December is a unique, special month.
There are parties to attend, gifts to buy, cards to send, food to make and eat, and memories to be made. Kids will be off from school, parents will be off from work, Christmas specials will be on TV.
If you plan ahead as a parent, you can make December a special month.
Here are some ideas:
Listen to Christmas music. I’m not a big fan of Christmas music. If you know me, this isn’t news. However, starting at Thanksgiving we listen to it almost non-stop until Christmas. Why? It is a good tradition. The songs are about Jesus, and my kids love music. I look for Christmas music we like and create a playlist that I load onto all of our iPods and iPads so we can listen to it wherever we are. The kids listen to Christmas music as they go to sleep. This helps to change the mood of the month and communicates that this time of year is different. It has its own music.
Take your kids on a special daddy date. Go to a park, go to Starbucks to get a treat and play a game or whatever they decide (within reason). In December I like to do something special. Usually on that daddy date I’ll take them to the store to pick out a present for their siblings. My hope is they will learn generosity and thinking of others as we talk about why we give gifts to others.
Record Christmas specials and watch them together. Kids love Christmas specials. At least my kids do. So, record them and watch them together.
The tree. Whether you go out and cut down your tree, buy one or have a fake one (like we do here in AZ), make putting up the tree special. Build it up, plan it, make your own ornaments, tell stories about the ornaments you are putting up, and listen to Christmas music while doing it.
Do a special outing as a family. Some families go caroling or sledding. Some shop on Black Friday together. One of our traditions is to go eat at the Ethiopian restaurant (one of our sons is Ethiopian) and then go look at Christmas lights.
Eat special (and bad for you) food. I’m a health nut about what I eat. At the holidays I ease off the gas pedal on that. Eat an extra dessert. Have the same thing each year to create a tradition. At our house on Christmas Eve, we make cream of crab soup and have chocolate fondue for dessert. We don’t make it any other time, so it is extra special.
Read a special book together. This year we are working our way through Lord of the Rings. We are taking extra time this month to read through it, and it is sparking some great discussions about who God is, who Jesus is, what humans are like and why we need Jesus, and who we are like in the story. Communicating the gospel to our kids doesn’t have to be difficult, and we can use books and movies to do so.
Make hot chocolate. You don’t make hot chocolate a whole lot any other time of the year. This is when you do it, and it feels extra special because of that. Load it up with marshmallows and whipped cream.
Celebrate Advent. This year our family is using a daily devotional, Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. So far it is great.
Give your wife a break. Our church closes its offices between Christmas and New Year’s so our staff slows down and has a break (and there’s a good chance you’ll have some days off or work not quite as hard). During this time I am able to give Katie some downtime to get out without the kids, take an extra coffee date with a girlfriend, or take a nap. This is a great time for you to serve your spouse. You might also pick a time in the month of December for her to sit at Starbucks alone, get her nails done, or send her and some friends to dinner.
Slow down and be together. Years from now your kids will remember very little about life as a child, but they will remember if you were there. So will you. Don’t miss it. Work isn’t that important. That party isn’t that important. Shopping for one more thing isn’t that important if it keeps you from being with those you love. I’ve been reminded recently by the illnesses of close friends of the brevity of life. If your kids ask you to snuggle or lie down with them, do it. One day they won’t ask.