Q. It's only early December and I'm already stressed about the holidays. When did they stop being fun? -- J.D.
A. If you are a parent and expect to have a perfectly clean house, perfect holiday meals and decorations and perfect gifts along with perfectly behaved children, then, yes, you will be stressed. Don't have unrealistic expectations. Don't try to do everything yourself. Give everyone a part to play. When kids help cook, bake and decorate, the experience is valuable, even if they make a mess.
Think about what Christmas is really about ... it's about the spirit of the season and getting together for fun with friends and family. Your kids will remember the good times they had with you for a lifetime. They will not remember that you had a clean and sparkling house.
Here are a few more tips:
• Cut down on fancy dinners and consider potlucks to share favorite recipes.
• Set realistic goals for events and projects. Buy some of the baked goods at church or school bake sales.
• Be creative and have a sense of humor with gift wrapping.
And here are some fun shopping tips, excerpted from a 1991 article by Kathy Peel and Judie Byrd in Family Focus magazine:
• The time it takes to find a parking place is inversely proportional to the time you spend shopping.
• The more expensive a gift, the better your chances of dropping it.
• The other line always moves faster.
• Interchangeable parts won't be. Unassembled toys will have too many screws and some parts will be left over.
• When returning a broken article at the store, it will work perfectly for the clerk.
• Amnesia strikes all family members when you want the tape or the good scissors.
• Children have built-in detection devices for finding gifts you have cleverly hidden.
Kids are overly excited this time of year, which can make getting anything accomplished even harder.
• Try to schedule shopping when neither you nor your child is tired or hungry. Don't overschedule. If you cannot get all the things done on your list for that day, save some for tomorrow instead of opening yourself to stress and hassles.
• Before you leave the house, go over the rules for safety and behavior with your child. Take some nutritional treats to avoid "Can I have ..." hassle. Don't allow running, and most importantly, stay close to each other at all times.
• Try to find another parent in the same boat and trade baby sitting each other's children for a couple of hours to give each of you time to do some shopping on your own.
And above all, have a Merry Christmas!
Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com. For more columns from Evelyn Petersen, visit record-eagle.com/askevelyn.