For some ideas on how to conserve energy this holiday season, see my past blog post.
Now then, Retread Parent, what makes you smile and relax? Give that to yourself, at least once this holiday season. What could it be? Only you know that, but here are some suggestions to get you started on that thought:
- Can you afford some pampering? Look into senior prices at day spas and salons. Even one afternoon on your hair, or one really good massage, can really do a lot for your disposition.
- Don't think you can afford a new hair-do or a massage? Search the Internet or your good old-fashioned Yellow Pages for schools of beauty culture, physical therapy and massage. I have a couple relatives who are now massage therapists, and just as beauty schools need real human heads for practice under the supervision of licensed professionals, ditto that for massage. Free or low prices, supervisions, students get practice, you get some pampering- What's not to like?
- As a rule, it's impolite to tell people what you want for a gift. But if they ask, you could say, "Gee, ya know, with the kids and all, I haven't had time to think about it. I haven't had time to breathe! And just look at my hair! I love the kids dearly, but boy could I use something relaxing." You might get a foot massager, or a couple boxes of Clairol. You might also get gift certificate to someplace nice. You never know.
As for all those stressors that pop up more so for us who retread parent, here's some tips on reducing that stress:
- STREAMLINE. It's not about how. There is no crime in serving latkes purchased frozen, bakery goods, pre-chopped frozen items with which to prepare food (onions and green peppers come already diced and ready to use), grocery-store deli prepared meals; for that matter, no crime in eliminating traditions you don't like, activities that don't make sense to your schedule, or stuff it's just not worth it to do. You may not be able to travel to see your sister 1,500 miles away this year. Just as when you were young and might have missed Christmas at Mom and Dad's because you were now married, you have other responsibilities.
- DON'T WORRY BEFORE YOU HAVE TO WORRY: I know. It sounds weird. Worry on a schedule. When I first heard it from my late aunt, I thought she was crazy. But, if you use a schedule, paper or online, and book yourself some time to worry about stuff (the adult child in this mess, how you're going to make ends meet, what to serve for dinner), you will be surprised how much stress this takes out of your life.
- SCHEDULE. Create a flexible holiday schedule, a list, what needs to be done and when.
Now let's work on gifts for others.
Is money a problem? It can be a lot more of a problem for grandparents and others raising young relatives. What was possibly more than enough for you barely stretches to the next week, or worse. Yet, you want to be sure those little ones, even big arrogant teenage ones, have that bright light in their eyes come Christmas morning, or on the first night the menorah is lit. Here's some help with making sure your grandkids enjoy their holidays without breaking your bank account:
- IT'S ABOUT TIME. Spread your money and time over the year. Create your own gift certificates, with the computer or your own art skills. A promise for a real movie at a theater with all the trimmings in April when you have more money, just the two of you, can be a real boost to your relationship with a sullen teen who misses her Mom. Other gift certificate ideas can include trips to the store, picnics, zoo trips, playground time, trips to the ceramic shop, popcorn and a rented (or free library) movie at home with you, a gourmet dinner or dinner of favorite foods. Use your imagination.
- CAN YOU OR SOMEBODY ELSE MAKE IT? Yes, it's pretty easy to make dolls, block sets, t-shirts, fancy flip-flops, and some jewelry. There are web sites out there that can also remind you how to make bath salts, soaps, candies, cookies, and a host of other things. Google, google, google. If you have more time and energy than money, this might be a good idea. If you can't do it, can you trade your time to do something else for somebody else to do it? I can't knit or crotchet well. I do have a friend who is wonderful at both, but can't do her Christmas letter or cards. It's a good trade-off, a nice shawl for doing her cards, inserting a lovely Christmas letter in there.
- WATCH FOR SALES, eBAY, THRIFT STORES TO HAVE IT. No joke. I once got the most amazing rocking horse at Goodwill for a certain child who wanted one. The horse is large enough for an adult to ride. It was hand-crafted, and according to the embossed stamps on the rockers, had two previous owners. Online, I saw a similar horse for no less than $250. I paid $20 for the horse, and another $10 to spruce it up. There are not thousands, but millions, of gently-used items that you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between new and used. It's certainly a good way to acquire new family heirlooms!
- FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT, THERE IS HELP. I've heard from grandparents who are broke, period. They've gotten the grandkids on DHS and Kidcare because that's all they can afford, not merely because of the kids' status. Free school breakfasts and lunches will be missed during the holiday break from school. Older folks such as us are losing our jobs. Toys, games and the unnecessary take a back seat to food, clothing and shelter. For these caregivers, I can only say ASK FOR HELP. It might be a little late for traditional assistance, such as Catholic Charities or Salvation Army, but start with your local house of worship. Ask your DHS case worker for any leads on this. Don't be so proud that your grandkids go hungry or cold. My prayers for all of you going through this.