Growing up, my family and I didn’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional way. When I married Tonya, it was safe to assume things were going to be different – but it wasn’t until our first Christmas together that I really understood what would be in store for me every December (technically, November through February) for the rest of our lives.
As we began the exciting process of decorating our home that first holiday season, certain details began capturing my attention – like the Christmas trees. That first year, there was one Christmas tree for (nearly) every room in our home. Five trees in a two bedroom apartment seemed a little excessive to me. Ironically, in the 8+ years since our wedding day, we have upgraded to a three bedroom house (three times, in fact) and yet I have only managed downsize our collection by one tree.
All that to say – if you’re not careful, the holidays can become a production. Our lives didn’t become less complicated with the loss of a single tree – instead, it has been replaced by three kids, Christmas parties, family gatherings, and other happenings which make this season far busier than any other time of the year. Can you relate?
Over the years, here’s what I’ve learned about surviving the holidays in a supporting role:
Help create a plan that works for everyone.
From decorating to parties to travel, planning matters. In Tonya’s ideal scenario, we would assemble and decorate trees the day after Thanksgiving (marking the beginning of the holiday season) and take them down the day after the Super Bowl. One thing I’ve noticed: postponing the decorating only postpones the taking down of the decorations, so having a plan in place to get everything done helps ensure we’re not enjoying candy canes and evergreens on Easter morning. It may seem silly, but I have learned that a lot of effort goes into getting everything just right, and everyone wants for that effort to be enjoyed for as long as possible. Even with all that work, decorating is a small part of a much larger picture of what we want Christmas to look and feel like for our kids. Having a plan allows us to keep all things in perspective.
Do what I am asked to do – cheerfully, if nothing else.
Tonya doesn’t want my opinion on ornaments or my help decorating the mantle; she wants me to carry the tubs up from the basement and to assemble and light the trees. Knowing my role in this effort, and doing it with a positive attitude, helps her feel less like she’s shouldering the burden alone.
It never hurts to ask.
Look. Dads understand that the holidays are stressful. We recognize that our schedule is busiest this time of year and that during this stressful time, we are going to need to help out by doing things we may not normally do. Maybe addressing 100 Christmas cards means yesterday’s laundry didn’t get put away or prepping for next week’s class party means last-minute takeout for you and the kids – just ask what you can do to help and I promise, it will go a long way toward making the holidays “the most wonderful time of the year.”
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About the author: Jon Blythe is a husband to Tonya and a father to six crazy kids. He’s still trying to figure out how he’s only managed to get rid of one of those trees in 10+ years of marriage …