Bookends

In 10, 20, or even 50 years from now, early parenthood may feel like a blur with a few major bookends that stand out in our memories. What will those bookends be for your family? Do you have control over the bookends?

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During the holiday season, there's so much pressure to create magic and memories, but in the end, what do we remember today? We're talking about the bookends, the things that are really going to stand out to 10, 20, 30 years. The things that we and our kids are really going to remember the specifics of the holiday season that we put all of the energy and fuss into may or may not be those bookends.

Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler and more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental though. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development.

So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us this past year. My husband recounted to me a conversation with his father. His father told him that looking back over the 40 years of parenting, it mostly felt like a blur. And what stood out most was family vacations.

Family vacations became sort of a bookend of the parenthood experience. The periods of time that stood out the most that were the most remembered. And I do think that in many ways we experienced life like this. You know, we have these bookends and in between the bookends, it's kind of a blur. There are certain times and certain experiences in our life that stand out and are memorable.

And then. The rest of it is all just kind of blurred together. And I know many people are out there listening, thinking, well, I don't want it to be a blur. I want to remember every single thing. That's why I'm documenting every single moment with a photo and a video and a journal. And if I'm not doing, and I'm feeling guilty, like I should be doing it, but I don't see the blur as a bad thing.

I think the blur is truly the relationship forming the ups and the downs, the little moments. The regular days, the bath times, the bedtime stories, the meltdowns, the homework help cheering them on at sporting events, watching movies together, all the little things make up the blur. And I do like to think about the blur as the relationship.

All those little moments combined really solidify our role as this calm, nurturing place for our kids to land at the end of the day. The place for them to come back two years from now when they need us. And that blur, the relationship does not need documented. It exists without documentation. It exists within our hearts.

Maybe you won't remember every single detail of it 20 years from now or 40 years from now, but the culmination of it will always remain in your heart and it will always remain in the hearts of your child. So where am I going with it? I don't think we get to pick the bookends, the things that stand out, you know, bookends are things like the first day of kindergarten college graduation, family vacations.

The death of a loved one, a divorce moving into a new home. The bookends naturally form around big transformative life experiences. When we open up a new chapter and most likely those are the experiences that are going to stand out the most. When we reflect back 50 years from now, all the little moments in between will become a blur, a wonderful blur that blur that forum.

The essence of our relationships with the ones we love the most. And I think the fact that the end of the year and the holiday season feels like this natural bookend puts more pressure on us to make it really good and make it really memorable. I don't know about you, but I don't remember what happened in the Christmas of 1993 or new year's of 2012.

I don't remember what I got for Christmas. Back in 2001, as much as we would like the holiday season to be this bookend that stands out and is very intricately inscribed into our memories. I do think a lot of times the holiday season becomes part of our annual rhythms and as a result becomes a part of that blur.

And remember that blur is no less important because it's part of the blur, but if it doesn't stand out as a bookend, that's okay. And maybe we shouldn't put so much pressure on ourselves for it to stay. Now think about a day, for example, one single day, a Saturday, where you are with your kids all day, the morning is a fresh start, starts out.

Good. Starts out, strong, starts out happy over the course of the day. People get tired. Irritability starts to kick in by dinnertime. Energy is often lagging and by bedtime, sometimes it's just a hot mess. Then eventually everyone falls asleep and the next day you get a fresh start again. So at the end of the day, when everyone falls asleep, you may look back on that day and you might feel like that day was a hot mess because of a recency effect.

The recency effect is things that most recently happened, exist more clearly in your memory. And we have to be aware of that just because of the day ended. Right. Does it mean the whole day was rough. Just means we had a rough 15 minutes or a rough hour. That's why, if at all costs, I try to avoid ever classifying my days as good days and bad days, because every day has ups and downs.

Now let's think about that on a larger scale of the course of a whole year, right? Every new year you start out fresh. It's going to be a new year, a different year, a better year. You're going to be a new you. And then by the end of the year, it's like, okay, I'm ready for a fresh start again. So I do think in many ways that this real push to make the holiday season memorable is too.

Bookend the year in a very positive way. So we have this really strong, positive recency effect for ourselves and for our kids. But remember the bookends are important and they're wonderful, but the blur is what really makes. And when you look back over your past 20, 30, 40 years, what stands out to you the most?

