Navigating Family Time for a Relaxing Christmas


The holidays are definitely a time for family. However, sometimes navigating the when and where of seeing all that family can get a bit tricky.  When my husband and I were first married, we both wanted to be with our respective families on Christmas.  Instead of fighting over it, we just spent half a day with each family.  It was pretty easy at first.  We had no kids so we could jump in the car and throw some presents in the back rather easily. 

We did that every year for 6 years before we got pregnant.  Life without kids is so chill.

Christmas with Kids

When we had our daughter, she was the first grandchild on his side of the family so everyone on his side wanted her to be at Christmas and my family still wanted to see everyone too.  We still felt pretty good about loading up on Christmas mornings and heading out to see everyone, even though it was chaotic and extremely busy. 

When we got pregnant with our second daughter, we had been doing the run-around on Christmas for 8 years. We decided we wanted our Christmases to start looking different.  We wanted our children to have the same type of Christmas mornings we had growing up.  You know the drill, wake up, open presents, eat breakfast and then go back to playing with all the cool new stuff Santa brought. 

In the years leading up to that time, we had rushed our eldest daughter through her presents and stressed about getting everything in the car and getting to the first family’s house at a time that made everyone on that side happy.  Looking to the future, we knew we wanted a much lazier approach to celebrating with our own family. 

The trick was how to navigate the change.

Changing the Way We Celebrate

Somewhere along the way, someone suggested we read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  This was how we figured out how to make a change and whether it was fair to our families.  My big take away from that book was that we all have to make our own decisions and let others make their own decisions. 

Sometimes, this makes people we love angry with us because we aren’t doing things the way they want us to.  That is precisely when we have to decide to own our decision and understand that if it is upsetting to someone else, they are entitled to their feelings and will learn to accept it… eventually.  They also are entitled to their make their own decisions.  So if our decision meant that our family would be upset that we weren’t doing it their way and might not come to our home instead, then we had to accept that and know we were still doing what was right for us. 

It’s a bit of a Band-Aid effect. Tearing it off hurts a little, but it heals well in the end.

Staying Strong on Our Decision

Initially, there were some hurt feelings. 

No one likes change, especially when it comes to traditions. But we are 6 years into that decision and it has been the right one. Our family now knows that we weren’t trying to hurt anyone or be bullish.  We just had to make decisions that would create the environment we want our children to remember warmly.  

Christmas still isn’t exactly relaxing and maybe it never is when you have little ones. But we love being in our own home.  We let our families know that even though we weren’t going anywhere on Christmas Day, they were always welcome to come to us.  These days on Christmas, we have a revolving door of the people we love most. I sure hope that our children will remember the holidays as relaxing and filled with family.