To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays


Dear Young Mama Of Tiny People,

I hear you  in the bathroom, locked behind the door and trying to unwrap a piece of chocolate with shaky fingers. I see you on Instagram, admitting where you failed and showing us your sad eyes and the crumbs in your hair. I read your Facebook status, the one where you can’t figure out how to get everything done with the little people under foot.

Oh, honey. I hear ya.

If you had time, I’d pet your hair and ply you with coffee and speak in soothing tones. But you’re short on time these days and I know those holidays are looming large on your calendar. You’ve got lists a mile long of obligations and cute things you pinned on Pinterest to do for your tiny people.

And that’s really sweet of you. You’re a good mama who is anxious to make good memories for her people and to celebrate with her loved ones. Well done, you!

But lemme put it to you straight:  Do. Less. Stuff.

Lower your expectations for what is humanly possible in one day. Now think about how many toddlers you have and lower them again.


You have all the reasons in the world (imagine me pointing to those sticky little fingers that even now are exploring your nose while you read) to say “no” right now, even to yourself when you want to do something fun. If it makes you yell, it’s a No. Every time. Gotta take food to X place and know that you will end up screaming while you cook? “No, I can’t right now. We will swing by and pick up a bucket of chicken.”

If baking cookies and watching your kids sling sprinkles all over the kitchen is going to make you yell today? Then no. Don’t do it. Always choose the relationship with your kids over the Advent activity that makes you scream. Always choose the Simple over the Pinnable.

Listen, the only person who expects you to accomplish All The Things on that list? Is you. You must extend to yourself the grace that others are already extending in your direction.

You can apologize for showing up with the grocery store cupcakes if you want, but you don’t have to say you’re sorry for choosing your kids and your sanity over perfectly piped buttercream icing. You know what? The lady at the bakery can pipe buttercream beautifully, too, but she can’t read Thomas the Train with the proper voices like you can. Everybody at the party knows that. So apologize if you want. But you don’t have to say you’re sorry for choosing wisely.

Look me in the face at my serious eyes: This is not your season to do all the things, some of the things, or most of the things. It is your season to do A Thing. I tell you that not to be a downer but to let you know that you will slay the crazies in your mind and the guilt that you feel when you flip your lid if you will pick ONE thing per morning. ONE thing for the afternoon. And rejoice if everyone is still alive at the end of the day.


Ready for some good news? Your small people who make everything hard? Because God is a gracious God to us tired mamas, they won’t remember this. They won’t remember that you yelled yesterday. They also won’t remember the Elf on the Shelf or the terrifying visit to Santa’s lap from your list of Fun Things To Accomplish. Nope. They’re just going to remember a warm, fuzzy, maybe slightly squishy version of Mama. They’re going to remember you were THERE. 

So put up some lights, because those are magically soothing to young babes, and cross everything else off your list. Say NO to more this season. Your family traditions and “making memories” can wait another year, until that toddler is out of diapers or the baby quits nursing every half hour. This holiday? This season?

Just be. Be warm, be fuzzy, be slightly squishy. Be in the moment, be on the couch sniffing the baby’s head, Be Still.

Do less stuff. 

And then tell me all about it on Instagram…




  1. Yes and amen! Freedom!

  2. Thank you!! I so need to remember this, especially since our holiday season is sandwiched (sandwiched, I tell ya!!) with child birthdays. I’m sure that God was trying to teach me something with that child-scheduling plan.

  3. My babies aren’t in diapers anymore, but they’re busy and crazy and all they want to do is play a game with Mama. Read a book with Mama. Cuddle with Mama. Saying THANK YOU through tears for this freedom today.

  4. Thank you, I feel like you were speaking straight to me. Sometimes I feel like I need to justify having so many kids so close together by being perfect, especially this time of year. Thanks for the reminder about what matters.

  5. Thank you for this!!! I tend to do “all the things” so I always need a graceful nudge that it’s ok to say no. Especially during the holiday because I’m obsessed with doing all the things…and with my 3 year old, 2 year old and 9 month old….grace is a BIG part of it all 🙂

  6. I read about your post on instagram from Omyfamily. I can’t thank you enough for these words-they were exactly what I needed to hear!

  7. AMEN.
    I’m definitely linking our MOPS ladies to this. It is such a needed permission to not be perfect in this maddening era of Pinterest-everything that we live in!

