Take a Timeout Before the Christmas Rush
Christmas is certainly exciting, but it can be stressful when children — and traffic on Canton's Ford Road — are added to the mix.
The hands on the clock are ticking ever closer to Christmas Day, and as you rush around the city – to Target for a toy or a DVD, to the Canton post office to mail your late holiday cards or even to CVS for a few stocking-stuffer gift cards, it can be easy to lose your bearings – and your patience.
We often refer to Christmas week as a blur, as a span of time that sapped us of our strength (not to mention our hard-earned money), one that had a momentum all its own. But it's also a time when we reconnect with family and friends, stuff ourselves with some of our favorite foods and – this is very important – indulge our children's every Christmas urge.
It can be one of the most stressful stretches of the year, especially when children are thrown into the mix.
This is the first year that my oldest daughter, Emma, has really been able to grasp the idea of Christmas – and her head is spinning. I woke up one morning about a week ago to the sound of her screaming. I stumbled out of bed, crossed the hall and opened her door. She was bouncing up and down on her bed, shouting, "Santa is coming! Santa is coming to my house!"
My advice: Take a timeout while you still can.
I did not heed this advice last year. I was cocky. My daughter was an only child (we now have a newborn, as well), and at 1 ½ years old, she was relatively manageable – for two people. But my wife, who is a nurse, worked last Christmas, and I had to do all of the managing on my own. I didn't figure it to be a situation that I couldn't handle, so I proceeded with utter abandon, expecting that everything would just fall into place.
It did not.
It was our first Christmas in our new house in Canton, and I had not yet learned that Haggerty Road, much less Ford Road, was the absolute worst place in Canton to get stuck in traffic – especially with a screaming girl in the back seat, especially after realizing that I had forgotten the mixing blade to my Kitchen Aid mixer (I make the mashed potatoes in my family).
Not to mention, I was not yet familiar enough with the area to not get lost as I ducked into a neighborhood attempting to reroute us back to our house.
It is especially important to consider these situations well before they happen to you when negotiating the holiday landscape. There are gifts to be bought and wrapped, pies to be baked and coordination to be made with family members about where and when to show up for our gatherings.
Executing all these situations takes another sense all together, and that's a sense of time. I do not have one of those.
But look at it this way: We're light-years past the days of Little House on the Prairie. Canton is no longer the sprawling pastoral community it once was in a time and place when folks had to get their milk from the cows in the barn, travel miles by sleigh to the nearest general store and confer about the details of holiday gatherings via hand-printed letters – clamped to the leg of a carrier pigeon.
Put things in perspective, and try to realize that in a day and age of sport utility vehicles (with snow tires and all-wheel-drive), GPS devices and cell phones (not to mention car seats, strollers and juice boxes), it is infinitely easier to negotiate our holiday routes.
Things don't always occur at the most opportune times, however. We want our children to be able to soak up as much of the holiday atmosphere as possible, but we also need to control their excitement.
Fortunately, we've already had two huge opportunities to prepare for all of this: Halloween and Thanksgiving. Looking back on how we handled the stress load of carting our kids from place to place – all while managing to buy candy, make salads and casseroles and show up on time for parties and family gatherings – should help us to incorporate what worked and discard what didn't.
For me, it will get a ton easier. I already had to negotiate Thanksgiving without my wife, who had to work but got the trade-off of having three days off at Christmas. So, while we have two kids to cart around now – a 2 ½-year-old and a 2 ½-month-old – there will be two of us to tackle the responsibility of getting everyone, and everything, to the right places – on the right days.
Sean Flynn's dispatches from the front lines of fatherhood appear here weekly.