3 Mantras for Parents This Christmas
Parenting during the holidays is not for the faint of heart.
Why don’t we talk more about this?! Along with all the obvious wonder and magic of the season come overtired, overscheduled, strung-out-on-sugar kids. So much joy, coupled with so much struggle.
For me, mantras help. They give my racing mind something to focus on when I’m facing yet another impossible parenting moment. Here are three that I know will get me through this holiday season with a sense of perspective mostly intact.
Mantra #1 - “It's Always Both”
Have you ever watched your kids’ faces glow in the twinkling light of a Christmas tree while sipping hot cocoa in matching pajamas? It’s a moment that can make your heart burst with joy. Why, then, is there another small, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach?
Have you ever been carrying a screaming toddler out of Target in a football hold? It’s a different kind of moment, one where your stress spikes and your inner rage monster emerges from its cave. So why do you find yourself cracking a smile and giggling once you get the whole gang into the car?
That’s because it's always both. Every emotion we experience is subtly holding hands with its opposite. Layered in the bursting joy of watching your child play in the snow is the sadness that time is so fleeting and childhood is so temporary. The sadness is not the main feeling, but it's tucked in there, in the recesses of your heart.
The gnawing frustration of your child demanding more and more Christmas cookies when they’re already hopped up on sugar is tinged with the hilarity of the realization that SHE IS LITERALLY YOU (because you’ve already snuck three cookies while she was eating her lunch).
Sometimes we think this confusing experience of both feelings at once is a fault in the system or in us. It’s not, it’s REALITY. You’re not broken, nor are you a bad parent. Sadness swirls into joy like cream swirls into coffee. It’s just like that, this side of Heaven.
Mantra #2 – “If I Were You, I’d Be You.”
I don’t know about you, but I experience a lot of frustration when my kids’ behavior is out of control and I think to myself, “Why are you BEING this way?!”
Here’s the thing: everyone behaves the way they do for a reason. Our behavior comes out as a jumbled-up mess of our experiences, our family of origin, our biology, our circumstances, our stressors, our baggage, our hormones and—perhaps the biggest factor of all—whether or not we’re hungry. We’re human, and we’re trapped in these bodies that are so fragile and so fickle.
So when my kids are acting straight up crazy, I say this mantra in my head: “if I were you, I’d be you.” It’s a helpful reminder to put myself in my kids’ shoes and cultivate compassion for their experiences. Here’s an example:
My 3 year old is throwing a colossal tantrum at Christmas Eve dinner. I’ve taken a 3 year old with an undeveloped prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for emotional control), forced her into uncomfortable clothes, made her sit still for an hour at church while dangling presents in front of her face but telling her she can’t have them until after dinner, then served her a bunch of mushy foods she’s never had before. This is A LOT for a 3 year old. And if I were in her shoes, I would be reacting the same exact way. If I were her, I’d be her.
This mantra helps me have empathy, but also helps me find solutions. If I were as overwhelmed as she is right now, what would I need to help me calm down? In fact, how could I prepare her a little better in the future so she has some emotional tools to handle her overwhelm? There’s power in putting ourselves in our kids’ shoes.
Mantra #3 – “Emmanuel, God with Us”
The holidays can be lonely for everyone, but especially parents. Even in the midst of the chaos.
You’re here rocking your baby to sleep at 3 AM, feeling more isolated than ever. You see your friends posting pictures from parties, all dressed up with washed hair and fresh makeup (something you haven’t mustered in weeks? months? years?) You couldn’t go to that party because it's too hard and expensive to find a sitter, or even worse, your friends stopped inviting you all together because you’ve said “no” too many times. You feel trapped in the smallness of your life as it revolves around your tiny humans and their gigantic needs.
No one knows what it feels like to be you. Except…
God with Us.
Jesus entered the world as a baby, the Word became flesh, and he experienced humanity. Christ broke through to show us: we are never alone. Our loneliness, our isolation, our panicked desperation around our children’s issues that only seem to heighten during the holiday: we are not alone in them. God is with us. And with him, comfort and joy.
So…Take. A. Breath. And let these three parenting mantras be a guiding light through the magic and mayhem of the Christmas season.
Come celebrate the holidays with us at our candlelight Christmas services. The whole family is welcome! Find service times and locations here.