human and subject to human ailments, failures and emotions. Bro. Hyles said, "Success is in the preparation, not the performance," so I PREPARE for what I know I will face both in the natural state of humanity and in acceptance of who I am and my desire to make the holidays pleasurable for everyone including me. Then I PRACTICALLY PLAN for success.
1. For my sanity and because of the crowd I knew I was going to be dealing with, I decided to save all year and hire a cook and helper. It was my Christmas gift to me. This may seem extravagant to some, but it saved me. I wanted quality time with my family. Anyone can cook or clean, but not anyone can love my kids like I can. I hired a lady to come in every evening to cook the evening meal and do all of the kitchen cleanup, to wash a load of towels, washcloths, and bedding, to put it all away, mop the floors, and put things away. She was there about four hours while all the rest of us, including me, went outside for a family adventure. When we returned, a delicious meal was waiting on us and my spirit was revived and refreshed. If you can't afford to do this, maybe you could find someone willing to do for you if you do for them at a different time. Trading out with a good friend might be a working solution.
2. I put away anything that I didn't want to get broken. This was not the time to bring out my expensive manger scene, my sentimental snowman collection or my "It's a Wonderful Life" breakable village set. (The kids will grow up and I can do all of those things later when they will appreciate them.)
3. I chose to decorate with smart, age-appropriate decorations. I made my tree a Frosty the Snowman tree complete with face, hat and scarf and non-breakable balls. The children loved it. I used window clings, couch pillows, and decorations that could sit easily and undisturbed on shelves in spite of thrown balls and intense running or jumping. Then one of my daughters covered all of my picture frames in wrapping paper that coordinated with the tree. It made our living area so child friendly without it being cluttered or a disaster waiting to happen. Nothing but presents under the tree were within grasp of little hands.
4. I asked one of my sons-in-law to be in charge of planning our activities. I told him a few things I wanted, like one afternoon to have a girl time and guys babysit, while during another afternoon guys can have guy time while girls babysit, one day that PopPop and I babysit so couples can go out and have couple-time, etc. His willingness to take that burden took a lot off of me and assured me that all the activities would be both economical as well as things the guys would enjoy.
5. I asked each family to take a lunch day and to do the planning, purchasing, preparing, serving, and cleanup for their day. Then everyone was asked to chip in and help with the Christmas Eve dinner and the Christmas Day menu. Each family supplied a part of those major meals and each family made a dessert. Every daughter brought her own special touch to the festivities and we embraced the creativity of each.
6. We all agreed to NOT DO anything that would be hurtful or offensive to the other. We all agreed to always show the utmost respect for one another where any differences of opinion might occur. For example, one family may not want their children watching something on television that another family had no problem with. One family may not want their children eating or drinking something that others allow. We purposed to NOT squabble over differences, but support one another as best we could. It was and is a choice to respect one another's values, choices and preferences, as long as those values, choices and preferences are not dishonoring or disobedient to God. For example, my husband and I would never allow alcohol in our home, or inappropriate behavior between the sexes. I thank God that we have never had to deal with anything like that, but we know a lot of families who do. God's Word always takes precedence over personal desires.
7. Finally, I PLAN what I DO with the children with parental approval. I give myself a flexible schedule but I plan everything from when I will play board games, tell stories, jump on the trampoline, play ball outside to making a special dessert to babysitting. Then, instead of being at the mercy of, "Noni, come play with us," and wearing myself out, I tell them in advance what we are going to do. I try to make it exciting, fun and memorable within a structure that I can handle and still come away feeling good and on topside. Children love structure. It makes them happy when their days are filled. They will sleep better at nap time and at bedtime when they are not having to vie for attention or are disappointed because they are bored with nothing to do. That's when things can so easily get out of hand. I know not everyone can do all the things I have mentioned, but maybe one idea might help your holiday season to run a little smoother. It is my sincere hope that this holiday season becomes the best ever for you and your family. God bless!