This year, still reeling from transitions to a new home and the launching of several new work projects, the hubby and I were NOT at all interested in doing that little yearly dance usually accompanying Mother’s and Father’s Day. With four children under 12 including two toddlers, these holidays are usually more stressful than fun as we each corral the kids to draw cards, bake cupcakes, make art, or engage in some other creative activity intended to demonstrate their reverence of the other parent. And as much as I love my kids’ watercolor masterpieces, it’s just not quite as fulfilling when I look across the table at my poor husband’s weary eyes, and I know how much that watercolor project must have cost him in time, energy, and sanity.
So this year, we thought – ‘What is the point of all these gestures, anyway? Isn’t it just to let the celebrated parent know that he/she is appreciated, and that the kids have taken time to reflect on just how much he/she means to them?’
Well, hell then…let’s just do that! So instead of all the niceties, we got straight to the point. On the morning of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we convened family circles. The celebrated parent was placed in the center, and then everyone took turns sharing with the family what made them most grateful for Mom/Dad. After everyone had a chance to share their gratitude for the celebrated parent, the celebrated parent was asked to speak about things they have learned since becoming a parent to these four children. This was the chance for me and hubby to reflect on the gifts that our children give us every day as they teach us how to be more patient, loving, selfless, and open human beings.
The gratitude circles kept the kids engaged, we got to not stress about forcing everyone into some elaborate gift creation (or, worse, buying) ceremony, and we were both glad to hear the heartfelt sentiments expressed by our little ones. In the end, that’s all the presents would have represented anyway, and this was a much more direct (and less labor and money-intensive) way to get to the heart of the matter.
Both holidays served as reminders that sometimes in our rush to maintain the traditions of our own childhoods, we actually miss the point of why these holidays were originally created.
This year, try celebrating the next holiday, big or small, by simplifying your festivities. Try doing less, but being more thoughtful about it. Distill the holiday down to it’s original meaning and intent, and see if your usual way of celebrating actually aligns with the purpose of that particular day.
Of course, if you just love throwing big parties, shopping for presents, or planning lavish surprises, by all means go ahead! But if you, like us, have been starting to feel more anxious than excited about various holiday seasons, then you might benefit from starting your own new tradition this year. It may be as simple as a gratitude circle to express thanks for a loved one, or a heartfelt love poem to celebrate an anniversary, or just a dedicated time of reflection and meditation on the meaning of a special day.