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Fewer cookies and 'more mom' make better holiday memories

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"Holidays are when Mom is crabbiest," said a high school junior. "Good food, great gifts, pretty decorations, and a tired mother. It's a tradition." Several of his friends nodded knowingly. "My mom," said another, "is always shopping, baking decorating, or complaining about all the shopping, baking, and decorating she has to do. She gets so worn out trying to make holidays good, she's no fun."

Ironic? Yes. But not uncommon. These mothers think they are making marvelous memories for their families. They are so intent on doing things for their families that they neglect to enjoy them -- and to be enjoyable.m

Many of us make the same mistake. We become so preoccupied with Whatm is to be done that we forget whym it is being done -- and for whom.

Dr. Ashley Montagu, writing of Christmas in America, points out that "for large numbers, far from being a period of good cheer, Christmas has become an exhausting chore. It is hardest on the women, upon whom the burden falls of doing most of the menial work."

A friend confessed last year to feeling terrible after she'd scolded her youngsters for their countless interruptions while she wrote her Christmas cards. "I suddenly realized," she said ruefully, "I was snapping at people I love while sending out messages of Christmas cheer to casual friends and acquaintances."

Baking nine kinds of Christmas cookies may give some mothers enormous satisfaction. But many find it plain exhausting. Wouldn't fewer cookies and more mother, especially a more cheerful mother, make for better memories?

Before plunging into the usual holiday frenzy, consider setting priorities and, as Thoreau urged, "Simplify, simplify, simplify!"

Having a more relaxed, more enjoyable holiday may mean changing some traditions. And tampering with tradition is often more difficult for adults than for children.

I faced this several years ago, I grew up believing Christmas gifts must be surprises. So I was stunned the year my six-year-old Michael inquired, "Are surprises one of the Christmas laws?"

"What laws?" I asked.

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