  8. Exactly….this is a season of life that I love & I need to remember that if it makes me an uptight mama, then I need to say “no, not this year.”

  9. Yes!! This exactly what I’m doing this holiday season, saying no. Instead I’m going to enjoy my new baby, family and friends.

  10. Yes!! This is exactly what I’m doing this holiday season, saying no. Instead I’m going to enjoy my new baby, family and friends.

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This is something I struggle so much with. Not just at the holidays, but all the time. I feel like I am SUPPOSED TO do all of these wonderful things (that truly are wonderful) and if I don’t, I’ll regret it when my kids are all grown, but usually I don’t have the DESIRE, let alone the ENERGY to do those things. Maybe some moms are ‘Super Moms’ in that they’re doing all of these things and managing to stay sane. But me? Sometimes just making it through the day is enough of an accomplishment.

  12. Love this! Mine are 7 and 9 and over the years we have really pared down expectations for the holidays and it’s so much more fun! Looking at Pinterest this time of year just makes me exhausted. We do only the stuff we truly love, the kids open a store bought advent calendar to a piece of chocolate, and it is joyous.

  13. Oh my. Such blessed reassurance. 🙂 Was just in the middle of writing up a similar post, so I’ll link to this one! So, so good.

  14. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    Rachel M. – Celebrate your victories, even if that victory is just a load of laundry! I don’t think we’ll wish we DID more. I think we will wish we just stopped and looked our kids in the eyes more. That we hugged them more. This is a season of tired, right now. The energy will return, the desire to DO will return, but for now, it’s totally ok to just BE. Be the Mama, be a good one, and DO things some other time. This is just a season. I promise. 🙂

  15. Truth and wisdom! Thanks for this reminder of what’s most important!

  16. Tracy Turlington says:

    Thank you!! I needed this today. God works is mysterious ways.

  17. Tina Whiteman says:

    This single Mommy of two tiny littles just wants to say, thank you, thank you, thank you. You soothed my heart tonight. <3

  18. Awesome advice~Where were you twelve years ago when I was yelling at kids about pumpkin carving? 🙂
    Blessings in this beautiful time. Savor, savor, savor.

  19. Thank you for this!!! It’s a lesson I keep having to learn over, and over, and over again. I call it the Martha Stewart syndrome. It keeps rearing its head!!!! One of these days it’ll sink in. 🙂 It’s voices like your own that brings me back to sanity.

  20. Ok, I have a question that has nothing to do with the blog post. Something in one of your pictures caught my eye : your children’s stockings. A very nice American lady sent me after my first 3 children’s birth a stocking for each of them with their name on top exactly like the ones you have. However, she died before I had my next children, and so I don’t have matching ones for my 2 younger kids. I’ve been wanting to get some, but (not living in the US) have no idea where she bought them. Would you mind telling me how I could get some made ? Thank you so much !

  21. This is SO TRUE!!! Thank you for this post. Every mom needs to read this!!!!

  22. Jessica Brammer says:

    You always say the right thing at the right time. With 4 kids 6 and under and number 5 due in January and trying to start a home business I am just not sure we will do any christmasy activities. But if they make me scream or I get stressed are they worth it? No. So thank you. We will have lots of books, cuddles and hot chocolate this year instead of the extras.

  23. Love this article. There IS one thing you NEED to do this season that I’d like to add. It comes even before those Christmas lights. Point their little minds and hearts to Jesus and the reason for the season. Tell them the stories and the truths in a way that only a mama can!

  24. This was an awesome post! My kids are now 7 and 9. I still try to keep it simple. The best memories come from those simple moments. The kids won’t remember the perfect cookies, the beautifully-decorated-but-do-not-touch tree, or the eleventy-seven course dinner, but they will remember how they feel getting to decorate (and eat) those sugar cookies (from a roll but they don’t need to know or care) with Mom (and Dad) whilst stealing a few sprinkles or swipes of icing, getting to rearrange the kid friendly, homemade ornament covered Christmas tree whenever their little hearts decide, and the simple meal that meant you were there to play with the new Barbie or tank engine. There are only 2 traditions my kids consistently ask for starting mid November – 1) When are we going to make our paper Christmas tree (we sticky tack a construction paper tree to the wall) to decorate (they colour for HOURS making ornaments to decorate it!) and 2) When are we making our fireplace for Santa (red and brown construction paper “bricks” taped to white paper with a black “opening” and “logs” so Santa can get in – and always an orange “glowing” fire). These 2 activities are a ton of fun for us. They aren’t perfect. They are messy at times. They aren’t done in one afternoon. But they do keep my kids busy. We do stop to enjoy a hot chocolate by the “fireplace” leading up to Christmas. We keep Christmas fun this way. Keep it about family and not about the “stuff” that gets in the way. Best of luck this holiday season ladies! May our heads stay sane, our hearts stay warm, and our chocolate stash go unfound for another year 🙂

