Friends, I just had to tell you what my kids said in the car to me the other day that really got me thinking. So, I’m coming to you via video (gulp!) to share the story with you and ask you two questions.
“I want to ride a snowmobile,” he said to me on the phone one day before Christmas. “It’s one of the things I’ve had on my bucket list and I’m afraid if I don’t do it now I’ll never get the chance.” My dad has always been the one who creates opportunities for his family to have adventures together. Kayaking, riding ATV’s in the desert, horseback riding, going off the beaten path (like WAY off the beaten path); these are the things that give him joy especially when he gets to experience it with his favorite people.
I never knew that I could love the tween years as much as I do. According to many articles I’ve read, most girls who are between the ages of 10-12 begin to have wild mood swings, throw toddler-like temper tantrums over not having the right clothes to wear, spend hours on their phones and are trying really hard to move as quickly as possible into the teen years.
This is not the case in our house. In our house, age eleven is pretty special.
When my son was just a little boy, he didn’t simply enjoy trains. He was completely obsessed with them. If we happened to be driving near one he would rattle off the names of each and every car he saw. “Tank car, tank car, hopper car, gondola car, boxcar, boxcar, boxcar, engine.” I spent most of my days down on the floor of our family room helping him construct elaborate tracks for his wooden trains and still feel proud to this day of my ability to figure out how to make everything connect without any breaks in the tracks. Heaven forbid Thomas the Tank Engine should fall off into the abyss!
Never were the trains more magical to all of us than at Christmastime. So, the year that he was 3 1/2, I planned a very special day for my very special train-loving boy. I spent a little bit of time researching and discovered that all throughout our downtown there were train displays set up in various shops. And I found out that in the rotunda of our capitol building the pièce de résistance was a model train which wound its way through a replica of our city.
The chosen day dawned and I informed my son that we were going on a Christmas adventure. At one stop, a kind store clerk moved furniture out of the way so that he could get right up close to the train in the window. At the post office, an employee knew a fellow train-lover when he saw one and, in between helping customers, made the train which wound its way above our heads go back and forth over and over again. Everywhere we went, people saw the wonder in the eyes of that three year old boy and happily added to his excitement. After a quick stop for a sugary treat, we arrived at our final destination. As we entered the two-story, marble covered rotunda of the capitol building with it’s enormous Christmas trees and glittering lights, my son’s eyes locked onto the train display front and center. He patiently waited his turn to push the button to make the train go around the snow-covered village and I fought back tears as I vowed to never forget that moment.
Now, twelve years later, I ask my fifteen year old if he remembers that day. “Vaguely”, he says, much to my chagrin. And I realize why I instinctively knew that I needed to pause and really soak it all up. Because, here we are in the throes of the tween and teen years in our household and I’m pretty sure no one would be jumping up and down with excitement over a day spent looking for train sets around town.
So, what do we do now? How do we make the holiday season special for our older kids when the magic and wonder of the younger years is gone?
Well, I asked this exact question on Facebook recently and received some pretty amazing responses! So I decided to put them all together in one spot and share them with you here.
- Keep as many of the old traditions alive as possible ~ They may roll their eyes when you suggest watching ‘The Polar Express’ or show about the same attention to detail in decorating the tree as they did when they were toddlers (some of them still want to put ALL of the ornaments on one branch!) but I promise you that, deep down in their hearts, your teens and young adults still appreciate your family traditions. With so much change happening in their lives, these moments provide them with a sense of continuity and a reminder that some things will never change.
- Go on a Christmas Scavenger Hunt ~ Divide into teams and head out on a scavenger hunt which will take you around town to various landmarks. Create clues based on song lyrics and require each team to sing the song once they’ve solved the clue and video it for proof. Meet back up at a coffee shop or bakery and watch the videos together!
- Have a Gingerbread House Competition ~ Encourage your teens/young adults to invite some friends to your home and give each of them a gingerbread house kit. Put on music, provide the hot cocoa/coffee and watch the creativity unfold.
- Volunteer Together ~ This is the perfect opportunity to let the older kids in your life do some research and determine where they would like to offer their time and resources to those in need. Not only will you be helping others, but the very act of serving together will be a bonding experience for you as a family and create memories to last a lifetime.
- Go Christmas Light Hunting ~ Take the typical ‘driving around in the car looking at lights’ tradition up a notch by turning it into a game. Print or write out little cards with the words “thank you for lighting the town” and take them with you as you drive through the neighborhoods. Each person gets to pick out their favorite houses, run up and ring the doorbell and leave the card to surprise the homeowner with the sweet note of praise.
- Have an Amaryllis Bulb Race ~ Each person gets their own potted amaryllis bulb with their name on it and then the race is on to see who’s flower is the tallest on Christmas Day. The best part of this idea is that not only is there some friendly competition but you’ll be adding beauty to your home too.
- Create a Family Ornament at a Ceramic Store ~ Now that you’re past the days where the very idea of going into a ceramic store with your kids made you break into a cold sweat you seize this opportunity as parents of older kids to get creative together. Pick out an ornament that represents your family and let each person take part in putting their own stamp on it. Write your names and the date on the back and try not to cry as you hang it on the tree each year.
