It’s that time of year. You know that I’m talking about.

The holidays. The stress. The presents and movies and so much wrapping. Reaching for that Christmas magic. Clinging to those moments that become memories with your kids…and you’re mentally preparing yourself for all the extra that comes with this season.

Starting with that freaking Elf on the Shelf. And the mountains of Christmas cookies. Plotting outfits and researching photographers for those family pictures, so you can send out ALL the cards.

Driving through the light displays while sipping hot cocoa. Hand-made tree ornaments. You plot and you plan. You schedule and squeeze in those small town holiday parties, shopping downtown, and all those extra little and big things that make Christmas so darn magical.

I’ve seen so much backlash recently, particularly surrounding the elf, but for the Christmas season in general. Mom blogs are littered with posts about how we need to lay off all the Christmas extras, joking and teasing about the ridiculous lengths we go to during the holidays. I see tons of posts about parents ousting the Elf on the Shelf on Facebook, or even going so far as to condemn those who do bring their Elf on the Shelf out to play during the holidays.

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Honestly, I think everyone needs to SETTLE DOWN. What’s with all the judgment and resentment? Each year, there’s more and more chatter about the stress of the holidays—and less about the magic.

Now don’t get me wrong… I fully recognize that the holiday craziness isn’t for everyone. That sometimes getting by day-to-day is hard enough as it is, without adding all the holiday extras. Letting things go is what keeps us sane during a very busy time of year.

Giving yourself permission to sit back, relax, and enjoy your children this year is not only wonderful… it’s healthy. But it also doesn’t mean that we should take it as permission to resent the holidays, hate the hustle and bustle…or secretly plot a slow and painful death to the Elf.

But what about those families who actually LOVE those holiday traditions? The moms who love All Things Christmas Decor. The dads who get so excited to stand in line at 3 a.m., just to get that toy they know will make their kid’s face light up Christmas morning. It’s not about materialism, or “being good for Santa.” It’s not about showing off on social media your latest antics. It’s what works for them—I should know, because I’m one of those moms, too.

When my husband and I go “extra” during the holidays, we don’t feel stressed, beaten down or spread too thin. We feel empowered. We talk and plot and plan and go to bed exhausted and fulfilled. This year, I’m giving myself permission to go “extra.” Because I. Want. It. ALL.

I want all the Christmas magic. I want the look on my daughter’s face when she says good-bye to the Elf on her way out the door for school. I want to feel that tightening in my chest when joy lights through my son’s body as we sit in our cars, in awe of the Christmas light displays across our tiny town.

I want that contentment that settles over my home when my littles and I are elbow-deep in glue and paint as we create by the glow of our Christmas tree.

I love knowing that the friends that I suck so badly at keeping in contact with will feel remembered and loved when they get a holiday card in the mail. I want to take time from the constant struggle of work/life balance to do all the insane holiday things, because I know the holidays only come once a year, and for this one time, I have permission to lay down my juggling and enjoy my children.

So parents—for you, for me, what I want most this holiday season, is to give ourselves permission. Permission to let go. Permission to go all out. I want you to shamelessly decorate your house before Thanksgiving, or proudly only put out half the decorations you used to, because you just need a to cut yourself some slack.

But most of all, I wish we would stop judging each other, Christmas, the Elf—and embrace our differences in how each family celebrates the holidays. Embrace our children. And hold on so very tight to that Christmas magic…no matter what that looks like for you and your family.