  25. and i would add-be GLAD you have been blessed with littles that make you feel crazy. some of us ache and pray for them and seek joy and contentment during the holidays that seem to highlight and celebrate what God has not (yet) granted.

  26. Adore this. And needed it.

  27. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    Rachel – Oh, girl, YES. I had two years of infertility before my population exploded. I remember the sadness and pain in those holidays. Praying your prayers are granted soon. Will sniff a baby head in your honor, sweet lady.

  28. I love people who enable me to do what my heart and mind and body are already telling me to do. Says the girl who took two full days to put up the Christmas tree last weekend because everything was literally One. Ornament. At. A. Time. Or. Else.

  29. When my daughter was young she said – “I wish everyone would just get one present; then mom’s wouldn’t have to be gone all the time shopping and they would be at home.” We told all of the family to Stop the Insanity. (Now that she is a teen with a ‘list’ she gets a little wistful when her friends get piles of things – but mostly it’s not about the stuff.)
    I agree moms of little ones – enjoy them; they need you, not stuff, to be content.

  30. Yup! This is something I’ve been beating into my own head this year, with a 4 year old and 3 2 year olds running around.

  31. Oh, I assure you, this applies not only to Mamas of Littles BUT to this Mama of Bigs and In Betweens also.

  32. Oh.Yes. Tears and such a deep breath. Thanks for the freedom and the encouragement to let go and just enjoy this time.

  33. Yes!!! This took me some time to learn but 14 years and 10 kids (almost 11) later I feel so much freedom when I say “No” to something/anything that would actually distract me from my loves! I’ll be sharing this with my mommy friends. Thank you.

  34. Kristin Potler says:

    My mama mentor had 8 children, no decorations on the walls, no tv in the house, no Pinterest projects…let alone a computer, but she had boat loads of time with her kids. She said no to most everything and no one doubted her devotion to her kids. Good words Lora! Happy Thanksgiving!

  35. This is hard for me to accept. I love Christmas. I want Christmas just the way it was when I was a kid. If I don’t get it, I feel depressed and homesick Christmas morning because there’s no tree and my favorite Christmas album isn’t playing and I want pancakes. I already resent that I can’t go to midnight Mass when the kids are this little. I would love to be with family, but it’s not happening this year.

    It’s so hard to make a compromise that will give me a happy Christmas without making the kids suffer for Mama’s sentimentalism. Just buying stuff instead of making it is no good, we can’t afford that and anyway the Christmasses I remember we were always poor. Trying to pick the things that mean the most with the least effort: Christmas music, lights, my mom’s Christmas book with stories for the kids, carols.

    But dang it, I wish there were somewhere I could put a tree without the toddler pulling it down!

  36. Sharing this with every MOPS leader in Minnesota to share with their groups. YOU are a blessing to moms everywhere!

  37. Sheila: What Ive done for my toddlers is put the tree up with no decorations for a 2-3 days and let them check it out and get used to it. Then I decorate it and practice constant vigilance for another 2 or 3 days and they (mostly) leave it alone. It’s never as bad as I think it’s going to be before I start. You could also put it in a corner with something in front of it if all else fails. I have 3 kids and the youngest is two this year – Ive never not had a tree up. You can do it!

  38. It’s as if you wrote this especially for me & spoke straight to my heart. As I lay here in my bed tonight, thousands of miles & another continent away, at the end of another such long day with my 6week old & 33month old, when it was all I could do to keep us all feed, clean & relatively sane! The thought of my christmas to do list this year very near overwhelmed me. The truth is that nothing on that list actually matters as much as hugging my babies & their daddy close. Thank you so much, sometimes it takes someone else to point out the ridiculously obvious.

  39. Yes, YES, YES!!! As the mama to 7 fabulous children ages 4-17, it’s amazing to me now the fun memories we have of the simplest of times. It’s true, they remember that you were THERE, not the perfect dessert/dinner/gift, they remember love, and fun, and YOU!

