Holiday Survival Guide

It’s that time of year. We get over-scheduled, over fed, over-tired, over-stimulated, and pretty soon, we’re over the holidays entirely. We get together with people we don’t see very often, people who may or may not appreciate our kiddos’ needs and eccentricities. We lose track of routines and rituals that help keep our lives sane. Here are a few tips to make it a little easier:

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1. Trim your to-do list. You might have a day that includes pancakes with Santa, the Nutcracker, a crafts festival and caroling with your best friends, all things you want to do. If you’re hearing the little voice in the back of your head (or your child melting down in the back seat) saying “this isn’t going to end well,” listen and cut your losses. Go home and move straight to the snuggles.

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2. Front load the healthy foods. Food power struggles rarely end well for anyone. One way to reduce them is to offer healthy choices when your family is hungry, before you head out to the parties. If your kids are full of protein there’s less room for cookies. For days with back-to-back activities, pack some of your kids’ favorite healthy snacks in the car.

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3. Remember the basics. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to find the perfect gift. Your kids want you to enjoy being with them more than they want to hit every activity.

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4. Know your kids’ maturity level. Holiday gatherings frequently use complicated social cues that your kids might not know. Grandparent Jones likes kids to be kids and encourages lots of activity, while Uncle Joe expects kids to sit quietly. Aunt Meg might want to say grace, whereas your family dinners start as soon as there’s food available. Don’t expect your kids to magically know what to do.

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5. Practice! If your home dinners are generally casual, occasionally have fancy dinner, where you make a game out of learning the difference between dessert and salad forks.

6. Protect your family time. In the middle of extended family visits and travel, protect the moments that keep you connected, like bedtime stories and morning snuggles.

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7. Forgive yourself. Holidays can be hard. Some of your festivities will feel less like celebration, more like a hell realm. That’s normal, and doesn’t reflect on your parenting abilities. We all have those days.

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8. Build in alone time. All of us– you, your kids, your visiting relatives– need space. Take some time daily to go for a walk, meditate, read, take a bath, or all of the above. Prioritize self-care.

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9. Build in time to just be kids. Meeting Santa may be fun, but waiting in line is taxing. Making gifts at a craft fair may be fun, but taking turns with the scissors is exhausting. Kids are expected to pull out lots of socially appropriate behavior around the holidays. Make sure there’s time for low-expectations, or even no-expectations. You can do that by going outside and making all the noise you want, having a completely unscheduled day, or even a “yes day.”

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10. Keep your kids informed on what to expect. Most kids do better when they know what’s happening. Let them know your plans, including how long you plan on staying and what comes next. As much as possible, let them help with the planning.

Here’s to holidays that don’t leave you feeling like you’ve been flattened by a taxi.

If you’d like some more Elf, join us for Elf day. Sunday, December 17th, we will open our doors from 12-6 for relaxed, low-pressure, hanging out time. There will be a quiet room, a movie room, some games and some crafts. Most of all, there will be time to connect and chill with low expectations.

 

Emotional Labor and #MeToo

Emotional labor was already on my mind when the tsunami of #MeToo happened.

Emotional labor—keeping relationships mended, nurturing families and friendships, clearing the way for the daily demands of life to move easily—is socialized into women from an early age and devalued by a patriarchal society. Shining light on this invisible work is one of the essential lenses used in Relational-Cultural thinking. 

How do these two things intersect? One day into #MeToo, a friend of mine posted that she felt a surprising rage when a male friend responded with how sad it made him. I noticed my own anger at my partner when he expressed distress about seeing so many #MeToos in his social media feeds. It seemed unreasonable, this anger over what he was feeling, exactly something I would want to avoid in order to maintain harmony.

Two days into it, I caught myself trying to formulate the best words to capture my own #MeToo rage but wanting to make sure my partner didn’t feel attacked. “Oh, I mean, not you of course,” I tagged on to the end of my sentence before realizing what I was doing. “I’m trying to figure out how to talk about this without making you feel bad.”

“I’m not asking you to do that,” he answered.

Let’s unpack. While talking about systemic sexism that results in women living with a lifelong heightened sense of danger, sexism that results in many women disconnecting from their bodies in order to endure the necessary steps to forward their careers, or just survive, sexism that leaves women economically and socially disadvantaged, I worried about upsetting the man listening to me. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Because my desire to protect his feelings was so intertwined with my everyday functioning in a patriarchal society, I couldn’t see it, and felt resentful of the extra labor on my todo list.

Then I saw the Trevor Noah piece about Louis CK. (He gets to it in the second minute)

Noah hits emotional labor on the head with one sentence:
“All women in Hollywood should win double Oscars for acting like all the men were cool all along, every single one of them. This shit is insane.”

This is about emotional labor– and it’s what keeps jumping out about #MeToo– women acting like men are just fine because they have to keep the waters calm. I value emotional work. I love being around friends who can steady me, and I’m pleased to be able to offer that skill when my friends struggle. I value the relational cushion afforded by being in tune with other peoples’ feelings. The relational part is what gives beauty and power to #MeToo; we use our relational connection to prevent anyone from being alone in their #MeToo call. We just need to be mindful of how we use our emotional labor skills. Are we using them to support and connect, or to hide?

RCT looks at more than relationships– it looks at the culture that holds them. The cultural piece of this brand of emotional labor is safety and survival. Marginalized populations are required to manage the emotions of more powerful people; their well-being depends on it. Why didn’t more women come forward earlier? They valued their careers. They wanted to be safe. Generations have taught us to keep the waters calm in order to survive, and we keep it calm by keeping our upset to ourselves. This piece that we’re taught through cultural norms is so deeply entrenched that it’s almost impossible to untangle from our everyday relationships. How many people are facebook friends with the people on the other side of their #MeToo posts? I know I am.

It’s possible to place too high a value on calm waters. It’s not our job, not women’s job, not marginalized peoples’ jobs, to keep the water calm. It’s our job to keep each other in some sort of water-safe contraption while the people causing storms figure out what to do about themselves. This is the purpose of our #MeToo group. We are holding each other in a safe place while we sort out our reactions without worrying about emotional care-taking of people who carry the “power over” mantle. We are using our relational network to push back against cultural harm.

Shining light on something doesn’t make the storm. We’re already in it. It’s up to us to help each other get to shore.
child in front of sweet shop
father with baby and toddler in chair
adult and child sliding on playground
baby touching mirror
Child running wildly
Toddler saying No
Control and Connection Matrix
Resting Kitten

Forgiving Ourselves

We say horrible things, grab too hard, react too strongly, and hurt the ones we love most. There are moments we can’t take back, no matter how fervently we wish to erase them. How do we move on, learn from our mistakes and earn forgiveness?

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