At Christmas time when others are stressed and worn out, I actually find it quite easy to be kind and polite to shop assistants, checkout staff and other random people I meet in the pre-Christmas bustle.
But really the people who need my kindness, who need polite words, a gentle reply or a random surprise out of the blue are my family.
We are at the exhaustion end of the year. Mr has worked and travelled all year and is shattered and looking forward to the Christmas break. I am frantically trying to organise presents whilst also managing the social schedule for us all. The girls have all their end of year concerts, and parties, and wind-ups, and the combination of excited sugar-hyped kids and exhausted parents is not a good one.
And the kindness simply runs out.
So my family, because they are my family get the dregs. Because they are used to me; because I don’t have to be on my best behaviour with them; because they love me anyway they get the leftover Jodie who is worn out from crowds and shopping and organising.
The Jodie my family sees is not the polite, kind, patient Christmas shopper or school concert attendee. They see the mum who overreacts, who is always too busy, or too tired, and quite frankly is exhibiting very little Christmas spirit.
It’s not a good pattern so this Christmas I have tried to do things differently:
- I am making sure this Christmas season isn’t all about the busy and the bustle and the shops and we all get some downtime.
- I have created an advent calendar of random activities to create Christmas anticipation and togetherness. Today was making iced chocolates and drinking them together (yes, we live in Perth, hot chocolate would be ridiculous today!).
- I am making sure (importantly) that I get downtime too, because a happier, more rested mum makes for a more pleasant family.
- I am giving myself grace in terms of my own expectations for this season, as Shauna Niequist so eloquently puts it, I am choosing “present over perfect”.
So as a consequence no, I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping yet. No, I haven’t got all the Christmas cooking done that I usually would. No, I haven’t even figured out what dishes I am taking to my mums on Christmas day.
But in the end it’ll work out, and no one will be left out and no one will go hungry and no one will even know some of the things that were on my list that didn’t see the light of day.
But I will have practised intentional acts of kindness with my family, and although they won’t all be perfect moments, it’s a start.