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Mom and toddler baking cookies together

The Perfect Holiday

We’ve all watched the holiday movies with the big family dinners, the perfectly set table, and the perfectly decorated house. The light of the sun or moon glow glistening off the pristine snow often finishes the picture-perfect illusion as glasses are raised to celebrate the family gathering.

This holiday season I have committed to none of that.

It occurred to me this past weekend, when my grown children, grandchildren, and their two dogs were visiting my house for the weekend that my son will be leaving for an extended stay in Spain and he won’t be home for the holidays. So, we celebrated early. In addition, we have a new member of the family, born October 15, and we were gathered to welcome baby Elliott.

Our gathering was far from picture perfect. It was a very rainy 60 to 70 degrees that day, with no pristine snow in sight. Everyone was a bit soggy from taking turns walking the dogs. My pre-teen granddaughters reluctantly closed up the bag of hot Cheetos and stopped messaging their friends long enough to join us for dinner. The 4-year-old, a new big sister, was so overwhelmed with excitement that she lost all composure when I offered her a drink in a blue cup when she was expecting the red cup, which is apparently the only cup she has ever loved. Such is life.

As we enter the holiday season, many of us get stressed by imagining what should be happening and comparing it to what is happening. This year, I am going to give myself the gift of enjoying life, just as it is. I might walk the dogs and enjoy the neighbor’s decorations. I’ll definitely hold the baby and marvel at this small miracle. I’ll remember to cherish the moments of connection with the almost teens, even if it means texting them. I’ll be thankful I can compassionately calm my 4-year-old granddaughter when the excitement gets too much. I might enjoy watching some holiday movies, but I will not compare and contrast the production with real life. Real life is way more meaningful, and well, real.

Here are a few guidelines for less stress and more enjoyment this holiday season:

  • Give yourself permission to not have perfection.
  • Take a deep breath and remember that excited young children are prone to meltdowns.
  • Respond with compassion and keep your composure.
  • Create new traditions that are meaningful to you (like walking the dogs and enjoying the neighbor’s decorations).
  • Cherish the ordinary moments and don’t go overboard with trying to create extraordinary memories. It’s the little things that mean the most.
  • Make a holiday list that fosters connection, rather than spending. Remember the holidays are about giving, not gifting.

Visit the CHKD Family Resource Center at CHKD Urgent Care and Health Center at Landstown for a free, parent chat, by appointment: (757) 668-9304. Or, check out

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About Michele Tryon, CCLS

About Michele  Tryon, CCLS Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.