It’s that time of year again…
As we roll into the holiday season there is one thing on every parent’s mind: Boundaries!
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, New Year’s…. the list goes on and on….
While these holidays (if you even celebrate them) can be a very fun and enjoyable time for many people, they can also be incredibly stressful. But, that pretty much goes without saying.
Whether you’re a new parent, or a seasoned vet, you will inevitably find your blood pressure creeping up the closer we get to these oh so joyous occasions.
Whether you’re shopping for a costume and candy to hand out, attempting to decorate your house without your toddler destroying it in five seconds, planning a meal for 20, or even just a dish to pass, there is at least one item on your list that will find a way to push your button hard.
For me, it’s food.
When I first became a parent, I made a drastic lifestyle change. It started out as a way to lose my postpartum weight. Our baby arrived before our wedding and I wanted to make sure I looked and felt my best on our big day – a pretty generic goal. After changing my diet, I realized how much better I felt and that I wanted to keep it going, regardless of whether or not I reached my weight loss goals...it became about feeling good, being healthy. Eventually, we found out, through trial and error (and a lot of questionable diapers) that our baby had some food sensitivities. Needless to say, this changed our diet further. We became a gluten and dairy free household.
I became a mom on a mission. I wanted to make sure my baby had not only all of the nutrition necessary for optimal growth, but I needed it to be delivered in ways that were safe for her tiny tummy. Eventually baby #2 made his entrance and the food sensitivities saga continued. He had even more severe reactions so there was no more “cheating” for mom. Since we chose to breastfeed, anything I ate affected my son and it was incredibly difficult to know that that piece of buttered toast that I was craving, or that slice of cheese, was going to make him break out in an uncomfortable rash.
Holidays, for better or worse, come with their own menu. Admittedly, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. And it’s not just because I get to spend time with the people that I love, but because I also love the food. The flavors, the herbs and spices, the textures and tones – it is without a doubt the best. And even though I love to eat it all, that still doesn’t mean it’s the best for me. There is only so much justifying pumpkin pie as a vegetable.
So, what does this mean for me as a parent?
It means I get to decide whether or not my child goes trick or treating and keeps all, some or none of their candy. And we might dress up but skip the trick or treating. There are so many other options nowadays anyway. Going to an apple orchard dressed up and enjoying a Saturday afternoon as a family beats tramping around the streets with two pre-schoolers and a baby on a Wednesday, but that’s just me. You do you.
It might mean that I plan and make a dairy-free, gluten-free Thanksgiving for 15 people (don’t worry, my mom pitched in and made the turkey, but I owned those sides!) because I wanted to make sure my children and I had food to eat and at least one dessert that we wouldn’t regret the next day or the next diaper change.
It means I get to decide how many Christmas cookies is too many. Those are gluten free cookies by the way, right? Sometimes it means that we have to pack our own lunches when we go over to my Grandma’s to celebrate Christmas. If we didn’t we would be reduced to the veggie tray and the jello salad, which may or may not contain dairy, but I don’t really want to find that out as my child is exploding out their pants in the car seat. It might mean that we skip lunch entirely and just come later. Because guess who gets to deal with screaming over-tired children on a sugar crash? I’ll save you the guess and let you know it sure isn’t the relatives who guilted me into skipping nap that one year.
Basically, you are your child’s advocate (and your own!), and you get to decide how you want to live your life, what is and is not best for your children, and what works best for you as a family. And maybe that means going to every party and event, and eating all of the food. Because, hey, you only live once and holidays are meant to be celebrated. And if that works for you, then more power to you! What works for me is not what will work for you, or your next-door neighbor, or Aunt Sally who thought it was incredibly rude that you decided to keep your newborn home during cold and flu season, how dare you.
Boundaries. A work in progress.