When we enter into Fall I don’t know about you, but family gatherings coming up start to fill my mind. I know Thanksgiving and Christmas are a little bit away yet, but the way time goes, they will be here before we know it.
Ever since my son Ryan moved on to college, the fall has been different. We still have Makenna home so our weekends are still full of activities, (A whole lot less thanks to Covid-19, but that is a different topic altogether!) but somehow it is still different. There are whole seasons that can pass by without Ryan even being home. Fortunately, Ryan was able to surprise Makenna for her senior night at the football game, or he may not have been home until Thanksgiving. When I went to college I only came home at Christmas and Summer. I grew up in the state of Oregon and went to college in Pennsylvania so I didn’t travel home much.
I am thankful Ryan’s school is within driving distance, but we really don’t see him as often as I would like. Had Ryan not stopped home for the evening for senior night, he would have left the house early August in full blown summer to deep into Fall with little leaves on the trees. Time passes quickly and so much has already taken place and it is late October.
A Few Tips to Look Ahead
I thought I would share a few tips for you as you begin to look ahead to the Holidays and planning in the unknown. No matter what season of life you are in, we all have a chance to prepare ahead for what may come for our holidays. Today’s email isn’t about planning all the details, but maybe some things to think about as you build on what you want your holiday season to look like. I think many of these tips will help you in any stage of life, a few of these will make most sense for those who have an empty nest. Since I cannot fully relate to those who are truly empty nest, I have a lot more to learn. However, I did want to pass on a few things I am learning along the way that may help you during this season.
Now, don’t throw things at me for bringing up the holidays, but I know they will be here before we know it. I know some people have resolved to just put their Christmas trees up and call it a year early since it has been such a strange 2020. I am not encouraging to put the tree up yet, but maybe look ahead to what may need to be planned for.
When it comes to planning the holidays ahead, it can be difficult to navigate the different places we need to be. This can be quite the task for families with all of their kids home, let alone grown kids who are out of the house and maybe even have families of their own!
I read a book recently and one of the chapters was talking about traditions and how to implement these traditions with grown children. She gave a suggestion to ask your kids what their favorite traditions, foods, activities are during the holidays before making plans. You may be surprised that some of the traditions, food, or activities you always made sure to do may have not been important to the kids. This may help you decide on what to do that will be the most enjoyable for all and maybe even lighten your load a bit.
Another thing to think about is what traditions they want to keep or create for themselves or their family. One thing we have always done is have Christmas Day at home with our family. We have done so far, but soon enough my kids will have their own traditions to start. So often I hear of families who are trying to fit in several family gatherings into one day. Often is seems like their holidays are exhausting. Even though we have a specific day named for the holiday, doesn’t mean it’s the only day you can celebrate.
For instance, remember how I said we are always home for Christms day? We have another day we do a get-together with my husband’s family. Our day is so fun, low on stress and allows us each to have time with our own families. We typically get together the Sunday before or after Christmas (depending when it falls) and have time together. This allows us to be together without the pull to be at someone else’s home in the same day.
What could you do to create a time for you to be together with your family without putting pressure to be at several places in the same day?
When Kids Are Not Home
So, what do you do if your kids are on their own and you are left home without them? Is it just you and your spouse or maybe you are single and your kids aren’t able to come home. Then what do you do? I can’t say I know all the tips, but here are a few ideas I can share.
First, it is okay to acknowledge your sadness. Too often we try to brush our feelings under the rug and try to will the hurt away from us. Eventually you will need to let go of the sadness, but if this is your first year, it is OK TO BE SAD! You have been needed and mom for so long, it is okay to acknowledge the empty space in your heart.
If you are used to a big family gathering and you won’t have that, you can make some new traditions? What if instead, you could plan a special vacation or time away with your spouse? If you are married, this is a great time to learn to focus on your spouse more. Maybe learn a new hobby with them or plan a special time just for them. If you are near other family, join in the gatherings even if your kids cannot be there. You could be the cool Aunt!
You Are Not Alone
If you are single or possibly widowed, reach out to others who may be in your same situation. We have invented Galentine’s Day for those who don’t have a Valentine. Maybe we need a name for the other holidays where we are separated from those we love? I know for sure you are not the only one out there in your situation, so don’t be afraid to ask around and see what others may be doing for the season. You never know, you reaching out might be exactly what someone else was hoping for!
There is also the idea of serving others. Just as gratitude can fill our hearts and set our intention for the day, serving others can do this as well. There are so many places that are looking for volunteers, especially on holidays, who are willing to extend a hand. When your focus is on serving others, it is so much harder to leave room for loneliness.
I do hope that these tips were helpful as you slowly begin to look ahead to what is next for your upcoming holiday. This transition to the Empty Nest is definitely different, but it does not mean it is the beginning of the end. Get excited about what you will be able to create for this season and many more to come.