I totally love Christmas, but let me cut right to the chase: Christmas can be emotionally draining, physically exhausting and financially stressful. It is a time that we can feel pulled in every direction, even by people that we care about.
That’s why I think we all need reminders that there is space for “no” at Christmas, and I’ve decided to write about it. Please embrace these “no”s on whatever day of Christmas they are needed.
No to Gifts We Can’t Afford (or are just plain unreasonable)
I get it. When our kids ask for something, we don’t want to let them down. It’s especially hard if they answer: “But can’t SANTA get it?” No. This year, our daughter wanted a gift that was well over our budget. When she pulled the Santa card, I simply said that in our house we aren’t allowed to ask Santa for such big gifts. Parents, YOU CAN SAY NO. Setting limits is one of our jobs, even at Christmas.
This applies to lots of areas. A few years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about the high cost of stockings. I was surprised to think of stockings as something costly. I said: “We only spend about $20 on stockings.” She was stunned. Her stockings had always included things like DVDs, books, and even jewelry, usually costing up to $100. I told her our stockings are things we need – socks, underwear, or new markers. And that we don’t always “fill” them! She was excited to learn she could say “no” to $100 stockings!
Is the family “secret Santa” limit out of budget? You can say no.
Is the gift your child wants a piece of junk you don’t want to buy? You can say no.
Are you going to have to go in debt to afford a certain kind of Christmas? YOU CAN SAY NO.
No to Over- Giving
I LOVE buying my kids gifts at Christmas time. It’s hard to resist sometimes, as I picture their excited faces on Christmas morning. But here is a little tactic that has helped me keep giving under control. When I picture Christmas morning and it makes me want to buy ONE MORE THING so badly, I pause, and I picture January. I picture that EXACT gift on a Tuesday in January. Where is it? Is it on a shelf somewhere? Has it been forgotten? Is it just added to a toy pile somewhere? This gives me pause and helps me avoid getting sucked into buying “just one more thing.”
No to Food you Don’t Want
“But I made these JUST FOR YOU!” It seems like everyone has a reason to make you eat one more cookie. If you want to, great. But if you are done eating, if you are full, if you want to eat healthy, if you don’t LIKE cookies (or pie, or turkey, or ham or candy canes) – you can say no. (*Note: As someone frequently accused of “aggressive hospitality, I will also work on saying “no” to begging you to eat more of my food).
No to Endless Visits
I see a lot of people struggling in what I call the “Christmas sandwich generation,” quite common with people my age. This is when people are still expected to do EVERY family tradition they did while growing up, even though they now have children of their own. They go to grandma’s on Christmas Eve, Great Aunt Sue’s for Christmas breakfast, hubby’s dad’s for lunch and Mom’s mom for dinner. It’s even more tricky with people from blended families.
Here’s the thing – at some point, no one can do it all, and we shouldn’t be expected to. (Remember that in order for your MOM to have started the tradition of Christmas breakfast at her house, at some point she STOPPED going to HER mother’s). I know it will be hard, but yes- you can say no endless visiting and say “yes” to days in pajamas!
No to “But All the Other Kids….”
Every other kid has an Elf on the Shelf. Every other kid goes to the Santa Clause Parade. Every other kid gets a new Christmas dress. Etc. Etc. Etc. It doesn’t matter. Your family can do exactly what YOUR family can manage.
No to “But It’s Tradition!”
If you have kids, you’ll hear this all the time. You do something once, and for the next 10 years they’ll ask to do it again and whine “But it’s tradition!!!!” Traditions can be fun, but sometimes you start something you don’t want to do again. If you can’t manage something this year, for whatever reason, it’s okay to say “no,” even if a tradition is broken.
Now this is where you might be saying. “This is too much! You don’t know my family! I’ll never be able to say no to these things!” That’s where the next one comes in.
No to Guilt
Do you need to say no to something this Christmas? You can do so – and you DON’T have to feel guilty about it. This is true, even for the especially hard ones, like the ones I am about to share…
No to Having to Love Christmas
Not everyone loves Christmas. Some people find Christmas hard. Maybe you are grieving. Maybe you are going through a hard time. You don’t have to love Christmas. If you’re sad, you can be sad. You don’t have to put on a happy face. You don’t have to celebrate. You can be what you need to be.
No to Making OTHERS Love Christmas
It’s not our job to fix Christmas for everyone who is struggling. Give space to those who need it to be sad. This is especially true of people newly grieving. If they need to skip a party, or step back from an event, let them.
No to Boundary Crossing
This is a sad one to have to address but it’s important. Sometimes being with family for some people means being in a room with their abuser. Let me say this clearly: You do NOT have to visit/kiss/hug/thank your abuser EVEN IF IT’S CHRISTMAS. You are allowed to say no.
This also applies to your kids. Please don’t make your children kiss or hug someone they don’t want to hug. Say “no” to telling kids they can’t control their own bodies. In our house, we give three options: “Fist bump, high five or hug?” We can say “no” to having anyone cross someone else’s physical boundaries.
No to Emotional Manipulation
I know what’s going to happen when you say “no” to some of these things.
“But this could be Grandma’s last Christmas!”
“Don’t you care about tradition?”
“Everyone will be so disappointed if you don’t come!”
It’s hard, I know. It’s hard to feel responsible for someone else enjoying Christmas. AND – it’s not your job. You can say no.
This “no” works both ways – we need to be able to hear when people say no without trying to manipulate them into doing what we want. It’s hard when our loved ones make decisions that change things for us – but we can respect their “no” and show them love by doing so.
No to ____________
This is your fill-in-the-blank for whatever you need.
No to sending Christmas cards, if it’s too overwhelming.
No to throwing a party, if it’s more than you can manage.
No to Christmas baking, if time is running short.
No to french hens and turtle doves and partridges in a tree if you don’t feel like getting stuck with a house full of birds.
No to THE THINGS THAT WILL STRESS YOU OUT INSTEAD OF BRING YOU JOY.
Say no, my friends. Every day that you need to.
And have a very merry boundary-full Christmas!
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Thank you for a great blog. We need to hear this often.
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Very well said. Thank you