  40. Oh my goodness, thank you for this one. My babies are now 4, 7, and 9. There have been years that I went crazy with doing all I thought I “had” to do. Nobody but me really cared. My favorite Christmas ever was the year I planned nothing. I sat with my Littles and watched them laugh, participated in their joy, and I fully entered into every moment.
    This year, I did plan events…but am taking moments to breathe it all in and participate fully. Slowing down time by noticing the goodness that I’d otherwise miss.
    Thank you for this beautiful post.

  41. i said something of this sort to my daughter…mom of 3 kids under age 5, the other day. she feels “sad/underappreciated/not good enough” because family members don’t expect her to bring food to holiday gatherings (trying to make it easy on her since she’s got the kiddos). i told her to enjoy it while she could, that it wasn’t a slight on her domestic skills (she’s a fabulous cook), that people are being gracious to her–that her day will come when she’s responsible for entire holiday meals. bring some jars of applesauce, some rolls, etc. be grateful for the time she’s being given to not be the one who does it all! love this post…it’s the truth!

  42. Thank you.

  43. PREACH! Thank you, sister for speaking the truth!

  44. My kids are now 33 and 31 and I have 5 grandchildren. The first couple of years I tried for perfect Christmas mornings. They never happened. The year I gave it up, was the first year I enjoyed Christmas and have enjoyed it ever since. My holidays get easier each year. There is no right way, there is just letting go and letting it be.

  45. Bless you for speaking the truth to all of us guilt ridden, over Pinterested, tired Mamas! I’m gonna get all up in this truth….soak it in and try my best to remember it tomorrow when my “crazy” rears it’s ugly neurotic head. 🙂

  46. I’ve read this twice (both at ridiculous o’clock in the morning) and cried both times. Thank you for the permission to say no. xx

  47. Thank you so much for this reminder!

  48. Always choose simple over pinnable – yes! Thank you.

  49. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    Faith – Sweet Mama, get you some sleep. Eat you some chocolate. And then practice your “no” in the mirror. Hugs!! And may you find rest and smiles in your holidays!

  50. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    Alycia – FIGHT THE CRAZY!! POWER TO THE MAMAS!!! You can do it! 🙂 Enjoy your holidays!

  51. Fantastic, too late for my babies, but just in time for my little grand babies.

  52. Precious! How I wish I had read this when mine were littles. Know what? Still great advice when they’re teens!

  53. Thank you. Just the reminder I needed!

  54. This.was.perfect. Thank you!

  55. not to critisize, because your points are 100% accurate, but we dads have just as many things to do, and just as much pressure! Parenting is a team sport!

  56. I have a one year old and two year old. Thank you….. I will remind myself that if we are all alive at the end of the day, count it as success! And I completely agree about the lights!

  57. Beautiful – brought me to tears. I was just sitting here with my two littles, quietly stressing about my holiday to-do list and how messy our house is. I really needed to read this, and I will most definitely be shortening my list now! Thanks so much for this.

  58. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    Todd – You are absolutely right. Apologies for seeming exclusive. I meant this to apply to parents in general. But I originally had a specific mother in mind when I wrote it, so that’s how it stayed. May your holiday be a serene and simple one! 🙂

  59. flyinjuju says:

    My 4 are 3-8, so I am no longer in the ages of them all being little, but I so needed to read this today! Thank you!

  60. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    flyinjuju – Um, that still counts. Totally. 🙂

  61. I had to cry a little when reading this. Because you always want to be super mom, but sometimes … you really DO NOT want to be super mom. You just want to be Mom. I needed this, so thanks! 🙂

  62. I have 3 kiddos..3 years old, 20 months, and 3 weeks…. Life is a whirlwind and try to remember they need their momma more then anything else. Great reminder!

  63. Have read this several times and cried each time. Sometimes I think because I only have one toddler I should still be able to do it all. Um, yeah. I especially appreciate you giving me the courage to say no without apologies. Advent is really about our relationships, not our activities, anyway, and I want to do what’s best for the 3 of us without apologizing about it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this.

