There are several reasons I do an Advent Activity Calendar each year. During this very busy season (and the nature of my work makes it even more so), it would be very easy to allow my many obligations to take precedence over spending time with my children and doing fun things as a family. I have found that even doing one little special thing in a day – even for only a few minutes – can make a huge difference in my children feeling greater family connection and having a better sense of this season as a special time that is not all about presents. I do include some special gifts and treats here and there, but I also try to include lots of opportunities for making, imagining, and giving. I feel like it grounds our family as a whole, and I think it gives my kids some things to focus on each day instead of only what they want for Christmas.
The Advent Activity Calendar has been a good thing for our family, and the kids have come to really rely on this tradition. But it’s not without difficulties. Finding time some days to do some of the activities can be a real challenge (and I have to plan really well to make sure I have baking/making activities on days when I actually have that kind of time, and some less-intensive activities on nights when we have lots of other things going on).
But the hardest part of the Advent Activity Calendar is dealing with expectations. The kids get really excited about certain activities, and that can lead to a sense of let-down when the piece of paper in the calendar holds an activity that doesn’t offer something that seems all that exciting. I try to have a few activities that involve focusing on people besides just themselves – but those are the hardest activities for them to get excited about.
They did pretty well with it in kindergarten:
This was Day 5, 2009, and the activity was “Tell each family member something you like about them.” This is Little Buddha telling Tiny Dancer, “I love you so much and you’re the best brother I could have.” Melts a mama’s heart.
But the next year, this happened instead:
The boys (play)fighting over who gets which ornaments when I’m dead. Nice! This does not melt a mama’s heart, people!
But I still try every year to help them stretch beyond themselves, to focus on other people some, to think about other’s people’s needs. Sometimes before they open the activity for the day, I have to warn them that they might not be super-excited about it, but I hope they’ll do it anyway.
For Day 4 this year, I created a new activity (i.e., one I haven’t given them in the past four years), I feared they would be disappointed with it – “Write a letter to a relative you haven’t seen in awhile.” – and possibly even resistant. But much to my surprise, they both responded very positively to the idea, and that night, after homework, piano, dinner, and relaxing, they both sat down and wrote their letters.
I am feeling really pleased about this, and that whole heart-melty thing is happening again.