I learned perfectionism at an early age. The quest to prove myself worthy of love by doing everything perfectly (or not doing it at all) was learned at my father’s knee. It has taken a good portion of my adult life for God to break me of it and for me to learn God’s love for me is not performance based. He loves me even when I fail Him, which I do often and in spectacularly public ways.
Christmastime can be hard for frustrated perfectionists, especially if small children are involved. Years before artificial Christmas trees were invented, my dad would spend hours drilling holes in the trunk of our Christmas tree to “fill in the bald spots” with branches taken from the bottom of the tree. Once he got the bald spots filled in, he would put the tree in the stand. However, it never stood perfectly straight, so more time would be spent stringing guy wires from the tree to nails in the wall to keep it perfectly aligned. Only then were his six frustrated little girls allowed to approach the tree.
Years later as my husband and I began our tradition of going to a tree farm with our young children, I frustrated everyone (myself included) by searching for the perfect tree. Nothing was ever good enough for me. I could always find some fault with any tree they found: not big enough, bare on one side, too spindly, etc. It was not a fun excursion. I finally decided that picking out the tree was better as a tradition the kids shared with just their dad. They had a great time and no matter what tree they brought home, by the time it was decorated and the lights were on, it looked beautiful. Here are a few other things I learned through the years.
Tip #1. If you find yourself stressing about everything being perfect this holiday season, take a deep breath and walk away. Take a moment to yourself and think, “Is it worth taking the joy out of Christmas because I want everything to be just so?” Let your children’s memories be of the joy and happiness of the holiday season. Teach them to embrace the imperfect and to encourage those who are trying, no matter the result of their efforts. photo by flickr_NC intoruth
Tip #2. Stop comparing yourself to others! No offense to those of you who have your house perfectly decorated, your holiday baking all done, and every gift exquisitely wrapped and under the tree, but your super capabilities make us “normal” folk feel inadequate. I no longer torture myself looking at Pinterest or magazines that give me unrealistic expectations of what the holiday should look like for me, and I am happier because of it. Looking at pictures of things that are beyond my means makes me discontent. I choose to be thankful for the life and home that God has provided for our family. Tip #3. It isn’t about the presents. Repeat after me, “It isn’t about the presents”. Children, especially small children, will not know that you did not find the perfect gift. As the parent, you are responsible for helping them to have realistic expectations. If you are joyful, no matter how few gifts are under the tree, then your children will be joyful, too. You set the tone of the day for your children. Don’t let the lack of money determine your enjoyment of the holiday. Teach your children the joy of making a gift for those they love. Teach them to serve others as their gift to Jesus. There are many free activities to enjoy as a family. All you have to do is seek them out. Your children long for your presence and time with you, even more so at the holidays. Treasure these moments as they are all too quickly gone.
Tip #4 Learn to love the imperfect gifts in your life. This is our sad little Christmas tree. Yes, I know there are all blue lights at the top and multi-colored lights at the bottom. I know the ornaments are old and tired. But you see, every year my sweet husband gets out the tree and decorates it for me while I am at work. It is a gift to me. I have learned with God’s grace to love the perfectly imperfect gifts in my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do yourself and your family a big favor this Christmas. Let go of your unrealistic expectations. Give your heart and home over to Jesus as you celebrate his birth. Your holiday season will be full of joy.