  64. I’m sitting here nursing our first little, and I’m so tired I can hardly think straight. I’d cry, but I’m a little dehydrated. This really means a lot. I know my husband’s family has done what you speak of, and I thought they were being patronizing. I was told don’t worry about gifts, except for Dirty Santa, don’t bring food, etc. I’m a great cook, so I was a little offended. I realize now that they’re not trying to be rude: they’re trying to give me a break!
    Little one is only 3mos, and it’s true. We’re broke, I havent been working as much, and I feel terrible that he will never grow up the way perfect families do, where mom stays home, the house is always clean, and Daddy is home at the dinner table every night.
    Thank you for giving us permission to make our own perfect.

  65. Been there says:

    Also, if you weren’t on Facebook and Pinterest, you would have more time. I get so sick of my daughters complaining about not having enough time for this and that but always have their noses stuck in their phones!!! They always ask how i did it when they were little and i was a single mom of 3. I just simply say “I didn’t have a computer or smart phone”. Its called having priorities and Facebook or Pinterest should be after your kids!!!

  66. Linda Mechel says:

    This doesn’t only pertain to someone with “littles” I bet your older kids would appreciate it too. They would appreciate not having to run all over from house to house. They could stay home and help make those cookies, with you, and all your attention. And then they could just be at home, lying under the tree looking at the lights and dreaming of sugarplums, while you read the night before Christmas or watching their favorite Christmas show for the umpteenth time.

  67. This should go without saying, but this doesn’t need to be “mom” specific. Some of us dad’s are caretakers too (I stay at home and my wife works), and just as vulnerable to these problems.

  68. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    Joe- absolutely. I’ve had several dad’s point this out. I had a specific mom in mind when I wrote it, but the sentiment is universal. May your holidays be restful!

  69. Even though I have my list of fun family advent things to do!!! I have the freedom to change that list to do JUST HUG one another today instead of MAKE cookies for the entire neighborhood! Thanks for this reminder!

  70. thank you so much to the person that wrote this i needed to here it and know that im not alone and not the only one with the same routine every day it is boring at times but when i do sit back a take breath i can see just how much more important it is to scratch my sons back or take a min to here what my teenages did that day at school than to try and have atleast two rooms in my house thats clean everyday and not yell at the ones that dont help i can just sit there and laugh and listen so thank you i will pass this along god bless everyone and have a happy holiday

  71. Thank you so much for this! Such a good reminder for this mom who was on the verge of yelling at her kids 7, 4, and 1 while decorating the Christmas tree last night. I didn’t yell, but the enormity of the tree seemed so big at the time. It wasn’t and isn’t. And, I’m glad I decided not to pull all the decorations out this year!

  72. I needed this so much today. I wish I had read it sooner. Thank you.

  73. Thank you! We have two amazing kiddos (3 and 2) and just miscarried before Thanksgiving. So, our Thanksgiving was minimal. We survived, we had a good time and it was still good…..Last year I did a Christmas activity every day with our kids and wrote a fun little synopsis all about it on my blog-that was good for us…last year. Well, this year I have not planned a single thing…not even one. We are taking it just one day at a time, and if we feel like doing something fun, then we will do it…if not, then we won’t. Today we decorated the Christmas tree and had a good time. I began to feel a little guilty not planning more activities until I read your encouraging post. Thanks for reminding so many of us to maintain a right perspective.

  74. As a momma of two crazies- thank you! We all need a reminder every now and then to smell those sweet baby tops 🙂
    Wonderful post!

  75. Lora Lynn, I love you. Thank you.

  76. Beautiful post. This not only applies to mamas of young kids, but also ladies with autoimmune diseases, sickness, etc. My kids are school age now, but I’m in this same boat due to 2 autoimmune diseases and migraines. My hubby is always telling me to let more of the stuff from my list go.
    I loved your comment: “If baking cookies and watching your kids sling sprinkles all over the kitchen is going to make you yell today? Then no. Don’t do it.” I’m not going to feel bad anymore that I don’t pull my kids into the kitchen to decorate cookies. Right now, I know that would put me over the top. I’m focusing on the traditions that are easy and meaningful. Thank you for the post!

  77. I would like to start off by thanking you for a wonderful article and to say that I acknowledge how important it is to remind each other of overextending ourselves at the cost of our families. For some reason, society has moved in that direction and we’re resistant to getting back to where we used to be.

    It is evident that you are a conscientious, caring individual, doing your part in this world to spread understanding and love.

    I too, find this to be part of my life’s mission, spreading understanding and love, so I am trusting (not hoping, trusting) that you will respect and consider what I am about to say.

