Seasonal Reminders from the Grinch

Tucked in the toe of my Christmas stocking one year was a goofy holiday pin with the Grinch and Max inside a wreath. I stuck it on my bathrobe, appreciating the not-so-subtle message. Santa must have been paying attention, or he talked to my husband who periodically teases me of being a Grinch during the holiday build-up. I don’t try to take Christmas away, nor do I sneak down chimneys to steal presents, trees and feasts-to-be from unsuspecting neighbors. But the hustle and bustle of preparations and pressure to “get it all done” and, preferably, “done right” makes me turn a slight shade of green once the Thanksgiving turkey is tucked away in tummies and the fridge.

The pin, with a smiling Grinch, is a visible reminder that it isn’t the gifts, decorations and dinner that make Christmas come. And that despite the often self-induced stress, in the end, I treasure this special season as a time for family and friends, holiday traditions, and caring for and giving to others.

I was reminded of the importance of the last part — caring for others — during a recent event co-sponsored by Carolina Parent and Cary Academy PTAA where three panelists talked about nurturing children toward independence. Richard Weissbourd, child and family psychologist and author of the book “The Parents We Mean to Be,” ended his opening remarks with the message that it isn’t happiness that leads people to be kind and caring, but that kindness and caring can lead to happiness and self-esteem in our children. He also emphasized that we need to engage our children in discussions about what it truly important and, as he said, “Put other people on their radar screen.”

The holidays are a perfect time to help children think about other people by introducing, revisiting or continuing a tradition of helping others. This month we provide some concrete advice from local parents and volunteer coordinators about how to get involved as well as how children directly benefit from selfless acts. Writer Karen Lewis Taylor also shares questions to consider before volunteering as a family, ways to get started during the Christmas season, and opportunities to keep the giving glow going into the new year.

My Grinch pin also reminds me of how connecting with others makes the season joyful. One of the scenes from the classic TV special that sticks with me is of the townspeople gathered together singing hand in hand in the town square on Christmas morning. The connection and warmth emanating from those flat cartoon characters is palpable.

In 1966 when the classic special debuted, the idea that real people could connect through screens miles — even oceans — apart must have seemed crazy. Not today. Now friends and relatives can see and hear each other through computers, thanks to services like Skype. So if you’re separated by distance from those you care about, now might be an ideal time to check out our overview article and basic how-to guide to get you started with Skype.

And by taking advantage of a few of our suggestions to simplify your holiday preparations [Put the Jolly Back in the Holidays], you might find more time for some seasonal fun. Our calendar of family events is chock-full of local performances, activities and special events. We’ve also included a roundup of holiday highlights from around the state. The whole issue is full of seasonal tips and ideas – including our guide to top children’s toys, books, games and more for gift ideas kids will love. For even more advice (like how to answer young kids’ questions about Santa), simple decorating or cooking ideas, and other helpful info, be sure to visit where you will also find an online holiday guide.

No matter how you and your family celebrate the winter holiday season, our wish is that you have joy in your heart, and that by standing hand in hand and reaching out to others, we all begin the new year with hope, happiness and love.

Happy Holidays!