Welcome to the December Mindful Mama Carnival: Staying Mindful During the Holiday Season
This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants have shared how they stay mindful during the holiday season. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I've always loved the season of Advent, and the traditional celebration of the weeks leading up to Christmas as practiced by the Christian church. Growing up, we lit candles in our Advent wreath at every suppertime (and squabbled over who got to blow them out).1 We followed along every Sunday at church with the big Advent wreath, often being one of the families who volunteered to come up front and lead that week's lighting.2 This year, we've found a way to incorporate the celebration into our own family.
I know this is the Mindful Mama Carnival, but I have to give credit to a mindful papa. It's Sam who's spearheaded our celebrations and come up with what we've done week to week.
A little background: We started going to a new church just before Alrik's birth, and our attendance has been … spotty. Part of that is finding a good way for Mikko to worship with us (a perpetual problem). He hasn't wanted to go to the nursery or children's church (too scary), but he also hasn't wanted to sit quietly in the service (boooring). On the Sunday before Advent started, I had finally convinced him to stay in the nursery with Alrik and me, so the three of us missed the service. Sam, who was in the service, brought home an Advent guide that had been handed out. We fully intended to go to church the next two weeks … and missed both of them. Oops! Good thing we had a handy Advent guide.
So, anyway, that first skipped week, the first Sunday of Advent, Sam baked some "Jesus bread"3 with Mikko (see above photo), then pulled some chairs into a circle near the electronic keyboard. I think the idea was that I would play the songs for that week, but the booklet didn't include the music, so we went a capella. We read some Bible passages, sang the suggested Advent hymn ("Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus") and children's song ("Jesus Loves Me") while shaking random percussive instruments (even Alrik, although he added an element of drool), and broke some Jesus bread together. It was like a little home church service, or what I like to think of as detention for skipping church.
The next week, we did it again.
I'll tell you what I'm taking away from this Advent celebration. I realize so far this has been very religion-centric because that's how it looks in our house, but I'm hoping it can benefit those of you who have a different faith or none at all.
Separating Advent into weeks makes the wait more manageable for a child.When we told Mikko there were 24 sleeps till Christmas (or whatever number we were on — I think he started asking immediately after Thanksgiving, actually), we might as well have told him there was a googol of sleeps left. "Why it take so yong time!" he lamented. (I will be so sad when he learns how to pronounce Ls, let me tell you.) Saying four weeks (although it's kind of five weeks this year, with Christmas on a Sunday — on which we will likely skip church again) is less unreasonable for a little kid.
Showing the weeks passing makes it more concrete for a child.We're using 24-day Advent calendars as well, but there's something satisfying about four candles around an Advent wreath. Watching one candle lit per week and, if you're using real candles, seeing the earlier ones burn down lower than the later ones, takes the waiting out of the abstract and into the real.
Celebrating meaningfully puts the focus where your family wants it.As far as Mikko's concerned, Christmas is about presents. I'm not even against that. But it's nice to inject some of our grown-up beliefs and values into the gift-fest, and celebrating mindfully each week allows us a chance to do that. We sing the songs that resonate with us. I read him the story of Jesus' birth from his children's story Bible. (It's divided into segments, and I have to admit to a thrill when he asked me to continue with the shepherds' tale.)
In the spirit of charitable giving, Sam picked two children's tags off a tree downtown for us to go shopping for them as a family. At first, Mikko was horrified that we were giving away the cool presents we bought for these low-income kids, and he could not wrap his mind around the idea that these were the only toys these kids might get this year, and that, no, giving one of his old toys instead was not a proper substitute, and anyway, which of his old toys would he agree to part with? He moaned about it the whole ride home from the store, although it was still a kind of joyful moaning, because we were joking with him about it. Then, all of a sudden, it clicked. The next day, Mikko brought the newly purchased gifts over to me along with a roll of wrapping paper. "Let's be Santas, Mama," he said, echoing what Sam had suggested we were doing. He had me seek out scissors and tape, and we wrapped those presents for the kids. I think my heart melted into a puddle of goo. Thinking unselfishly is really, really hard developmentally for little kids — it just is. Imagining these abstract "low-income kids with no presents" is very difficult. I was so pleased he made a switch in his own head and realized giving these toys away was the right thing to do.4
Whatever your family wants to emphasize in your holiday celebrations, you can bring it into your preparations: greening your home, connecting with neighbors, commemorating the seasonal changes, trying new winter outings — you can choose what would be meaningful to you, and figure out a way to divvy it up throughout the month.
