The final week til the big day and like many families around the world, things are getting a little bit cray over here. Gifts have been wrapped, cookie cooking is being planned out, last minute gifts are being bought and there is a general sense of organized chaos. I’m in pretty good shape leading up to Christmas with just a few to-do’s left to check off. This nasty little cold courtesy of my Rob has set me back just a teensy but I’m forging full steam ahead with all cylinders firing…kinda.
And my once quiet household has expanded from inhabitants of two to inhabitants of four and soon to be five come Thursday when my little comes strolling in. There is piles of laundry in bedrooms, earnest complaints about how there is nothing to eat that we like, cars are being driven from here to there at a moments notice. I am beyond grateful for the bursting house and the chaos that comes with it but it has most definitely been an adjustment. At times I feel like I’m in survival mode.
Hence - my post.
In ‘honor’ of our little trolls and brats that have come strolling back to the nest with their laundry, their own way of doing things and their disdain for our lack of doing things their way - well, I’m going to help mom and pops out with a little survival guide for the holidays. And because I’m all about fair, I’ve got some tips and tricks that might help y’all survive your parents and the ‘rigors’ of the holiday season. For families everywhere that have dug in their heels and are bound and determined to have the hap hap happiest Christmas ever, well - this one is for you!
2018 Holiday Survival Guide for Parents
I love my babies just as much as the next momma - don’t get me wrong. They are not perfect by any stretch but they are all mine. These tips may not apply to you 100% but I guarantee you there is something for everyone to take away.
Appreciate their independence.
We give them roots so we can give them wings. And sometimes as parents we are unprepared for how well they settle into that independent role. Appreciate their independence and their right to make decisions as adults - regardless of whether or not you agree with every decision. It is their right to do so and soar or fail where necessary.
Reinforce basic house rules.
I personally have had to pare this down as I’ve found that I can either be a screaming lunatic because the rules aren’t being followed or I can lessen the severity of said rules. I’ve come down a couple of mornings to throw blankets everywhere, glasses and plates out in the family room, lights on and general disarray. Ideally, I would like the family room to look as I like it to look - neat and picked up. I settle for the lights being turned off when they go up to bed. Part of them coming home is to decompress and if I’m walking around flailing my arms every five minutes - no one is decompressing.
Come up with some new meals.
Ugh the agony of this one. For several weeks straight, I sent out little mom messages on the family text. They were varying degrees of ‘what do you want me to pick up at the grocery store’ and ‘any meals you want to have when you’re home’ so on and so forth. Even put some suggestions out there. Troll brats come home and apparently despite the $500 I spent there is ‘nothing’ to eat in the house. Because we don’t like sandwiches for lunch and GOD FORBID we have to make those sandwiches ourselves. Nor do we like leftovers. Or chicken pot pie. Or beef stir fry. What we like is something new and different. That’s what cookbooks are for, right? Try to cycle a couple of new recipes through your repertoire while they are home even if they were so kind as to give you no suggestions on what they would like.
Stock up on EVERYTHING.
I’m going through laundry detergent at a rapid rate. Because even at home as we did in school, we change our clothes multiple times a day. Milk is being consumed at light speed, the 12 rolls of toilet paper that I bought are now down to 2. Bananas don’t stand a chance for going bad. My dishwasher is run on a daily basis and don’t get me started on the number of showers that are taken every day. Paper towels, spare deodorant and toothbrushes - any and all of it. Buy in bulk.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
I struggle at times with this one because they don’t live at home nine months out of the year. And I miss them and when they are home, I want them to love being home. I’m a great one for throwing down the gauntlet - especially when my feelings are hurt - and then backing down and giving in. Because I worry that they won’t want to come back. Bottom line is that you are still mom. Still dad. And your house - your rules. If there is semi reasonable rationale behind the NO than you reserve that right to say it. And enforce it. They get over being mad eventually. Like when they’re hungry. And want you to make sandwiches.
Write down and be vocal about ‘mandatory’ family plans. Repeatedly.
We have a few things that over the holidays are mandatory for the family. And I have been and continue to be very vocal about my expectation of them being there and taking part. Again, this is a slippery slope when it comes allowing them to have their independence but in my opinion, I give plenty of notice and those mandatory family plans are part of what being a family is all about. Sometimes that means being in misery together but so be it.
Let them figure it out.
With siblings, there is bound to be arguments. Disagreements. Insults hurdled and feelings hurt. I can’t run interference for them all the time. And I won’t. I get involved when I find it cruel because not in my house you won’t. But otherwise I pour a stiff drink and walk out of the room and let them find their way through it. And sometimes that means that I send them all to their rooms because it is my house after all and I shouldn’t have to retreat to my room because they are being obnoxious. Either way, I have learned to back away as much as I can and let them settle their own differences.
Don’t be offended by them being self-absorbed.
