How I Stay Off My Own Naughty List

Imagine an evening event in mid-December. You’re there, kids in tow, realizing oh this thing is far from over, and counting on your fingers the hours of sleep that said children are likely to get once you get them home, pottied, pajama’ed, and into the bed before they must be woken up for tomorrow morning’s breakfast with Santa/extended family soirée/poor kid with the December day-of-birth-birthday party that you simply can’t miss because: poor kid. Have you been there?

Oh, I so have.

My husband and I love All The People. As a direct correlation, we are very social and love All The Events. And as you might imagine, this can present a tad inconsiderate to the under six crowd when one expects them to enjoy All The Things the way we do—especially during the holidays.

For me, the backseat-wailing-kiddos parenting lesson on holiday over-commitment hit so hard I was bound and determined to figure my way out of it and save my future self. I needed a way to ensure that I never again would ever land myself in a 9:30 pm car ride home with beside-themselves-exhausted-crying children who couldn’t seem to figure out how to do that thing in college we called rallying.


I needed a plan.

Here’s where I landed: two lists, one neatly cursived Things We Do At Christmas and one scrawl-ily labeled in all caps THINGS WE DO NOT EVER NO NEVER DO AT CHRISTMAS. And I make these lists ahead of time—sometimes as I’m enjoying the Halloween parent tariff, if you catch my drift. Early so I can think about it. Early so I can talk to my husband about what he liked and didn’t like last year. Early so I can bug my mother-in-law to go ahead and get that family thing on the calendar. (She loves it, she does. But don’t ask her cause she might answer differently.)

The Things We Do list is nice—fun, even. The Things We Do Not Do list saves my tail every stinkin’ year.

The Do list helps us prioritize what’s important to each of us, kids included. Traditions surface in a way that helps me embrace and lean into activities I didn’t do as a child, or wouldn’t have ever put on a list. Like the idea of making a gingerbread house every single year even when I know we will be singularly terrible at it. (They eat unfathomable amounts of candy, we laugh a lot—sounds like tradition to me!)

But Talk to Me About The No-No’s

Ah, the Do Not Do list. All the high pressure events—the ones the Christmas radio station insists you simply must not miss, the ones turning up on your friends’ Instas, the ones the well-intentioned woman at church shade-guilts you about as she regales her story of how that was the very thing her kids loved the most each year . . . these are the events I gleefully etch into my naughty list. And then I smile wickedly as I check them off—each and every one as we do not do them.

But the very best thing about the lists isn’t checking them off; it’s that mine will be different from yours.

There will be stuff on my Do list that you will put right at the top of your naughty list, and vice versa. And getting it all down on paper? Well, that’s the part that allows my brain and heart to release the don’t’s and fight for the do’s in a way that brings tradition and light and life to my family during the cherished December days.

Thanks, Prof

This is awfully didactic, isn’t it? HERE’S HOW TO FIX ALL YOUR PROBLEMS: SIMPLY MAKE A LIST. Sounds about like the time I told a doctor I felt stressed and she suggested I keep a calendar. (Have you not seen the glittery gold, dog-eared planner blinging out of my purse?) But here’s the heart: for me, making these two lists frees my own heart from the traps that want to snare it all year long, but especially at Christmas.

Because evil knows that when it pursues with comparison and missing out and regret and parental failure—well, it’s won.

And a heart that is downtrodden on perceived missteps that “ruin Christmas” is not focused on the Advent of The Christ Child—the One who came to save us from ourselves and redeem all our days. And that child—Jesus—and the Father God who sent Him to earth to put on flesh and bone and live here God-Man among us sure announced His birth with a whole lot of joy and wonder. Just ask baby John in Elizabeth’s womb (John 1:41, 44), Mary (Luke 1:46-55), the angels (Luke 2:13-14), or the shepherds (Luke 2:20), just to name a few. I want to respond to the birth of the Savior with that same joy.

And if checking off the box next to CHOCOLATE CALENDARS on the naughty list brings me good tidings of great joy, well, I imagine I’ll be in good company.

Merry Christmas indeed. xo, Holly Mackle from @hollymacklebooks

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