I don’t want to sound like a toddler here, but I do what I want. I mean, I don’t love scrubbing out the shower, and I tend to dread it for days before actually doing it, but otherwise, my schedule is filled with “get to” opportunities instead of “have to” responsibilities. Some of that is mind-set.
But a lot of it started one December when I said no at Christmas.
Our youngest was 6 months old, the oldest was five. The memory of racing these little ones at Indy 500 speeds through the Atlanta airport to make our connecting flight in July was still fresh when the spouse said the words I had been dreading for weeks. “Should we look for flights back home for Christmas?” Never had the word “Christmas” induced so much stress in my life. I love Christmas. Christmas is for family and snow and and taking the kids to see Grandma and Grandpa, since we lived in a sort of self-imposed exile halfway across the continent. We went to Kansas for Christmas, end of story. But as I stood in my family room on that afternoon and looked at the spouse’s resigned expression, it felt like too much. Too much trouble, too much hassle, too much money, and not enough pay-off. I sighed and asked, “What happens if we stay home this year?”
You could physically feel relief flood the room.
We did stay home, just the four of us, for Christmas that year. Not gonna lie, it was weird. It was the wrong season and way too sunny, and honestly, it was a little too quiet. But it was also like hitting the reset button on EVERYTHING. Our Christmas holiday was spent on tiny day trips, cozying up with new books and toys, sleeping, visiting neighbors, and attending Christmas Eve service in our own church. We started the New Year refreshed, truly rested for what felt like the first time in over a year. But at the time, I had no idea how far-reaching that decision would go.
Taking that step and not traveling at Christmas changed everything for our family.
At first it was little things, like not sending out Christmas cards the next year, or finding ways to simplify our schedules. But as my confidence to make good decisions for my family unit grew, I became bolder in my choices. I said “no” a lot. Because once I did it, once I became brave enough to buck (self-imposed) expectations in order to do what was best for me and my family, I did it again. And again. Each time came with a little less guilt and a little more confidence that this was right for us.
Eventually we moved back to Kansas, but I still make it a point to say “no” when needed. Sometimes to keep our calendars manageable and sometimes because it was not a good fit for us. We don’t participate in a lot of sleepovers. My kids don’t spend every weekend with grandparents. We don’t participate in school fundraisers, and my daughter doesn’t sell Girl Scout cookies.
Because I said no, and I’m the mom…and that’s okay.
Ten years later, I’m just as likely to say no in March or July or September. I’ve learned the sky doesn’t fall and the world doesn’t end. Despite our continued private way to spend the Christmas holiday, the kids know and love their grandparents and have loving relationships with extended family. We make donations to our schools and organizations and have taught our children the importance of supporting the things we love with our time and our talents while maintaining ourselves.
When December rolls around again, I like to take a moment and remember that distant December that changed everything. So please don’t be offended if we say no to something this holiday season.
It’s simply our way of celebrating.