What are your bookends is the holiday season and natural bookend for you? It's not for me at all. The bookends for me happen randomly throughout the year. And keeping that in mind helps me to take some of the pressure off finishing on a high note, making the holiday season perfect. Because no matter how good or great or terrible.

December 25th or December 26, third or whatever day is for you. It's probably just going to be a part of the blur and the more pressure you put on yourself to make it a bookend, the pressure to make it this specific, memorable life experience, the less enjoyable it's going to be. So if you find yourself desperately seeking magic and creating memories that last a lifetime around the holiday season and remind yourself, we often don't get to choose the memories that last delight.

They just kind of happened to us. So let yourself off the hook. There is magic happening all year long, and also remind yourself that your bookends are going to be very different than your child's bookends. The life that you're living right now as a parent, your memory. The way you recall them are going to be very different than the way that your kids recall them.

And in fact, their childhood is probably going to be much more of a blur than you can imagine. So how do we support that blur? We show up every day doing our best, being our authentic selves, knowing that some days are going to be better than others or some moments are going to be better than others, because we're going to try not to judge the day by day.

And as hard as you are working to try to create memorable bookends for your kids. You're really creating bookends for yourself. Your kids are going to have their own bookends when they grow. And if they have children, if they make their own holiday memories or their own vacation memories, whatever it is.

And that's okay, that's a normal part of the life experience. So with that in mind, taking a little bit of the pressure off to make the holiday seasons. Perfect. I have 10 quick reminders. A lot of these things are things that I've shared on the podcast over the year. I'm going to bring you a quick, wait a minute word from today's sponsor.

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That's 50% off your first [email protected] with the promo codes. All right. So 10 reminders for you this holiday season to take off some of the pressure and enjoy the everyday, the regular moments, the blur, that is the time that we spent together, that serves as the foundation for our relationships. So, number one, we were together.

I forget the rest. I love this Walt Whitman quote. We were together. I forget the rest and I think it really captures the essence of this episode. We're going to remember being together. We're going to have the relationships. We're going to probably forget the rest, the details, the record, keeping the gifts, the specifics of the meals.

While those very specific memories may disappear, the relationship will remain. That's the important stuff. Reminder. Number two, expect the whole range of emotions. You your kids, your extended family member, everyone gathering this holiday season is probably going to experience the whole range of emotions.

There's been a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of unmet expectations. How do we make space for all the feelings are recent Saturday morning, my son was getting ready to start a rec basketball league. It's just a few Saturday mornings where the kids go and learn to play basketball.

And I got an email saying that masks were required and my son is a heavy sweater and this basketball league is inside. And I felt myself being really mad about it. And he went to my husband and I said, You know, I'm just really angry that he has to go play basketball inside a gymnasium in a mask. I hate that for him.

I hate that for our kids. And I think my husband was a little confused, like thinking I was going to like email and say, we're not wearing masks. I don't believe in masks. None of that's true. I absolutely support and understand the need for masks, but I still don't like.

I can still be angry about it. I can still feel the whole range of emotions about it, even if I do understand the necessity. And even if I do comply with what I need to do, you know, and if there are people around you who are expressing the whole range of emotions, understand that maybe they're feeling the same way.

They're not looking for you to do anything different or to change anything or to fix anything. Maybe they just need to talk about it and they need to say how it feels and probably this year more than ever your kids. Your parents, other extended family members, you probably going to see the whole range of emotions this year.

So prepare yourself for that. Number three. The recency effect. We talked about this don't judge the days or the holiday season as a whole judge, them basically in five minute increments, because there are going to be ups and downs, especially if you're spending time with other extended family members outside of your own.

I mean, okay. Of course there's ups and downs, even with your own immediate nuclear family, but the more people you bring into the picture, the more possibility there is for things that are far beyond your. Just because someone says something inappropriate because you get upset at something doesn't mean that the whole trip was a failure or the whole visit was a failure.

Maybe it's just one of the ups and downs. So check yourself on that. Try not to classify the whole season or the whole visit, whatever it is as a success or failure. And if you want more support around this, you can go back and listen to my three part series on challenging relationships, simple families.com forward slash episode 237 it's episode, 2 37, 2 38 and 2 39.

