My friend Amber once shared a brilliant idea with me – the therapy jar. Early in parenting, she acknowledged that there would be some moments when she would utterly fail as a conscientious mother. After responding inappropriately to her child’s needs, she would place money in the therapy jar, saying, “That is going to take a session to heal.”
My children deserved a donation to their counseling fund for my approach to holiday decorations. At my house, the Christmas tree changes every year, and it is a testament to beauty and artful balance. Chris was six years old when we first celebrated the holidays as a new family. He was thrilled when we began setting up the tree. Thinking that our bedecked Home would mirror Grandma’s, Chris seemed confused by the lack of colorful bobbles. He expressed bewilderment at the sight of the glistening apple and pear ornaments that would adorn our first tree – An Ode to Bounty. “Steph,” he explained, “Christmas is about tinsel and ornaments. It is NOT about fruit.” I appreciated his perspective and promptly dismissed it. “Okay. How about I decorate the tree, and you can place the star?” Creating a second therapy opportunity because my sensitive new son was terrified of heights. Still, we took a picture to commemorate the moment as his dad hoisted him seven feet off the ground to place the giant metal orb that would crown my creation.
As the years went on, I became laxer. I created a superhero tree as a nod to my son’s likes and set up a ladder for the star placing. When Kiragan was old enough, I let her hang ornaments with me, and while she napped, I moved them off the first two branches. In my most collaborative moment, I offered, “How ‘bout we get you guys your *own* tree!?”
Clearly, I was ready for a more substantial move toward inclusivity when I read The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Meaning. In their influential book, Chip Heath and Dan Heath crack the code on the mystery of experience and identify the key ingredients in creating moments that count. “While human lives are endlessly variable, our most memorable positive moments are dominated by four elements…”
Elevation: Moments that rise above the everyday and create a lasting impression.
Insight: Moments that reframe our perception or offer a realization that changes the trajectory of our lives.
Pride: Moments of achievement and courage that capture us at our best.
Connection: Moments that are shared with others.
As I read, I learned that I could use these elements to conjure more moments that mattered. I was flooded with ideas for creating nuanced events for my family and friends and the ongoing question became, “How do I make this memorable?” My creative endeavors were not only endeared by others, but they brought me lasting joy. Below are a few ideas for creating impactful holiday cheer so that you might experience the same delight.
Wrap a gift inside multiple boxes.
Create a treasure hunt to find a special present.
Find the best neighborhoods for lights and hop in the car for an impromptu tour – grab a holiday drink on your way.
Mail a gift or a letter from the North Pole. Especially to your spouse because big kids need love too.
Include a personal note in your charity gift donations.
Have a night to craft the ultimate holiday drink — supply hot chocolate, syrups, cider, eggnog, etc.
Fly a surprise family member into town.
Ask your family for a classic holiday recipe and host a night to make it.
Make a tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve – don’t stop reading it when your kids have moved out of the house.
When the kids wake up early to unwrap presents, elicit their help in making a Christmas morning treat for Mom or Dad.
Host a neighborhood flag football game.
Include a gratitude note in your children’s or parent’s gifts, thanking them for your favorite holiday memories.
Send a heartfelt apology.
Reflect with your spouse on the holidays you have shared together – laugh about the most challenging toys you assembled just in the nick of time.
Buy an ornament to commemorate an accomplishment made this year.
Looking back, Chris was right about the essence of Christmas, and I can understand his disappointment at the absence of ornate decorations. Unpacking eclectic ornaments gathered over generations is like looking through a treasure chest of memories. First-time commemorations, noodle garland, and hand-glittered pinecones serve as sweet reminders of moments past. This holiday season, why leave these memories to chance when, in the words of the Heath brothers, “…we can create them?”