Keeping to a Routine: How I Survive the Holiday Season

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It’s the holiday season. For parents, that means lots of kid-centered activities, parties, outings, get-togethers, visits to Santa and a long list of holiday-related events. I love it. The excitement on my children’s faces when they see Santa, decorate the tree, sing Christmas carols and work on their wish list make me so happy. Using every possible moment to build our family’s traditions, and be present. With almost two years of pandemic life behind us, we are probably all eager to jump back into all of our families favorite traditions, specially with the possibility of anyone 5 and up eligible for the COVID Vaccine. 

Loss of routine during the holiday season

The downside of all of this is that it will inevitably lead to late nights and missed naps. Some kids take it better than others. Knowing my boys, I need to set boundaries and routines to allow some flexibility. Especially given the past year and a half of limited activities and few social interactions. I know we will have at least one meltdown point and one or two major tantrums over the holidays. But I have learned to listen and slow down to minimize chaos.  

From the moment I was pregnant, I kept hearing phrases like “the child adjusts to you, not you to them.” Initially, I didn’t make much of it because I had no experience and honestly the idea of being locked in a quiet house to not disturb a child’s schedule seemed a little crazy. Six years later, I now know that we need to listen to their needs and slow down.

Time to slow down… really!

You might ask, how can I slow down in a season where we might have 2 or 3 events in a day? When family visits, we have plans outside the house and they might just be too excited to rest? Well, for me it means to stick to a routine as much as possible. 

But what does sticking to a routine mean when you are out of town, visiting relatives or staying at a hotel? Wouldn’t this mean routine that a routine is out of the question? The question goes a little further as a Latina. Culturally, children will come out to family dinners and parties with lots of relatives, stay up playing way past bedtime, and crash on the sofa or someone’s bed. I try to keep it simple and be straight forward: I know my boys will wake up by 8 am at the latest, so I choose routine when possible to squeeze moments of peace and quiet in order to fuel up and survive the busy moments. This means setting boundaries and keeping to the schedule as much as possible. 

Given that the next couple of weeks are crazy, here are my three tips to surviving the holidays while keeping your cool. 

Tip #1: Make time for sleep during the holiday season

We were out in one of the big gatherings at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago. It was close to 10 pm, my husband had headed back home with our youngest, and I stayed back with my oldest. We were talking with my friends, not all moms, about routines (yes, the poor friend without children had to endure the fun mom talk).  I was mentioning that I now try to start the sleeping routine before 7 pm. One of them then asked me surprised about when I became so radical because growing up we would probably go to sleep at a much later time. I told her that I was taking advantage of the winter months and getting the boys to sleep earlier. This means time for Netflix and wine with the hubs on some nights and reading on others.

What does the bedtime routine mean when it’s the holiday season? Well, if we are home (or the place where we will spend the night) and we are done with our activities, that means the kids are going to sleep as close to their usual sleep time as possible. Why? Because if they stay up, even if the family is with us, there is a high chance that the boys will act up, go crazy and start running around like they have a new set of batteries. Now, you could say hey movie night so we can catch up and chat. That sounds great and they would love it, but I would rather save screen time for a time when it’s really needed (see point tip #2). 

Tip #2: Prepare for the preparable

If holidays plans means travel, I bring books, activities, and games. I have snacks with me and when possible bring my own lunch. I try to refrain from screen time under planned activities and save the iPad for emergencies only. Now, if we are getting together to watch a holiday movie, I’m all for it, and please bring the popcorn and candy bars. During one of our pasts Thanksgiving breaks, we had to stay an extra night by the airport because of itinerary changes, and since we had limited screen time during most of our trip, I was all in for a movie marathon. 

holiday routine

Tip #3: Split up for holiday events when possible

I am a fan of family experiences. I have been blessed with the possibility to bring my kids to as many events as I can. This is in part because of my stay at home schedule and the wonderful giveaways from DC Area Moms. Now, end of the year holidays comes with a schedule overload. During the other months of the year, I say no to events when agendas are conflicting. But I cannot pass on a Santa sighting or another holiday concert. So, we now divide and conquer. My oldest can handle a busy schedule like a champ. On the other hand, my youngest gets overwhelmed with crowded spaces and multiple activities. I take the oldest and my husband stays back. I must say this also helps him as he is not a big fan of my busy holiday spirit. 

holiday routine

Every family is different. Some might be better at keeping busy and going on overtime. I would love to be that way but I know my children won’t respond to it as gracefully as I would like. I might sound extreme, but if you catch me on those nights where everything goes, you would think I’m the most laid back mom because of the extra candy and very late nights. It really sounds crazy but at the end of the day it’s the routine that allows me to be flexible. 

How do you manage your holiday?

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Tatiana was born in Bogota, Colombia and moved to the United States at age 15. She moved from Houston to DC in 2007 to work for an international organization. She met her husband at work and married in 2011. She has two children: Santiago (2013) and Antonio (2015) and a Masters degree in Conflict Resoliution. After the birth of her second child, she decided to take time off to stay home and focus on the kids. She is passionate about nutrition, self-led weaning and homemade food. The Story of My Table is her Instagram account and blog where she shares her adventures in the kitchen. She strongly believes that a wine a day keeps the doctor away and that the key to parenting two boys is to keep in good shape. She is not a fan of baking, but would occasionally do it to avoid highly processed food. She is an advocate for natural foods, Montessori education and allowing children to get bored. One day she dreams of building an organization where she can combine her passion for food with peacebuilding.

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