Some parents really do awesome holidays – all of them. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, and more. They’ve got Elf on the Shelf and leprechaun gold and handmade Halloween costumes and a garage door custom-painted for each kid’s birthday.
Now far be it from me to be their killjoy. If you can do all that in a cheerful spirit, rock on, momma and poppa! That zest for fun is great! Around here, though, it’s more my ambition to see just how lame a holiday can be and still get some kind of credit. Here are some generic principles for taking a walk on the lame side.
Color = festive enough. Is it Valentine’s Day? Pink milk! St. Paddy’s? Green milk! Halloween? Orange! Also works for pancakes. Voila, special holiday dinner that the kids might even eat. That food coloring four-pack will last for about ten years. Time and money investment – almost none.
Treats = festive enough. Starve the children of treats the rest of the year so that the simplest piece of candy that you picked up at the grocery store is great. Put the treat on their plate or outside their bedroom door for them to find in the morning. Time and money investment – almost none.
Scale it small. Take any holiday “must” and scale it as small as possible. One jack-o-lantern, not five. If you celebrate Easter, maybe baskets OR egg hunt, not both. For birthdays, one present, or one from each family member might be enough. Apply to all holidays.
Set a time limit. This year, not counting purchasing stuff, I spent exactly one hour on Halloween, including carving the pumpkin (at an “emergency surgery” pace), supervising the kids who made dinner, and shoving them all out the door with their teen brother for treat or treat. Setting a time limit can help release you from the pressure to do more and more.
Keep it consistent. A lot of what makes something a “tradition” in kids’ minds is repetition, not how great the tradition actually is. If you drink cider on Halloween or play cards on New Year’s Eve, that will be a tradition to them. So find things that are really easy that they can latch onto as their traditions.
Set the bar low. Remember, kids expect things to get better over time, not worse. So set the bar low when they are little. You don’t have time anyway! You can always make things more “magical” later when you do have more time—with the added benefit that they might actually remember it.
Wait until the kids can do it themselves. This year, we actually had our first non-lame Halloween, despite my lack of effort, because the kids were old enough to do it themselves. They went on Pinterest and pinned 50 cute recipes (reduced to the 3 easiest and healthiest by me) and they made the adorable hot dog mummies wrapped in biscuit dough and the clementine pumpkins and the ghost bananas and they spent hours brainstorming and creating their own costumes. OK . . . three of them created costumes. The other two stuck with lame (astronaut costume bought from the store, same as last four years only now with capri-pant spacesuit look) and painfully lame (NASA mission specialist, represented by wearing same winter coat with NASA logo he wears every day). That’s okay! I’ve created a safe space to be lame or creative. It’s all good. By overdoing the holidays and killing yourself, you might even be traumatizing your kids so they feel they can never measure up. So seize your right to Be Lame for the holidays.