The holidays are a wonderful time. A time to gather together with family and friends. A time to eat good, comforting food. A time to show people you care by exchanging gifts. A time when we put our busy schedules on pause and slow down just a little bit. No one would disagree with anything I’ve said so far, these are accepted truths about what the holidays “mean”. I could spend today’s blog examining each of these meanings and breaking them down, but instead I’m going to talk about The Three Wise E’s.
Chances are you haven’t heard of The Three Wise E’s even though they’ve been a party of your holidays for years. Like the three wise men the Three Wise E’s show up unexpectedly, the difference is they show up in the weeks ahead of the Christmas instead of the week after. The Three Wise E’s bring their own unique “gifts”, whether you want them or not. Have you figured out who these Three Wise E’s are?
The first to arrive is Expectation. Unknowingly we invite Expectation into our holiday season the first time we ask our children “what do you want for Christmas?” That simple question amps up the anticipation and sets the stage for what will, or will not, arrive under the tree. Expectation determines when we should decorate and how things should be arranged throughout the house. It follows us around as we shop for the perfect gift. In the beginning it’s a motivator to getting you into the Christmas Spirit. The closer you get to the holiday, the more crowded your house gets as other’s Expectations show up to join in the preparation. The closer you get to the holiday the less helpful Expectation is. They end up sitting on the couch, barking orders, assuming you are going to do everything they ask. Many times, we are so wrapped up in things we blindly follow Expectation, never questioning it, just racing to meet its needs.
On the heels of Expectation, arrives Effort. Effort is kind of like your trainer in the gym that keeps “motivating” you to do one more, one more, one more. We can’t say no to Expectation, so it’s up to Effort to run the race of trying to get it all done in time – the traditional meals, baking the treats, wrapping the gifts and coordinating the outfits so the pictures will turn out just so. Effort can physically exhaust you, why do you think so many people get sick around the holidays? But at the same time, Effort is the piece that is on display, so we are motivated to keep going. When the holiday arrives, whether they realize it or not, everyone will judge your Effort (or lack thereof). We strive to put forth our best Effort to meet everyone else’s Expectations.
At this point, you may think these first two don’t really qualify as “wise” as they add stress and take away joy from the holiday season. However, if we know they are coming, you can avoid the drama Expectation and Effort bring. It’s also never to late to keep them in check. Review what you have on your to do list right now - how are Expectation and Effort weighing in on what you want to do vs. what you feel you need to do?
The last to arrive is the also most unassuming and arguably the most wise. When you finally slow down, get quiet and look around, you realize Enough has been by your side the whole time. The gifts you have, wrapped or unwrapped, are Enough. There will be Enough food, chairs, plates and glasses and the gatherings you attend are Enough. We have never lived in a time of such abundance, yet had such a desire and craving for more. Before all the gifts, food and celebration, we already have Enough. It’s so easy for us to get swept up in the holiday season that we forget that one simple truth, we have Enough. We are Enough. There is Enough to go around. There will always be areas where you want to improve, but where you are right now, and what you have right now, is Enough. Life is abundant and there are too few reminders of that every day. When you really get quiet and look around, you will see that you have so much more than Enough.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.