    The phrasing of one line “rejoicing at the end of the day that everyone is still alive”, isolates some of your readers. It is obvious there was no intent to do so. It is obvious you are a kind, caring person. Please do not receive this as an angry attack. Bringing awareness to the impact of phrases such as this one is part of my own little corner of the world’s life work.

    Not every wonderful parent has all of their children alive at the end of the day. Bad things happen to the best of people, and that’s a fact. Sadly, children and infants die, and stillbirths happen much more frequently than most people are aware.

    I understand, that there was no intent to harm this group of parents, and I’m hoping that this group of parents understands that too. I have never lost a child, but I guess I could say I have lost other people’s. (Totally not the same, I acknowledge that.) I have a lot of people in my personal life that have lost children, and I am also a therapist who specializes in grief.

    Please, in the future, take this into consideration when using something that most people would gloss over as “just an expression”. Our society has phased out hundreds of expressions that have at one time been insulting and hurtful to different groups of people throughout the years.

    I trust that you and I both can continue our crusade of kindness to the world, and that you will take my point of view into consideration.

    Thank you for your contribution to the wellbeing of stressed out, tired parents everywhere. The world needs more people like you.

  78. I am buying cookies for tomorrows cookie exchange for MOPS. Was toying with the idea, but now it’s 100%. Thanks for sharing!

  79. This is so true, as I just impatiently told my son just a minute while I finish in the BR. It makes me think of the story “When Mommy Grew a 2nd HEAD”. Not a Christmas story but about a busy mom trying to keep from yelling and fails.

  80. Target was my “one thing” this morning as one of my littles recovers from a bad cough…now if only I could get ALL of the lights on the tree working, I’d be golden. DARN IT!

    This is hard, too, though, because I work from home and so often DINNER is our one thing for the “afternoon.” Cooking…working…cleaning…putting kids to bed…aren’t all of those things, too? I haven’t “done” anything on Pinterest, um, ever. My pins. Just. Sit there. Maybe I did a busy bag once. Before the pom-poms got all over the house and drove me crazy and I hid them. But don’t tell the kids. Gosh, I think I was better off before reading this! 😉

  81. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    MyPeaceOfFood – I guess I meant “one thing” besides meeting all the basic needs. But I totally agree that sometimes just accomplishing the basic needs counts as “one thing.” It also helps me to remember that as a WAHM, I cannot accomplish what a SAHM mom does. There are finite hours in the day. But I can do what needs to be done and I can be there. And trust Jesus that it’s enough. Hugs, Mama. You’re doing just fine! And good luck with those lights!

  82. Needed to read that today! Our first is barely four months and I already have the mentality “I need to make Christmas cookies with him, and take him to see Santa, and sew him a stocking, and take him carolling, and then scrapbook it all.” Sometimes it’s nice to have someone give you permission to take it easy!

  83. “Always choose simple over pinnable.” This is quite possibly the best thing that I have EVER read! Beautifully written advice! 🙂

  84. Emailed this to every momma I know and am on a post it on our blog too. SOOO GOOD FOR ME AS A NEW MOM!!

  85. I saw this post in my newsfeed just seconds after I had posted a question in a group begging for answers on how people get stuff done with lots of little people around. It was a rough day. I read this post, and it made me cry. I really, really needed the reminder. I have 3 of my own, ages 16 months, 3 yrs, and 4 1/2 yrs, I am 18 weeks pregnant, and I have my 4 year old niece on most days. My advent plans have not, and will not come together like they did in my head. This post was perfect timing for me, I needed to know that I’m not alone!

  86. Jenn Dowden says:


  87. This is an excellent reminder – thank you for writing it. We all do try to do too much sometimes, and it is good to stick to the simple things with young children. Adding one kind of tradition and then making it so it can be pulled out and easily redone the following year is what I like to do. … things with little to no prep work like an Advent wreath or Christmas story books.

    I must say, though, that for parents of large families, it is tough to heed this advice… if you have a baby say every two years for ten or more years, and you never make any family traditions, that you end up with teenagers with no traditions. There has to be a balance in those situations. Not everyone is out of the baby and toddler years in a small span of years. I would love to hear more advice for parents in larger families spaced over more years, as a mom who has had a child age 3 and under every Christmas for the past eight years and could see more in the future! Not a criticism of this post at all; just a general wish since most parenting advice assumes that the baby years will be over in five years, ten tops.

