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On compromise, unselfishness, and not falling out of the boat on the other side

Making Christmas Merry | On Compromise

Though I’ve been pontificating about simplifying and saying no to things at Christmas and giving less weight to other people’s expectations, I do know that a danger with this line of thinking (as with any, I suppose) is that one can take it too far.

Should we release ourselves from the bondage of other people’s expectations? Yup.

Should we ignore other people’s desires altogether? Um, no.

Should we have a less stuff-focused Christmas? I think that’s a good idea.

Should we stop giving gifts and donate all of the gift money? Maybe not.

Should we keep our running-around to a manageable level? Yep.

Should we refuse to go to any family gatherings? Probably not.

While you do want to keep our sanity at Christmas, you don’t want to let your desire for simplicity lead you into unadulterated selfishness, because that’s not a whole lot better than an insanely busy Christmas.

Somewhere in the middle, there’s a balance to be had.

For me, the key is to think of compromises…ways to meet in the middle (because that’s usually where balance is anyway!)

For example, when Mr. FG and I decided to stop seeing both sides of the family on Christmas Day, we didn’t give up on seeing family altogether. Instead, we got into the habit of seeing one family on Christmas Day and one on Christmas Eve. And more recently, my side of the extended family has celebrated Christmas on a totally separate day, usually before December 24th or 25th (my parents wanted to help make Christmas scheduling easier for my siblings and me.)

All of this has turned into a nice compromise, allowing us to see family without having a crazy Christmas Eve/Christmas Day schedule.

There are lots of ways to work around the family thing without turning into hermits….you could visit family every other year, you could visit with family on another day somewhere around Christmas, or you could make a point of visiting with family regularly throughout the year (assuming they’re nearby) instead of on Christmas Day.

As another example, if you feel that your children have been getting too many presents, I don’t necessarily think you should suddenly overcompensate for that by giving no presents at all. There’s probably some happy middle ground in there that will be good for you and your children.

So, try to think of ways to compromise, and also accept that you’re probably not going to be able to win every Christmas battle and that there are some Christmas things that are out of your control.

Maybe, despite your best efforts, your mother-in-law will still send a dumptruck load of presents into your home.

Maybe your spouse will want to buy more presents for people than you will.

Maybe your family won’t agree to a price cap.

Maybe your relatives will still buy you stuff you really don’t want.

Maybe you won’t be able to talk your family into a simpler Christmas dinner (then again, maybe you could agree to have a simple dinner every other year??)

I can’t tell you which battles you should fight and which ones you should give in on and which place you can find a compromise, because every family is different.

What’s important to remember, though, is that we shouldn’t love simplicity more than we love people.

And that means that sometimes, we’ll need to forgo a bit of simplicity in order to love the people in our lives.


P.S. I’m not saying that you should fold every time your simplification efforts receive resistance (that’s falling out on one side of the boat). I am saying that you shouldn’t insist on having things your simple way 100% of the time (that would be falling out of the boat on the other side.) Balance!

Joshua’s 365 post: Clouds, Trees, Animals, and Fire!

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Monday 11th of November 2013

My family is pretty good about getting my daughter clothes also. Some of the toys are a bit too old for her, so I put them away until she's older. I still have a gift put up from last year and a large dollhouse still boxed up. She is only five and has a smaller dollhouse. I left the larger one at grandma's. We figure we'll put it together in a year or so and she can play w it there.


Monday 11th of November 2013

She also gets learning toys and puzzles and books and such.


Tuesday 23rd of October 2012

As always, very well said. I find these posts full of very good ideas and I just want to thank you so much for doing this! Juli


Tuesday 23rd of October 2012

I'm so glad you're finding them to be helpful!


Tuesday 23rd of October 2012

You know in Germany Dec 26 is considered the second Christmas Day. It's as real as Dec 25. That is the day we always drove to see additional family usually short visits since my Mom has 10 siblings. It created a nice routine.


Tuesday 23rd of October 2012

Great post. Some of my family always asks when we will come to their house for Christmas, but we have a family rule that until my kids are grown, we will spend Christmas at home. They are welcome to come to my home. I am the only one of my siblings with kids and it's just the way we like it. I don't expect them to come to my house as long as they understand that we have Christmas at home. When my kids have their own I will never expect them to leave their homes on Christmas. We will make alternate plans or rotate where we go for Christmas. I think the holidays are best enjoyed if you cut out the things that make you least enjoy the season. Of course you must cut these things slowly. Things were made much easier when my brother and sister-in-law agreed to not exchange adult gifts. They have the things they need and want and were very hard to buy for. Now my children give them photo gifts and they are thrilled with these the most every year.


Tuesday 23rd of October 2012

Love it!

This is something my SIL is struggling with - both her family (my in-laws) and her new husband's family have very strong, established Christmas traditions, and the two families live about 15 minutes apart. They both want to participate in all of their individual family's traditions, but that's not physically possible. They don't have kids yet, so they're still trying to do things like go out to dinner with her family, then head over to his parents' house for dessert, then back to her family's house to read the Christmas stories, etc.

DH and I were lucky, in a way - our families live far apart, so we had to make choices about holidays right off the bat. Either my parents' house for Christmas/New Year's, or his.

On a small way, a compromise that worked out beautifully for us involved you, Kristen! Or one of your recipes, anyway. My family had a tradition of making caramel-cinnamon-raisin-pecan rolls for breakfast. They are delicious, but extremely time consuming and somewhat finicky to bake evenly. Last year when we had our first Christmas by ourselves (no extended family), I made monkey bread instead, and sprinkled pecans and raisins in among the dough balls.

It tasted exactly the same, baked much more evenly (I made one batch of dough into two loaf pans - one monkey bread and one bubble bread for dinner), was a much more appropriate size for our small family, and took a LOT less time and stress!

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