Here's why I’m saying 'no' this Christmas

"This year, despite my little one's protestations I had to say no to her doing the evening Nativity show."

There are two types of people come December, or perhaps I should say November: Those doing their trees for the gram while their Halloween pumpkins are still decomposing in the backyard, and those who prefer things a little more low key. Well, that's what I call us, but to others we may be known as The Grinch, and well that’s just fine with me too.

It's not that I don’t like Christmas, I love sharing time with family. I love the neighbours popping round with for a gift exchange with my children. Even the drunken neighbour who visits in his gold hot pants to borrow a corkscrew has a place in our Christmas joy.

But do you know when I like this stuff? December 25th. I’d even push it so far Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, but any more than that? Nope, too much.

Image: iStock.

Christmas Day is OK ... just not so much the other stuff. Image: iStock.

That was until this year, the year I decided to say no to excess and my goodness, am I ever chillaxed, well, as chilled as a mother could potentially be the week before Christmas.

So what exactly have I said no to this year?

1. Excess Santa visits

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Last year the girls had a visit with Santa every weekend in December, I kid you not, every weekend. With so many people who love them and want to share this time with them it all got a bit out of hand. This year, there has been one day set aside for a Santa visit and other than that it will be business as usual.

The Santa this year put on very unenthusiastic effort with his equally morose elf as a helper, it is little wonder they can only pick up seasonal work. Last year this would have seen me undertake extensive research to rectify my mistake, this year, I put it down to experience and moved on. ‘Sorry girls, I don’t know why Santa has two beards, fancy the park?’

2. Christmas dance show

OK, so as all dance mums know, as well as the big production mid year, we also have the Christmas show, often sold to you as an ‘award ceremony’ to reward the children for their efforts and to showcase their hard work.

You pay the fees all year, you get them to classes, get all their outfits and associated matching hair bows. How can you turn down the offer of seeing your children being recognised for all their hard work? Of course, you still have to buy a ticket to see them being rewarded and feel free to invite the grandparents. You arrive with all the other dance mums and cram yourselves into a stuffy function hall, the stench of the previous evening's drunken Christmas debauchery seeping from the walls as you struggle to find a dry patch on the floor to settle into for the day.

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The kids are taken away and paraded out periodically to pad out the time while the star pupils are changing for their next big number. Five hours later a wretchedly child is returned to you clutching a dollar store medal begging you to take them to the uniform stand where if you order that day, it’ll arrive in time for Christmas. This year it was a no from me, and when I see the dance teachers living it large over the New Year after their most recent cash grab, it won’t sting so much.

Image: iStock.

There will be no Christmas show. Image: iStock.

3. Excess gifting

So most of us have been there where our children decide they want something at the last minute, often prompted by a class mate and we terrorise ourselves trying to find it. Or the panic where you have spend more on one than the other, or once you wrap the presents one bundle looks more sparse than the other. I’m not getting caught up in that this year, and when I find myself going down that materialistic consumer driven route, I think back to the Christmas of the Hatchimal and how they were tossed aside after new year.

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This year I have really pared back and have only thoughtful gifts that I have meaningfully picked out for them, not the ones that marketers tell our kids they want.

4. School nativity

My girls attend the most wonderful school with the most enthusiastic teachers, but this year, despite my little one's protestations I had to say no to her doing the evening Nativity show. She took part in the afternoon show and had an absolute ball, her face when she saw me in the audience lit up and she was so proud to finally be involved after watching her older sister take part for the last three years.

The reasoning for keeping her home for the second show? It was past her bedtime. Last year I would have agreed with my detractors and put her forward resigning myself to the fact that this is just how things are at this time of year. This year, I’d rather a well rested child in control of her emotions so I kept her off, so instead of 24 stars alternating between nose picking and bum scratching there were 23 singing their hearts out sacrificing tune for volume.

Image: iStock.

No Christmas nativity show. Image: iStock.

Tackle fears with common sense. If she's scared of dogs, don't hustle her across the street when one is coming. Demystify the fear. ("Oh, a puppy! Let's ask the owner if we can feel how soft his fur is.") In tense moments—shots come to mind—be sympathetic but not too emotional, says Atlanta-area pediatrician Roy Benaroch. Say, "It will be OK. It will be over in a few minutes," not, "I know—it hurts! It hurts!"

Hopefully next year when she is five she will be more able to cope with staying up later and can take part in both performances, but as much as I want them to enjoy these opportunities as they arise, a calm household comes first.

Saying no to the things that society pressures you to do but that don’t fill my heart with joy allows me to say yes to the things that matter. So in the week before Christmas instead of wrapping excess presents and rushing around with last minute token gifting, I’m having the girls friends round for an end of term play date, spending an afternoon swimming and an evening volunteering to wrap gifts for those less fortunate, all things I would have never had time for in previous years with the demands of Christmas. I’ve never been more relaxed, the girls are happy and calm, and I even had the emotional capacity to smile as I listened to come carol singers.