The kids are going to be all right: Here’s how to make sure the holiday season really counts this year (and parents don’t lose themselves in the crazy mix of it all)

May your cup runneth over this holiday season. (Pixabay, Pixabay)

HOUSTON – If you’re a parent, you’ve heard the pandemic doomsayers blathering on about the holidays and holiday toy shopping.

There won’t be on-time deliveries.

There won’t be toys in stores.

Buy now. Buy fast. Buy, buy, buy.

Are they employed by the toy companies?

I feign skepticism now. I actually ponied up the cash and bought all the toys my kids will get for the holidays already. I was scared, y’all.

But now, looking back at it all, I realize this: Underneath all of these proclamations is a sad message that all parents want to avoid: All the holiday joy will be gone. The kids won’t have their toys. The Norman Rockwell painting that is your life (yeah, right) won’t come true this year. The pandemic strikes again and the logjam at the Port of Houston is going to RUIN MY KIDS’ CHRISTMAS.

Oh the humanity! For the love of children and all that wholly holy and forgoodnesssakes jolly, help us God this Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Or whatever you celebrate that NEEDS gifts this year.

I am always in awe of the frenzy that hits after the Halloween candy wrappers start filling the trash can at my house. It’s a sugar-infused craze that pushes me to open apps and start clicking “purchase.”

I’m guilty. We all are. But really, my kids are young and would likely not be phased if we took some of their existing toys, rewrapped them, and then gave them to them on the holiday. (This won’t last forever, I know.)

But the pressure is real – and of my own creation. Our own culture’s creation. I want to sometimes pack up everything, get myself a buggy and a horse and cut the cord – all the cords in my home and life that connect me to all that’s crazy and wanting and just must-have.

Do we all need all this stuff?

My heart bleeds for the parents who will try to find whatever Xbox is the newest this holiday season a week before Christmas.

But I also want to say to all the parents out there. This holiday season should be about you, too. Let’s claim it as our own. Let’s make it all easier for ourselves this year.

There’s a lot of newfound pressure to PERFORM since the pandemic has eased. We’re urged to pick up the mantle of party coordinator and supreme host or hostess again and it’s all a little overwhelming, even this early in the holiday game.

A lot of people I know are going to hit the stores again, searching for the best holiday bargains.

But I urge you all to remember some of the lessons of the pandemic.

Instead of grazing the stores for the perfect gifts, be intentional and you’ll buy or – be still my heart MAKE -- more of the things you actually want to give instead of the thing you happened to find for someone that you think they’ll kinda, sorta, maybe could want.

But let’s back up. Make. That’s a lovely idea. Instead of filling a digital or literal cart up with more crap that you’ll likely have to go through in a year to Marie Kondo yourself out of next year, consider possibly stretching yourself a bit and perhaps decide with a beloved friend to exchange gifts you made instead of bought. Or fix up a family heirloom that you always wanted to give new life to and share it with a relative who would appreciate it in their home.

You might feel pressure to give according to a value amount you’ve decided upon with a loved one, but if you examine that for just two seconds, you’ll see how shallow and empty that has become as well. It means more to give for giving’s sake – not to receive a gift of equal or greater value than the gift you’ve given them.

Doesn’t that kind of thinking just hurt somewhere inside? Why are we hurting this holiday? Haven’t we hurt enough? Haven’t we felt enough of a burden and carried too much in the past two plus years?

Let’s reclaim this holiday season for all that it is, in all of its forms.

Grab your religious text or your favorite holiday film. Re-explore its meaning and the joy it gave you so long ago when you found the spark of it.

Take just a few minutes to think about why you’re so compelled to add all these things to your list of to-dos without any eye on the credit card bill that’s to come.

I like to think about that first week of January in 2022. What will it feel like? Where will I be? What will I be doing?

Will I be grumbling after paying that enormous bill I racked up in the frenzy of week one of December or will I be hopping on the elliptical, celebrating the 10 pounds I’ve already lost since November because I made me and my health a priority through the holiday season?

I urge you to stop and take this season for its meaning. And for the joys it can offer beyond the stores. Time with family. Making s’mores in the fire pit. Making a gingerbread house or cookies. Go together to look at lights in one of those over-the-top neighborhoods that hire folks to hang their lights for them. Wrap up a gift your child got last year and see their face get a little confused.

It’s all there and it doesn’t cost much, if anything at all.

Simplify. Be intentional about it. Maybe you’ll thank me next year.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.