Or selfish. They are off of their own and the most important person in the world to them is ‘me’. And the opinion that matters most is ‘mine’. And they have all the answers. And know everything. And in between the selfies and the Snapchat streaks and the Fortnite for hours, you will catch glimpses of the five year old that used to hold your hand walking through the mall. The insecure tween that still needs your approval. They are no different than the vast majority of teens and adults at their age and in time, most of them figure it out.
Be their soft place to land.
I remind myself of this every day. Sometimes hourly. The rigors of college, high school, life - it’s a lot. And ‘home’ should always be their soft place to land. That place where they can come and be. Be themselves. Be obnoxious. Be lazy at times. Be spoiled. Be a child. There will come a point in time where they too will be someone else’s soft place to land - set the example for them.
2018 Survival Guide for Children
Oh our little cherubs - how happy we are to have you home and back in the nest! But trust me when I tell you that it is an adjustment for us to have you back. Nothing major but mom and dad get accustomed to their own way of doing things. Take from this what you will.
Overuse the words ‘thank you’.
You can’t say them too many times. No matter how small the act of what was done for you, how trivial or minor it may seem to you, the words thank you go a long way and are appreciated by your parents. Use them. A lot.
Pitch in without being asked.
Rather than continue to pack down the garbage - take it out. Dishes in the dishwasher clean? Unload it. Errands that need to be run? Offer to do them. Without rolling your eyes. Dogs standing at the door to go out? Get up and put them outside. The ways in which you can help are endless and no task is really too small. That little bit of assistance goes a long way with mom and dad.
Don’t ask “Do you need any help?” if the offer isn’t genuine.
If you don’t really want to help then don’t offer. Because there is nothing that sends me from 0 to 60 faster than an offer to help that really is not an offer to help but more so a ‘show’ of an offer to help. If the offer isn’t genuine and you can’t fake it - don’t make the offer.
Be mindful of others in the house.
We understand that you are the center of your universe. But when you are home you are simply a cog in the wheel. Be cognizant of that fact. Be aware and mindful that now instead of mom and dad simply having to be aware of one another, they are juggling a full house full of opinions and egos. Things don’t have to be your way all the time.
The last thing parents want to listen to is their kids - the ones that they have been waiting to have home for the holidays - bicker with one another. The jabs here or there, the teasing, all of that is fine. But non-stop fighting, flinging insults, etc. it gets old real quick. And is upsetting to most parents. And super annoying. Just don’t do it.
Take part in being a part of the family.
Of course there are going to be things you don’t want to do. Family plans or outings where you would rather stab yourself in the eye with a sharp stick than partake. Do it anyway. It’s not always about you and what you want to do and if it makes mom happy - trust me when I tell you that is win win for the entire family.
Put down your screens.
Seriously. We get that your ‘streaks’ are super important. So is seeing your face periodically and not the top of your head. Put down your phones and give your parents some face time. You’ll live, I promise.
Remember where you came from.
The bottom line is you wouldn’t be where you are without where you came from. The sacrifices made by your parents to help you get to where you’re at have been many. Appreciate and remember where you came from. Know that there are countless things that parents go without in order for you to have. That when you are gone you are missed and days are marked off the calendar, waiting for you to come home. Remember the people that gave you your start and show them some love.
Surviving the Holidays - Schu Style
As I said, I’ve got two home with one to be sliding in to home plate for the holidays on Thursday. With this being college acceptance time, drivers ed for the little and all the other little nuances that come with having adult and semi-adult children, I’m doing my best to keep the stress levels down all around.
What I have learned is that so many of my triggers come from the way in which I’m approached with things. I don’t like being ‘told’ what is happening. Where they will be taking the car. That being said, I also want them to have the freedom to get done what needs to get done and to choose those battles appropriately. It is far from an easy process but I would like to think that I’ve made some improvements in the past couple of months and am a little bit more relaxed when it comes to things not going according to my plans.
And I am learning to be quiet and simply walk away. That simple act has done more to save my sanity and diffuse a situation than anything else. The past four months at home with just my Rob have brought out a protective side of him and I love that. He’s become more aware of my feelings and, in turn, it has caused him to have a very low tolerance to my feelings being hurt - especially hurt unnecessarily. I have taken a back seat approach and let him handle more of those discussions.
And I am embracing the changes and the chaos. Each of them has changed so much since August and they are continuing to grow into the adults that they are meant to be. I have come to realize that they are not going to like me all the time and, to be quite honest, they aren’t always my favorite people either. But the love is there. And rock solid. And that tells me I’ve done my job.
Merry Christmas to All
In the hustle and bustle of the next week, I remind you to take a moment and count your blessings. Because life changes in the blink of an eye. And amidst all of the fabulous gifts under the tree, the true gift is the people you share your life with. The ones that you love. The hand in yours, the arms that hug you tight. Good friends and cold drinks. Our children, grandchildren and our parents. Family.
Wishing you all a holiday filled with joy, laughter, a drink in hand and a bountiful feast. May you be blessed with the warmth of family, the kinship of good friends and a grateful heart that is secure with the knowledge of being loved by many.
And a puppy - I hope you all get a puppy!
Kilo Schumaker - ETA January 2019