I could envision crafting your holiday plans into a weekly celebration. Say you wanted to watch four holiday movies — you could pick a weekly movie night and watch one each week. You could do a little home worship service the way we do, in whatever way works for your family. You could pick four holiday-themed books for bedtime, one a week. You could think of four activities, like ice skating and a cookie decorating party, and schedule them one a week to help your kids count down the time till the big day.
Here's hoping that your marking down the weeks toward Christmas (or whatever holiday you may celebrate) ends up being not just a way to pass time but a meaningful celebration in itself!
How do you mark the weeks till Christmas or your chosen holiday?
1 Funny Advent memory: One day, my older brother was insisting he was going to blow them out and my mom intervened, "No, I'm going to," and the rest of us sort of figured it was one of those Mom moments of "You kids can't decide nicely? Then I'm gonna do it!" My brother was arguing frantically with her as she leaned in close to the candle, opened her mouth, and … let out a huge belch. It was a Mom classic.↩
2 I am a dork from a family of dorks. I am now raising the next generation. Dork power!↩
3 So called because it's like the bread they serve for Communion in church.↩
4 The next day he told us we needed to stop by a pet store to buy reindeer for our sleigh — he was going to do Santa right.↩
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Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Enjoying Busy Times Moment by Moment Amy at Peace 4 Parents offers a handful of simple pointers to make the most of any busy season in your life.
- Staying A Mindful Mama During The Holiday Season Terri at Eco-Crazy Mom shares her thoughts on being a mindful mama, while keeping your sanity throughout the holiday season..
- Holiday Parenting: The Gift of Natural Play Moorea at MamaLady shares her holiday plan for mindfully spending time with children in her extended family.
- The ABC's of Mindful Parenting Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama provides a comprehensive list of Mindful Parenting Resultions for 2012. In addition, she briefly reviews her mindful parenting journey for this past year.
- The 123's of Mindful Parenting Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares part 3 of her Mindful Parenting series (Link will be live tomorrow, Dec 14).
- Mindful Mama Guest Post from Hybrid Rasta Mama Zoie at TouchstoneZ is honored to share Part 2 of Jennifer's series on staying Mindful for the Holidays.
- Saying No to Plastic Toys Nada at minimomist and her husband Michael, have certain rules when it comes to toys for their daughter Naomi. Here's how they deal with well-meaning gifts that don't quite work for their family.
- Can you LOVE WHAT IS at Christmas? with so many expectations and no many people's needs to accomodate, Patti at Jazzy Mama has decided to simply accept what can't be changed and love whatever happens.
- Minimal Temptation, Minimal Gifting Adrienne at Mommying My Way shares how not exposing herself to tempting purchases, as well as having fun family traditions, helps keep her Christmas list under control.
- Choice And Consequence In Conscious Mindfulness Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares her realisation that consciously monitoring our thoughts have a powerful effect on our lives, regardless of circumstances or influences.
- A Light in the Darkness Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about overcoming holiday blues through the miracle of motherhood.
- Nature-Inspired Christmas Tree Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling describes how she and her children discovered the beauty and simplicity of a nature-inspired holiday tree.
- Giving The Gift of Life Free Range Mama at My Healthy Green Family shares about teaching children how to look beyond the well-wrapped box and learn how to give. .
- Can a collection of moments be more than the whole? Tat at Mum in search asks how do you turn a holiday from hell into a series of beautiful moments?
- Flying Through the Holidays Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction discusses how a simple organizational plan has kept her holidays balanced.
- Celebrating Advent week to week Lauren at Hobo Mama finds that counting down weeks instead of days helps children with the long wait.
- 5 Ways to Stay Mindful This Holiday Season Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares ideas and photos that help her stay mindful throughout the holidays.
- Simplifying the Holidays Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shares how simplifying the holidays has made them more special for her.
- Mindfully Managing the Mania Erica at ChildOrganics fights against "the gimmes" and shares strategies for staying balanced during a time of year when it's easy to overindulge.
- Six Ways to Enjoy the Holidays Without Losing Your Mindfulness Rachael at The Variegated Life shares tips on thinking less, planning less, doing less, and remembering.
- The Gift of Presence Darcel at The Mahogany Way explains how important it is to be present for and with her family during the Holidays.
- Mindfully meditating on celebrations Dionna at Code Name: Mama hosts this guest post from Child of the Nature Isle about desiring meaningful celebrations for the whole year.
- What Does It Really Mean? Staying Mindful Through the Holiday Season Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about how she stays in touch with what the holiday season means for her and her family, in spite of all the temptations to do otherwise!