It’s that magical time of year again! The windowpanes are frosted, there’s a fire blazing in the hearth, a cozy cup of hot cocoa is nestled in your hands as you and your loved ones kick back and relax, enjoying the cozy ambiance of the season. Ahhhh, the holidays!
……And then your toddler pulls down your beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Ahhhh, the holidays!
Did I enjoy my first Christmas with a toddler? I’ll be honest: not really. I spent the bulk of Christmas Day hiding in my Aunt’s coat closet, crying.
My son had just turned one. Having just celebrated his birthday, he was really into present opening. He wanted to open EVERY present under the tree, thinking they were all for him. He didn’t understand the meaning of a gift exchange, nor did he grasp the concept of relaxing and visiting with family. My little guy was a new walker, eager to explore his environment. He didn’t want to sit and look cute in his corduroys and sweater vest. He wanted to run around and check everything out. He wanted to open cupboards and drawers, climb the stairs, and pull ornaments off of the tree. During the pre-dinner/hors d’oeuvres hour at our annual family gathering, my son wanted to shove the entire dish of mixed nuts into his mouth.
Those mixed nuts! Six years later I still remember them as a Terrible Toddler Trifecta:
1. they were a veritable choking hazard;
2. the nuts were placed right at my son’s level on a low-lying glass cocktail table; and
3. they were displayed in a very fragile porcelain, candy-cane dish.
The nuts were just the tip of the iceberg: everywhere my little guy turned, someone was telling him ‘No!’:
No! Don’t eat that.
No! Don’t open that.
No! Don’t climb the stairs.
No! Don’t go near the hot fireplace.
And on, and on and on.
My little man was so frustrated! He was miserable actually, which made me miserable…..hence my trip to the coat closet for a good, cathartic cry.
Five years and two more children later, I finally learned the very valuable lesson that I now share with you:
Sometimes the Holidays and little kids just don’t mix. Sometimes, as parents, we need to lower our expectations during this very joyful yet very busy season to better accommodate our children, and ultimately ourselves.
Maybe you can’t put up your beautiful Christmas tree with antique ornaments
Perhaps your Christmas card picture won’t be perfect because your toddler screams at the sight of Santa
Maybe the family gathering that starts smack dab in the middle of nap time doesn’t fit into your schedule, and it’s OK to be late, or to make alternate plans
It might be paper plates instead of the good china this year
It might not be the year for fires in the fireplace, or maybe it’s time to invest in a protective gate or screen
Deck the Halls all you’d like, just remember that anything within arms reach of your little man or lady can and will be used as a toy
Missed naps lead to very bad consequences….for you
Don’t get me wrong, the holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy with our children. The magic of the season is truly all around: beautiful, twinkling lights, gorgeously decorated Christmas trees, sleigh rides, snow angels, family celebrations, and the overall giving and receiving of love and joy. It’s a lovely time to share with family and friends. It can also be a very stressful time when you’re the parent of a toddler.
Just remember that the holiday season is also yours to enjoy. YOU – yes, you MOM! – need to take the time to relax and enjoy the season as well. If that means making some adjustments to better accommodate your toddler, so be it!
Holidays and Toddlers can mix. We may simply need to tailor our holiday traditions and expectations to better suit our little one’s needs. A few modifications to your holiday modus operandi will only serve to enhance your child’s (and subsequently your own) enjoyment of the most wonderful – and busiest! – time of the year.