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Redefining Christmas: Different But Good at the Holidays

‘Twas the morning of Christmas last year, and all through the house, two creatures were stirring. I was banging around the kitchen, and my husband was trudging meaningfully up and down the stairs, in hopes that our children soon would appear.

Our high schooler and our college student were still nestled all snug in their beds, apparently with visions of Christmas brunch (at the earliest) dancing in their heads.

“Papa” and I (absent either kerchief or cap) had both slept in ourselves (the equivalent of a long winter’s nap). Since we had time, we’d also gone for our workouts, gotten ourselves cleaned up, and lounged in front of the fire. We were only too happy to have our teenager and twenty-something catching up on sleep. But we did rather want to open the stockings hung by the chimney with care. I was also hungry, but couldn’t bring myself to break into the Christmas-morning cinnamon rolls before we’d opened a single gift.

This was not the Christmas of years past.

I remembered the holiday mornings when our daughters were out of bed at dawn, and we had opened stockings and gifts in time to be eating our cinnamon rolls at a time that fully qualified as breakfast.

This new version of Christmas caught me a little off-guard. But I have enough mileage in my mom rearview mirror to know that life works out to be about 50 percent facts and 50 percent how I frame those facts. A good day versus a bad day in my little family usually has as much to do with how I look at what happens as it does with what happens in the first place.

It’s taken me A LOT of miles to figure out how to celebrate Christmas with teenagers, by the way.

This year, with my big kids, I’m trying to frame the fact that things have changed as “different but good.”

Things have changed, but that doesn’t automatically make the experience less, either.

Yes, having to wake our teens up so there’s still enough time left to call it “Christmas morning” is different. But it can still be good. Our big kids are chronically sleep-deprived. So if they can repay a little of their sleep debt and then enjoy the rest of the day more, that’s a win for everyone.

And yes, it’s different when our teens want to ditch their family and hang out with their friends. But it can still be good. I know plenty of parents of lonely kids who would be thrilled to have their teens beg off to spend time with their peers. My own teenager and young adult fought through years of loneliness before they forged hard-won true friendships. If they want to spend some time with those friends, it’s okay by me. I’m just glad they have friends.

It’s different when our teens bring boyfriends or girlfriends into the holiday mix. But it can still be good. So many adults have fond memories of young romance. And I know more than few high school sweethearts who are married to that guy or girl they kissed under the mistletoe in their parents’ house.

It’s different when we don’t know what in the world to get our big kids and end up defaulting to gift cards. But it can still be good. If our biggest gift-giving problem is that our kids already have pretty much everything they need. And most of what they want, we don’t have a problem at all.

It’s different when our kids have to work over the holidays. But it can still be good. Teens who are committed and responsible are earning something valuable that goes far beyond one paycheck or one season of the year.

It’s different when our teens want to spend time in their rooms, away from the rest of the family. But it can still be good. My teen and my college student have a lot going on socially, emotionally, and academically pretty much all the time during “normal” life. If they need space by themselves to decompress and recharge over the holidays, I want them to get it. I’m just thankful they’re in the house in the first place.

Sure, I wish things could be the way they used to be sometimes. I have many good holiday memories with my family and watching things change can be hard. But what I want more than that is a happy Christmas for all… and to all a good morning, whenever it comes.

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.

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