Seasonal simplicity the how to scale down your party/social calendar edition

Pack at play/ Mama C and the Boys 2011

Over the Thanksgiving weekend our family did something really unusual: precious little. I scheduled almost nothing for myself or the family. I offered this alternative to most all invitations: “I’d love to see you too. Were really needing some unstructured family time at the moment. However, we’ll be at the park from 3-4:30 if you’d like to join us there…” The end result? Profound ease and peace in the kingdom. I let go of my social obligation anxiety, replacing it with my family equilibrium intention. We gently waded through lots of long mornings with no rushing. There were no dishes to prepare, outfits to dress up in, or socially-acceptable-behavior-at-a-guest’s-house to adhere to. The amount of time in the infamous “blue chair” (overstuffed giant chair that fits three easily) reading, cuddling and just shooting the shitake mushrooms as Sam likes to say increased twenty fold. Our big destination each day: the basketball court in something that wasn’t completely mistakable for pajamas.

Parenting gone poof: At some point into the second day I realized that most of my good parenting had turned into on the fly band aid parenting between play dates, meetings, work, conferences, phone calls, events, lessons, and practice as of late. I had to relearn how to set clear limits, and stick to them. “If you get up from your seat, or play with your food you will be put in time out. If you do that a second time, the meal is over for you, and there will be no desert…” Meals suddenly became conversational again. I wasn’t at the breaking point where I wanted to scream all the time. “If we can’t play quietly in the living room independently while I work for half an hour, than we’re not going to earn half an hour of screen time later. ” Card games did not end in 52 card pick up or tears.   The decibel level in the house dropped quantitatively. We were all remembering what it takes to do our part in the family, to be part of a larger whole.

Continued payoff: Monday we all seemed to transition back to school and work with SO much more ease. It’s like our batteries were really full. Our connection to each other was so tangible, I didn’t feel like my heart was being ripped out of me when I had to say goodbye this morning. Tonight for the first time in his life as a game player, Marcel did not burst into tears when he lost. I wish I could share the audio of this sentence; “Good game! Want to play again?” As I type the boys are cuddled in their bunk beds together reading.

More data: For kicks I asked my middle school students to tell me one thing they really had gratitude for over the break. Do you know what the most common response was? ” Spending time just hanging out with my family, not having anything we had to do…”

How do you find the middle between the time well spent at home, and the pull of the fun, festive, and semi obligatory social pull of the season? What can you do this holiday season to maximize your time together? What can you say no to this year that will not banish you for all time from the world outside of your cozy enclave?


  1. Last week of December. No work. No school. No activities. No nothing. No money for that matter, but that’s off topic. We’re going on home retreat.

  2. We had a Thanksgiving like that also, one of total ease and family time. Boys in their jammies until noon playing with the train set most days. Fun snow play day one of the days. I feel deeply replenished, and noticed that the kids were all much more cooperative as well. Trying to hold on to that feeling moving forward.

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