- Work on a Challenging Puzzle ~ Breaks from school and work are all well and good until everyone starts getting a bit restless and the cabin fever sets in. This is when a large puzzle can become your saving grace! Pick a spot in your home where you can leave the puzzle pieces out (coffee tables are great for this!) and just watch as everyone gravitates to it.
- Encourage Anonymous Giving ~ While volunteering together gives you the opportunity to actually see how you are impacting others, anonymous giving builds character in an entirely different way. Not getting credit for the act is a good reminder that we serve and give not because we want credit for it but because the greatest reward is simply knowing we’ve been able to help someone and holding that feeling in our hearts.
- Pass the Baking/Cooking Baton ~ Now is the perfect time to give yourself a break during this busyness of the season and let your teens/young adults plan meals and tackle some of the holiday baking. Encourage them to look up recipes, do the shopping and cook/bake for the family. Not only does this help prepare them for life outside of your home but it gives you a much-needed rest. That’s a win/win for sure!
Every stage of parenting has it’s really amazing parts and it’s really hard parts. I freely admit to grieving a bit over the fact that my kids have gotten older and the days of playing with train tracks and being invited to imaginary tea parties are long gone. But, one thing I’ve realized is that we need to embrace each new stage and that there is still so much fun to be had! In fact, these years ahead of us with teens and young adults leaves so much more room to experience the magic and wonder of the season in brand new ways. We can stay up later, drink coffee together, watch non-cartoon movies and get to know each other as individuals and build a relationship that goes beyond just parent/child.
It’s all about choosing to be intentional and creating an environment where they know they can always just be themselves and that their friends are always welcome.
So, what would YOU add to this list? I’d love to hear some of the ways that you have celebrated the holiday season with your teens or young adults.
And I want to say a BIG thank you to all of my fellow mamas who helped me come up with this list of fantastic and fun ideas!
Much love to you all,
“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!” ~
Welcome, dear friends, welcome! I’m so thrilled to be opening my home for a Christmas tour to you today as part of the annual Jennifer Rizzo Holiday Housewalk! You will want to start at the very beginning to soak up all of the beautiful inspiration so head over to her place and sit back and take it all in.
If you are arriving here from my friend Traci’s beautiful home, I’m so glad that you decided to continue on with the tour and I hope you feel very welcomed.
Many years ago, as my husband and I sat on the couch on a December evening flipping through the channels on the TV, we stumbled across the tail end of the Rick Steve’s European Christmas Special on PBS. We were immediately captivated and in those few minutes we felt like we were transported into another world. As soon as it was over I got online and ordered the DVD so that we could share it with our kids.
Watching it with them, not only did I just find it so fascinating learning about how Christmas is celebrated in various communities throughout Europe, I was also struck by something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on but that I knew spoke to my soul.
And, over the years, as we’ve watched it again and again, I finally realized just what it was that so captivated me.
Every single home was decorated so very simply, mostly with natural elements, and yet still so perfectly captured the spirit of Christmas.
There are a million little moments throughout parenting which go by with no notice, no fanfare and yet are significant milestones deserving of being acknowledged.
I don’t remember the exact day when I carried my daughter up the stairs for the last time. Or the day when my son took his last swing between me and my husband as we walked down the street, laughing and giggling as we all shouted ‘ONE, TWO, THREE!’ and we lifted him up high in the air.
And I can’t remember exactly when my family of four stopped fitting comfortably together on our couch but, one day, we just all found ourselves squished together. And while I’m all for closeness this was a little bit too close, especially when you consider the extra odors that come with tweens/teens.
We did have extra chairs in the room, but they weren’t the kind of comfy, plunk down, cozying up kind of chairs that you really should have in a family room.
A few years ago, in a blog post about fall decor, I casually mentioned that every October I set out a pair of paper bag pumpkins (say that five times fast!) crafted by my children when they were each in kindergarten, respectively.
In one of the comments left for me, a curious member of our community here told me that she would love to actually see those paper bag pumpkins. I think she might have felt, like so many of us do, that while we enjoy all of the photos of beautiful home decor, there tends to be a lack of reality. In fact, I had this confirmed to me when I shared my fall tour with you recently and everyone overwhelmingly declared that they would welcome a little less staging and a lot more real-life.
Confession…most, if not all, of the years I have shared my fall home tour here with you, there has been quite a bit of ‘staging’ done prior to taking the photos.
Vintage suitcases trying to look casual all stacked on top of each other with pumpkins spilling out. Extra throw blankets and pillows tossed onto chairs which makes it more than evident that no one is actually supposed to sit there.
There would be tables set for parties that were never going to happen or freshly baked bread with just a few pieces sliced up to look like they were waiting for someone to walk by and grab one.
Dear Hallmark channel,
It’s that time of the year again! You’ve announced your holiday movie lineup and the angels sang and snow began to fall and visions of sugar plums danced in my head. Okay, so that all happened in my mind’s eye but I definitely felt my heart go pitter-patter as I scanned the list of new releases. All over Facebook there are giddy posts from friends who eagerly anticipate this annual tradition and can’t wait for the chance to escape to worlds where people get stranded in little towns where Santa just happens to have his actual workshop and there won’t be any gifts for the children if the main character doesn’t come to the rescue.