Ditch the To-Do Lists!

I’m a bucket list girl. I always have been. I’ve dreamed and made bucket lists and to-do lists for as long as I can remember. And I usually get them done! I don’t take no for an answer… I put all my time and energy into getting to the end goal, and I’ve accomplished and experienced some pretty awesome stuff along the way!

Since getting married and gaining a step-daughter four years ago, my lists have gotten more purposeful and specific. I wanted to start new family traditions, and make everything exciting and memorable! Add in my baby (who just turned 2), and oh man… My lists were intense! I’d ask the family what they wanted to do for summer, fall, or Christmastime, because of course each season has its own list, and usually they’d come up with one or two items that were important to them. That left me with the incredible task of filling up the perfect bucket list for the entire family! So I’d pour over pre-made lists on Pinterest, stress out about not finding the one that met our needs exactly, then decide to find the perfect template for one that I could fill in with ideas from various ones that were ok, but didn’t make the cut as a whole. The entire process was nuts! In trying to create the perfect family memories, and not miss out on anything, I was stressing myself (and everyone else around me) out so much that it would often create tension and make us all miserable.

I remember trying to get the step-daughter involved one Christmas. It was so incredibly important to me to create wonderful memories together as a family. So I bought a bunch of supplies to make tons of different types of cookies and to make our own personalized (but matching, of course) stockings, and I planned to spend the evening like they do on the Hallmark movies: drinking eggnog and having a wonderful time. You know what happened? The kid used glitter glue and put a word in a different language, I don’t even remember what it was, maybe German, on her stocking. It was so pretty. I was like, see, look how perfect our Christmas is! Then we looked up what the word meant… it translated to ” this sucks”. I. Was. Crushed. Why was this happening? I set everything up to be the perfect stepmom with the perfect blended family, and we were going to have the perfect Christmas! I’ll bet you can guess that the rest of the evening did not go well.

It has taken pretty much the entire four years of being a stepmom (and now another 2 of being a bio-mom) to realize that I can’t make everything perfect. In fact, I can’t make ANYTHING perfect. It doesn’t matter how much I want something to go a certain way, or how much money I spend on decorations, or how much time or energy I put into something. I can’t control everything. Shocking, I know. I really thought I could. I wish I had figured this out a long time ago, but you know what? I am just so grateful I’m learning now as I go, and hopefully we’ll all remember these times with at least some pleasant memories being created as we navigate life together during the holidays, and on the ordinary days, as well.

I didn’t make a fall bucket list this year, but we still did some fun stuff. We visited a few orchards, made apple crumble, carved pumpkins, dressed up for Halloween and went trick-or-treating, bought special seasonal coffees and goodies we don’t usually keep around, went to a wiener roast, played in the leaves, rode in the combine… you get the idea. We did all of the fun things we wanted to do (while being Covid-safe, of course) – without a list. WHAT? I know. I am just as shocked as you are. So if you’re like me (Enneagram 7, if you hadn’t yet guessed that), and you want to make sure to have the best holiday season, take it from me. Don’t try to squeeze everything in. Don’t force people to do things with you they don’t want to do. Trust me, it is way more fun to have less expectations and a family who is all in a good mood at the holidays (and every other day).

Oh, by the way, I found out last night that the teenager threw out her matching family Elf pajamas… WHAT!? The old me would have completely lost my head over this. But no, the new me gave her crap about it for a few minutes (while trying to remind myself that this was NOT a big deal). I brought it up a few times today with the hubby to have him help me fix this “crisis” for our Christmas day photos – we’re not into buying a bunch of stuff we don’t need this year (hence why we’re reusing these and not getting new ones for everyone), so I’m not about to replace them if she is just going to throw them out after one use again. We’re still coming up with solutions… but my top choice so far is to have her wear my super obnoxious Mrs. Claus dress instead. Haha! I think that’s fair, don’t you? But honestly… this time next year I will probably still give her a hard time for this in jest, but I don’t want to have a repeat of past years where there’s yelling and crying and all sorts of stress-filled moments. Moments that should have been fun and full of love and warmth.

So, this season, I am going to breathe, take lots of long hot baths, go for long walks outside, drink seasonal coffee drinks, make our home as tidy and cozy as possible, and enjoy myself doing whatever else feels right in the moment. Hopefully the rest of my crew will take a cue from me and have a little relaxing fun, too!

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