Jen: How We're Simplifying the Holidays

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When I was a little girl, two things used to occupy my sweetest nighttime musings: Disneyland® and Christmas! Of the latter, I remember lying in bed weeks before the big day just reveling in the marvel of the whole thing. I loved the music, I loved the decorations, and, of course, I loved the presents. I loved it all.

I think that's why the holidays seem so overwhelming to some of us as adults, whether we're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or another occasion -- or all of the above. It seems as if December manages to take all the excitement of the other eleven months and roll it into one huge celebration. It's got the whole "winter" vibe, it has elements of folklore, traditions, gift giving, feasting, singing, and "peace on earth," not to mention the religious significance of the multiple holidays observed this month. If that weren't enough, the season's not officially over until you stay up one whole day to retire past midnight on December 31. Thank heavens for sleeping in on New Year's Day!

In short, there are so many good things to do in December that I've found as a parent it can be exhausting. And while I love the holidays, on years that I'm particularly busy, my nighttime musings can be filled with dread and anxiety rather than anticipation.

In an effort to change this, I decided to quiz the family about which aspects of the holidays matter the most to them. Since our time is limited, it seems that we must choose between what's good and what's better. Here's what I discovered:

First, for my kids, they really do love getting presents. I think both kids mentioned that as their favorite thing about the holidays. What can I say? I guess that means they're normal (and honest). So I'll go ahead and note that presents must be included in our celebrations.

Second, I was surprised, but food and goodies do figure prominently into every family member's recollection of the season. My husband's favorite tradition is having a feast. After presents, James listed making cookies and making gingerbread houses as his two favorite parts of Christmas. Luke had only two favorites, the aforementioned presents and "the chocolate that you get to open up from that poster every day," or the cheapo advent calendar that I bought for $1.99 last year! At least that tradition won't set me back for time or money!

One of the most surprising things about these answers is that since James has had type 1 diabetes for several years, we haven't made a huge deal about the treats and chocolates and cookies. Yet they seem to still occupy a huge place in the kids' memories. This year James even specifically said, "I just want to say that I think it is great that Santa gets cookies, but this year on Christmas Eve, I want to eat some, too." You can bet that James will get his Christmas treats. I'll make sure that James and Luke get plenty of healthy holiday food this December, but I do think that I will honor their request and keep the cookies and chocolate available -- in moderation, of course! Truly, I think this underscores the fact that as humans, we celebrate and grow closer through food and mealtime traditions.

I am gratified to note that there were also some traditions not associated with food or presents that made the big list. We have an activity advent calendar that is still appreciated. Additionally, James really wants to "learn to sew and make clothes for homeless people this year," and while we might not be making clothes, donations and giving seem to be important to him now as he's getting older. My husband Craig wants to do our traditional Christmas Day hike to the beach (nice antidote for stocking goodies) and to read the original Christmas story from the Bible. Of course, Luke still just wants presents and chocolate, but I have hope for him -- after all he's only 5!


About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I'm thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

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Related topics:
Managing Holiday Treats and Sweets
Jen: A Diabetes Christmas
People in the Know: Candy Season

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