We talk about challenging relationships, how they feel, how to feel supported in them. So tune into that, if that's helpful for you. Number four, prep talks in episode 246. We talked a little bit about what I call prep talks. Prep talks are anticipating some things that might go crazy for you in the holiday season and discussing them with your kids in advance.

Maybe, you know, there's a very slim chance that grandma is gifting Lego Ninjago for Christmas, and that is all your child wants. You talk in advance, you might not get exactly what you're hoping for. If you don't get what you're hoping for, what can you say? How can you handle it? Maybe you could even role play it.

If you can anticipate some of these hard moments, some of the things that might come up, can you talk through some of them with your kids? Number five, take regular check-ins with your mind and by. How's your body feeling? Is your jaw clenched? Do your teeth hurt from Grindr? Does your body feel crappy from too much alcohol, too much sugar, too much holiday festivity.

Sometimes that stress and overwhelm can start to creep up on you and signs show up in your body and the way that you're feeling. And it's easy not to notice them, especially if you're busy. So take regular check-ins with your mind and body and see if you can spot some of that stress and overwhelm popping up and combat it before it gets out of control.

Number six, expansion and contraction for everyone. So back in episode 233, we talked about expansion and contraction. It's this idea that within relationships and within the way that we expend energy, even as individuals, we need to expand and contract, we need to be close. Then we need to spread our wings.

Our kids might need to spend some time doing something in close quarters, like Legos or coloring, and then they might be on top of each other and need some space to spread their wings and run around and be crazy. Adult relationships are like this too. If you spend 24 hours nonstop with your extended family and you start to feel a little crazy, maybe you need to go to the grocery store by yourself.

How can you get some expansion? How can you build some expansion into a time period where you're feeling like you've had a little too much contraction taking that expansion is good for your wellbeing for you and for your kids. How do you make space for them to explore? How do you notice when they meet that?

Or how do you notice when they've been expanding too much and they need to pull in and have a little more closeness, a little more intimacy, number seven, focus on regulation, over compliance. If you are spending the holidays with extended family, you can feel a lot of pressure to get your kids to behave.

There's a lot of people watching. If you ask your kid to do something and they don't do it, you might feel like you're falling. With a lot of eyes watching. So remind yourself, the holiday season is extra stressful, not just for you, but for your kids too. So focus on helping them to regulate when they lose control.

When they get upset, how do you help them calm down? And find some peace rather than insisting they do what you say exactly. When you say it, number eight, let the magic be magic. We can't control it. We have to let go of this idea of perfect. I woke up on December 22nd at 7:00 AM and my son told me that he wanted the specific Lego set from Santa and he realized that he hadn't yet asked Santa for anything.

We're on December 22nd has a nest Sante for anything. And now has a very specific request of Santa. Sadly. This is now out of my control. Christmas morning is going to come and that request is going to be unmet. It's not going to be perfect for him. There's going to be plenty of magic, not perfect magic.

There's some things that are going to be out of our control. Maybe there'll be some sadness around it and that's okay too. Number nine, don't try to transform. This is not the time of the year to try to get anyone in your family to change political parties, to debate whether or not kids should be masking on the basketball court in second grade, instead of trying to transform the people around you that may have different opinions.

Can you listen to them? You don't have to agree to them, but just hear them out. Because like that example I gave earlier is sometimes we just want to be heard. Sometimes we have more in common than we think. Maybe we can try to see more of that, the stuff we have in common. And lastly, if you are feeling overloaded this holiday season, or you've had a heavy year.

I would love to have you join me in the mental unload. The mental unload is my 30 day program that I run to reduce the mental clutter of motherhood. I usually run this program every February, but I thought that this might be a good new year's project for many of us. So we're getting started on January 6th.

Enrollments can open starting the day after Christmas, December 26th. So grab your spot. It's a four-part systematic program. It's helped to transform thousands of lives over the past few years. I would love to have you and to get to know you a little bit. Go to simple families.com forward slash unload.

If you want to learn more, we got an enrollment opens on December 26th and we officially get started on January 6th. So remember in the end we were together. I forget the rest and that's okay. I want to wish everybody a happy holiday season, and I will see you in 2020 to have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.