Can you crack festive family stress?
This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post asks for ways to chill out before Christmas. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting, click here.
Christmas was a horribly volatile experience at my home when I was a kid.
The family would manage OK during the day – but by the evening it was festive fury.
There was always a family row, usually between my parents. I have memories from quite a few Christmases of my dad throwing the gift he’d given my mum on to the fire. Suitcases melt like chocolates, nighties flare up like dancing ghosts, doors slam… The drama was always in our living room, not on the TV. In an effort to prevent this type of experience again I’ve tended to go out with people who don’t suffer from red mist anger. And I don’t ever watch Eastenders…
Knickers in a twist
Being around someone super-stressed isn’t much fun either. It just makes the joy of a long holiday disappear as everyone attempts to co-operate or avoid the stressy one. Obviously meditation or getting outside for a bit of fresh air is one answer. But so is the ability to thank our lucky stars. Here in London my family is safe and warm. What more could I really want? Well, as Nell,10, might put it, a few gifts under the xmas tree…
In a bid to try and enjoy the run up to the holidays – and especially to avoid financial splurging which is all too easily done – I’ve been collecting moments and things when I’ve felt really happy. They are ridiculously every day. But in the long run these low key moments will probably count as the happiest times of our life… definitely not what the media or marketers would have you believe. So here goes:
- Walking to school – Nell and I have a nearly half hour walk to (or from) school each day. We chat a lot about dogs.
- Seeing someone look stylish. Freak entry to this list really, but as I’m swaddled in fleece layers it is a great pleasure to see someone straight out of a fashion plate chasing the same pavements on their way to the tube. Nell and I particularly admired the young woman in a yellow swing coat kicking through the last of the similarly yellow rowan leaves.
- The last bloom of summer. My roses go on and on. Even better is the astonishing second flowering of my winter jasmine which throws scented wafts down a city centre street. Take that you diesel engines! (see pic)
- Coping without a car: my pull-along trolley looks hideous. But the smug pride I feel in being able to carry a sack of potatoes, gift bottles of wine, loads of equipment and a stockpile of loaves from the Spence without doing my back in makes me love the world. I heart it as Lola would say. (see pic)
- Christmas trees in the window – everyone should have a lit up, decorated tree in their window. Unfairly I don’t (it’s to do with the hedge, and the fact that our curtains are closed, see pic), but I love counting and/or admiring Christmas trees as I walk home in the dark, ideally with a companion, preferably a child. Choose the time wisely: 6pm is too early. It needs to be about 9pm when everyone’s got home from work/after school clubs and settled down for a snug evening. Ideally take your kids out for a “midnight” walk to enjoy this experience. Even a buggy ride will be a memorable winter treat…
Over to you
Just re-reading that list makes me feel calm. So what makes you – and the kids – happy without any preparation at all?