  88. Lora Lynn Fanning says:

    Erin – While I don’t have teen-agers yet, I do have seven children. (It’s not really obvious in this particular post.) I think it’s still possible to keep it simple and have older children, though. We DO have traditions now, but they are uniquely tailored to our family and the fact that we have had a toddler (or two) every Christmas for the last nine years. I pick things to do that my older children, even at elementary ages, can do a large part of the work. We do a Jesse Tree, I let them spread the Christmas lights about, etc. As you know, mothering a large brood means being mindful of the needs of the entire family. Sure, we COULD do elaborate gingerbread houses for the older children, but the babies and I would end up in tears. So maybe we’ll just do simple gingerbread houses out of graham crackers during nap time over a single hour. Still just as fun. And the important part? We’re together and nobody is yelling. (Or maybe that’s just me who loses her mind in the face of royal icing and lots of candy!)

    Here’s a list of things we do or have done in the last few years to build traditions, but simple ones, with our kids. I’d love to hear your ideas, too!

  89. Trixie Lovelace says:

    If I could hug you right now I would. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have three kids, 7, 4 1/2, and 3 and I am pregnant with my fourth. I read this after I was looking at my sadly decorated tree that my kids “helped” with. Now I gaze at my tree, and I love it more than words can say. I was embarrased of the stocking that I bought instead of made, and my choice to only put up half my Christmas village so I could put it up high on my hutch were little hands wont break anything this year. Not any more. I wont be yelling at them to not touch my precious village or my sewing machine and I wont be the Grinch this year. 🙂

  90. Thank you for those ideas – they are helpful! We have been doing a Jesse Tree as well, and actually got real ornaments this year by participating in a swap, so we will be able to use them every year now. it is nice to know that there are larger families who can keep it simple yet still add traditions. I am guessing that as the kids become teens, they can help to carry out more of the traditions and planning themselves, too! If the 14 year old wants to bake fancy gingerbread cookies, then she can go for it, ha ha! One thing I have done, and that my mom did with my younger siblings, is to let dad take them out to drive around and look at Christmas lights, go to fireworks or parades or whatever for holidays, while mom stays home with babies and toddlers!

  91. I just wrote a post on this topic, inspired greatly by your post. Thank you so much for sharing!!!


  92. Thank you! I’ve been telling my husband this is exactly what I feel like….not finishing the lists of things, tree and lights are up and all I want to do is sit and love on my babies…..just what you ordered 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  93. I love this! I wish I’d been given advice like this when mine were babies and toddlers, but it still applies! I have three kids ages 7-10 who are involved in full-time sports and we are constantly on the go. We still manage to do a lot in the way of celebrating, but I am the type who gets hung up on not being able to do ALL.THE.FESTIVE.THINGS. I have to remind myself that my kids do appreciate the simple things, we are purposely raising them that way- so I really shouldn’t be so hard on myself! Thanks for a great post.

  94. Can I just say thank you. Thank you for this gentle reminder. There are so many articles putting mother’s down for trying to be on Pinterest or for doing great things for their kids and tears down the mom rather than builds them up. This was the perfect reminder that reminds me that we have good intentions but they are so unnecessary. Thank you, more than you will know.

  95. I feel ya mama!!
    This is my mandate this year: Less.
    I let the kids hang the glue and glitter covered decorations on the tree all haphazard like. and I didn’t even go and move them when they had gone to bed!
    I do actually enjoy baking, and since all my kids are in school all day now; that is the one MORE I can do. but I have no problem picking up cupcakes from the bakery if time is of the essence. They even put them in a nice box with a string handle for you. They’re my people.
    Oh yes! I hear your battle cry to put an and to the Glorification of Busy.
    And I am gonna get right on that: just as soon as I watch a few episodes of Downton Abbey while I drink my tea, by my fire…..because this is the last day of school before holidays. I got 2 weeks ahead of fun, messes, joys of the season, shortbread and rice krispies cake crumbs in my couch, snow angels, and hot cocoa by the fire. Pace yourself moms! Grab the still when you can.

  96. Rachel Lynn says:

    I so needed to hear this today! With my husband working out of town, I’m trying to “do it all” for our little guy, for my side of the family, for my in-laws, for people at church, for friends–while working part-time from home. Thank you for the encouraging words that brought cleansing tears of relief. It’s so nice to have someone give permission for a mama to be less than everything. Thank you.

