Home Opinion Kids These Days: Parenting, politics, and play during the holiday season

Kids These Days: Parenting, politics, and play during the holiday season


A few days ago, I was hanging out with a new friend of mine having coffee at her house, both of us in our pajamas. We talked about our kids and parenting, her recent transition to a new job, and a conference I had just returned from. It was everything I wanted from a gathering of friends, small and intimate and easy. 

I left my friend’s house wondering how I could use the experience of being in her company to inform my approach to the holidays. For the last few years, coordinating family gatherings in the midst of a global pandemic has felt like tip-toeing in a field of land mines. The politics and the risks to public safety have intensified challenging communication within families. Boundaries and accommodations have been weaponized to center some family members, and erase the most basic needs of others. 

For me, the strain of Covid is exacerbated by the long-term impact of race, class, and gender dynamics within the context of a multiracial family. There is the estrangement from members of my family who are Trump enthusiasts, and the tension around mitigation strategies. I struggle with how in many ways the holidays have come to represent disconnection and stress to me. I feel a little like the grinch or at least a #HolidayHater. 


Above and below: Scenes from Ali Muldrow’s family Thanksgiving celebration

My kids, however, started playing Christmas music as soon as the first snowfall. I want them to grow up showing up for the party and loving their people and knowing the grown-ups will set aside their hard feelings and make these days special. Our oldest kid is good about defying expectations and reclaiming things as her own; her idea is to do Christmas in pajamas making it a day of leisure and snacking. Our middle child wants the entire day to be about playing and movies. Our one-year-old is along for the ride and thrives in the backseat of the car with both of her sisters listening to music as we road trip to visit relatives. 

This holiday season I’m making room for myself, for traditions of self-care and rest. If this means store-bought pie, so be it. If it means gift bags rather than wrapping presents, I’m leaning in. I have vowed that this year’s winter break is going to feel like a break because that’s what I need. More importantly, maybe that’s just the kind of mom that I am. 

Growing up, my mom did everything she could to make the holidays magic. To this day, she cooks epic meals and decorates immaculately and showers everyone with warmth and acceptance. As a kid, I assumed I would embrace the role my mother mastered for the joy that it brings to others, but I haven’t. I am not my mother or her fantastic expressions of holiday cheer. Instead, I am the kind of mom who wants to sleep in and give my partner a gift certificate for a couple’s massages.

The point is, my beloved reader, the holidays are hard for a lot of reasons for many of us. What I wish for you is the same thing I wish for myself: space for what we really want and need from this season. This is about reimagining traditions and reinventing how we show up authentically and honor ourselves while giving those around us permission to do the same. This holiday season is my chance to consider what my friendships and chosen family have taught me about love. 


Until December, beloved reader, I leave you with this:

“Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”

–Fanny Crosby


November parenting question: What holiday traditions are you passing on to your children? 

November politics question: what are the hot-button topics your family struggles with but can’t ignore or avoid? 

November play question: how are you using the holidays to embrace creativity with your kids whether it’s your menu or decorations? 


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