Cute little puppy dog, Bowie, is coming to my house for the holidays and he also happens to be bringing along my newly married daughter, Emily, and her fabulous husband, Kenton. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be a good mom. With mothering it seems just about the time you really get it down, your kids get older and you’re in a new season starting all over again. I am learning for the first time how to be a good mom to my YAC (young adult children), even more so how to be a good mother-in-law.
As I was setting the table today, I started thinking it would be helpful if I could write down a little something to help me remember the things my mom and mother-in-law did right. Things I didn’t notice when I was newly married but are now apparent because neither of them did things to make me feel yuck on the holidays. Both were literal angels. Ann Davis was the kindest human. And my mom, well … we like to call her Saint Margaret. So I’ve got big shoes to fill. Like what to do-say-think-feel when the YAC are with their in-laws for the holidays instead of at my house. I guess that could be called ‘how to share.’ Eek.
As I was placing the silverware and smoothing napkins, I started thinking how great it would be to have at least a little cheat sheet. A short list of reminders to look at when I get confused. Like when I start erroneously thinking the holidays are about fulfilling my heart’s desire (all-kids-and-their-people-at-my-house-all-the-time) instead of remembering I want to be a wise, godly and loving mom/MIL. A fun, creative and thoughtful mom/MIL. I gotta keep myself steady.
So I created this cheat sheet. Before Bowie gets here, I’m going to put this list in a couple times. Post one in the pantry. Tack one to the closet wall. Stick one in the desk drawer. Want to try it with me?
3 Important Things to Remember When Your Kids Come Home for the Holidays
1) Don’t Squeeze Too Tight. If your kids can’t make it to your house for the BIG DAY … remember, it’s just a day. Tra-la-la. It’s just a day. (Keep telling yourself that.) Of course, you want them at your house but you MUST be a grown-up about their very grown-up lives. You’ve been parenting them a LONG time … and now they are finally grown-ups on their own … isn’t that lovely? What a great job you did! They’re off on their own! Independent! Yay! Your prayers and hard work paid off.
The problem with squeezing too tight and making your kids feel like they have to always be with you is it’s hard for them to breath. It’s emotional and relational asphyxiation. And that’s not very holiday-ish, is it? No. It’s actually kind of childish. And we are moms that are led by wisdom about such things. So this is what we say when they can’t come around, “We love you. We’ll miss you. A lot! But we truly understand.” (Dispense of improper tone. Practice out loud. Run script by a friend. Absolutely no double meaning in the message.)
2) High Anticipation, Low Expectation. Oh, this is hard because they are your HEART! And they’re coming. To your house. HIGH ANTICIPATION!! Like Christmas morning but better, better, better ~ your babies are coming home!!! So, yes, let anticipation run high and wild and free BUT pair it with LOW EXPECTATION. For example, your daughter is home (!!!) and you imagine pouring over the Anthro catalogs you’ve been saving up, watching Gilmore Girls just like when she was in college and making meals together for the family but your daughter has no idea about your expectations. She wants to catch a movie with her husband or walk Town Lake with a friend. This is where you can experience a serious crash if you’re only thinking about yourself. A wise mama’s greatest joy is her child’s joy. Period. No PS or anything like that. HIGH ANTICIPATION must be paired with LOW EXPECTATION.
3) Tradition without Compulsion. So maybe when your YAC were little, you drove them around looking at Christmas lights … in their pajamas. It was cozy and sweet. Cherished memories. But things have changed. It’s a whole new season with new people and new ideas. If you still want to drive around town in your pajamas, go for it. But don’t make everyone go. And don’t make people feel bad for not coming along. Because it’s weird to make your son-in-law sit in the backseat in his pajamas with his new wife while you drive around looking at Christmas lights. Traditions that become joyless for people are exasperating. Add some good old-fashion shame or pouting if they politely decline and you’ve got yourself a real downer of a holiday going on. Decide now: you’re not gonna be the conductor on a holiday shame train. You just do you. And do it with great joy.
So there. Just a short list and a baby step toward making sure our YAC and their dearest continue to find our homes safe and delightful and lovely places to gather.
We can do this, you and me.