  97. Absolutely lovely.

    I just sighed a little sigh of relief. 😉

  98. When my “littles” were little (today they are 30 and 27), of course I felt pressure to pull together a picture perfect Christmas. And there were certainly those moms who seemed always to have it together. But you know what? Those moms didn’t have websites or blogs. My community was made up of other moms who communicated face to face. And I could see the baby vomit on the shoulder of her power suit. I could see the jumble of Happy Meal boxes in the back of her car. I could see that her kids showed up to daycare in mismatched socks and uncombed hair. And she could see that all that was true of me and my kids. The most loving thing we can say to young moms these days is “Cancel your Pinterest account. Unfriend anyone who consistently posts heartwarming and perfect pictures of the special projects she does with her kids and never posts the fact that she just fed her kids corn flakes and Coke because it’s all that is in the house.” Ask MY kids what they remember about growing up, and HOW they remember it. That’s truth… not airbrushed fiction.

  99. thank you. I needed to find this tonight. I have three littles, the oldest of which just turned three this month. And I am so happy with them. We were terribly ill this December having moved 2000 miles to a new climate with all new strands of virus, and all i could do was decorate, make a cake for Christmas, and relax with them as we opened presents. No other “tradition” happened, and it was fantastic. We had so much fun making a day of doing nothing but playing,walking, cuddling.

    But I needed to hear this, because no one else is going to say it to a Mama but another Mama.


  100. Great post and that”s exactly what I’m doing during our break.

  101. Oh i needed to read this. Tonight i was going to sit down write out all our advent calandar things and our do unto others list etc but the idea of it this year is making me feel anxious. I think ill fill it with treats and if i find time to do something else throughout advent then awesome! Thank you for writing this!!

  102. When my kids were growing up, we did LESS not just around the holidays, but ALL YEAR LONG. We allowed the kids ONE activity outside school. No dance AND karate AND scouts. ONE. And dinner at home and Sunday family time were non-negotiable. My kids are grown now and they do remember the special things we did together BECAUSE they were fewer.

  103. Kerry Trumble says:

    i have brought up 6 littles and this is some of the best advice i have ever read….i say “read” because i had many older moms tell me some of the same things…..thank you

  104. Sarah Bass says:

    Thank you, dear sister! You’ve encouraged so many besides me with this letter. I’m in a season of 5 under 8, the newest being 7 weeks. I have an autoimmune disease that limits me quite a bit (I don’t ever take my kids to the park or library anymore, or even the grocery store). I homeschool and feel like a miserable failure most days. The last few days especially it’s all I can do to keep clothes clean, people fed (frozen meals and sandwiches), and math done. My house is a mess and I didn’t even decorate for fall, let alone Christmas coming up. We don’t do crafts. It’s a huge stress to me, and God blessed us greatly with a granny (my mother in law) that adores doing crafts and playing games with my kids once a month!
    I don’t even get in Pinterest except to view a recipe that links there…
    Anyways, thank you so much for speaking to us where we need it so badly!
    I’m going to enjoy smelling my baby’s head and cuddling in the sofa with books and young ones during the holidays – minus lights and greenery…and we will live and love and thrive in God’s simple blessings. ☺️❤️

  105. This was adorably written. I loved it! So encouraging for moms of littles.


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  5. […]  I read this article a few days ago.  So good.  Inspired me to make a point to do things with my […]

  6. […] Head on over to the rest of Lora Lynn Fanning’s post at Vitafamiliae […]

  7. […] If you found this post helpful and would like to read more along the same lines, I highly recommend this blog post. […]

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  13. […] pss) Trust me, you want to read this article “To the Mamas of Littles during the Holidays”. […]

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  17. […] such activities that point us to the meaning of Christmas. For now, I will remember that I am a mom to littles and if I need to, we’ll do Christmas-themed coloring pages for more days than […]

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  21. […] shall not be intimidated by how the holidays, the turkey, the tree or the memories “should” be celebrated but love the people I’m celebrating with […]

  22. […] activities, I think we should all reread Lora Lynn’s great post from last year: To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays.  When the Christmas stuff comes out at Target, I start to freak out about all the cool stuff I […]

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  31. […] To the Mamas of Littles During the Holidays at by Lora Lynn Fanning at VitaFamiliae.com (this one’s a couple of years old but it’s making the rounds again and is SO NEEDED!) […]

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