The most everything time of the year

Last month I wrote about the importance of finding pockets of time in our kids’ lives for rest and relaxation.

Writing that piece in the thick of term 4, knowing all that was coming in the way of end of year commitments, it was a plea for adults to give our kids a break. A reminder, that we are in charge of our kids and families, and that it should always be our decision to decide when our kids have had enough and need a rest. 

Reflecting on my family’s last month or so, I can say that we made some good decisions to not participate in a couple of things, to breathe through the FOMO (fear of missing out) and enjoy some down time together.  These efforts helped to steer us through an extremely busy final term of school and scorching heat that tested our relationship with outdoor community sport. Even having done this, I am still left with a feeling of a very heavy mental load and it’s pretty clear why – The festive season followed by a summer holidays for the kids that is longer than my whole year of annual leave.   

The festive season is the most everything time of the year. Any worries, joys, grief, loneliness, expectations and hopes we carry throughout the year are amplified in the month of December. We need significant mental space to be able to deal with the heightened complexity of emotions and relationships. We parents and carers require additional mental space to deal with this and then to have it in us to set up a great summer for our kids.   

But how do we actually do this? How do we roll through the festive season dealing with complex emotions and relationships, combined with pressure to buy and give to excess? How do we ensure that we adults get enough relax time to ensure that we have the capacity to enjoy summer fun with the kids?  

There is no simple answer. But we can be kinder to ourselves and dial down the pressure. We can give ourselves permission to feel what we need to – whether that’s joy in the midst of grief, or grief in the midst of joy, contentment in limited company or contentment with limited gifts. We can choose to do things more low-key to help with the budget, or just because. We can show our kids that joy is found in many ways and giving can extend beyond our family. Our kids will look to us to gauge how good things are, and let’s not forget that things can be good, even if they’re not the same as they have been before. 

With festivities covered, the next question is, how do we deliver on a fun, relaxing summer? This is a particular struggle for those of us who have been on the receiving end of generations of messaging around the importance of motherly sacrifice, serving our families and suppressing feelings. This summer we could try to change that unhealthy narrative and instead remind ourselves of the flight safety message of ‘don your own oxygen mask first before helping others’.

While addressing our own needs sometimes feels unnatural, it is vital in ensuring our capacity to nurture our kids (and we also just deserve it because we are people too!).

This talk of a relaxing summer and ideation of creating the best summer possible before my kids no longer want to hang out as a family makes sense, but the question remains, what is a good summer? It’s relative, isn’t it? For me it’s early mornings at the beach, gardening, cricket, laughing with my kids and doing things we don’t normally have time to do – puzzles, books, baking, board games, art, and interpretive dance in the kitchen. These aren’t all things that I’d do if I were alone, but they are things that we do together and I love them for that. I guess a good summer for me is a summer with time to do things together.  

Where do we find this elusive time? I’m going to commit to being less productive this summer.

I’m going to prioritise disconnecting with the online space and connecting with the real-life people and surroundings. Finding awe in birds, trees, shells and ocean breezes and giving the gift of time and awe to my kids.  

These lofty ambitions may prove to be too impractical or just completely unachievable (I’ll know come February). Or I might be successful in achieving them and the result is a chaotic household, overgrown garden and a family that is thoroughly sick of one other. Whatever the outcome, I will remind myself that people wiser than me have known for a long time that our presence is the best present, it will all be over soon enough, and we’ll be embarking on another year of kid-focused chaos.  

Kelsie’s blog was first published as an opinion piece in The West Australian on Monday December 11, 2023, under the headline, This summer and festive season, address your own needs as well as your childrens. 

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