The holidays are a magical time, especially when lived vicariously through children.
There truly is nothing better than watching them experience the wonder. Social media shows the highs of the Christmas season: matching outfits, well-behaved Santa visits and a peaceful Christmas morning breakfast eating Rudolph-shaped pancakes.
For our first Christmas with a baby in tow, I believed in this unicorn magic of a picture-perfect holiday experience. Almost five rodeos later, the magic is still there, but in a much different light. Most days we must laugh in order to not cry at the absurdity.
This post may fall more in the realm of Christmas warnings than hacks, but for those who are merely tiptoeing in to the world of Christmas-palooza with your small children, you have officially been alerted.
- First, and most importantly, the holiday family grandeur that is building in your mind about sipping hot cocoa in matching pajamas all while relaxing and watching “A Christmas Story” by the fire needs to be slightly readjusted. By readjusted, I mean picture the scene a little more like this: kids and couch are covered in cold hot chocolate. Is this a thing? It is when you have kids. After furiously scrubbing everything in sight, you will inevitably find a marshmallow stuck to your butt after threatening to cancel Christmas if everyone keeps fighting over the remote and popcorn bowl.
- Do yourself a favor, and never start Elf on the Shelf. It’s a lot of work. End of story. IF you do decide to embrace the elf, forget all of the clever scenarios. Move him six inches every night and call it good. Your Instagram friends will thank you for NOT being clever.
- A great way to encourage manners and good behavior is to change the name of a close friend or family member to Santa in your phone. Next time a fight breaks out, send a text and have the friend/family member respond accordingly. Bonus points for talk-to-text so they can hear the messages aloud! This. Works. Every. Time.
- Along these same lines, use Santa as he was originally intended. There is no greater figure in this world to a small child than a fat, bearded man that sneaks down their chimney at night. Use to your advantage to squelch tantrums, bad eating habits, fighting, the list goes on. Santa is useless otherwise.
- Understand that you will, for the next several years, no longer sleep on Christmas Eve. After finally wrangling the little elves to bed, the rest of your night will be spent trying to construct bikes, playhouses and train tables. You will feel as if your eyelids barely closed, before feeling a tip-tap on the shoulder from a small child asking if Santa has arrived. You will need to have a response ready. “The United States is the last country he delivers presents to, and therefore if it is dark out that means he hasn’t been here yet,” seems to work wonders. When said in the most intimidating mom voice, it might buy an extra 15 minutes of shuteye.
- After hours spent shopping, assembling and wrapping, what they will play with the most? The box. Keep it. Embrace it. Let them draw inside it and pretend while you pick up and put away all of their store-bought toys.
- For the weeks leading up to Christmas, and especially the day of, 100% of their daily caloric intake will be sugar. It will be OK. An attempt to spoon green beans on their plate will only intensify their yearning for more sugar. They can detox starting the 26th.
- Most likely, one child will throw up during the day. This is also guaranteed to happen at other miscellaneous holiday gatherings: the school Christmas program and Santa pictures are the most opportune times. Blame it on the mass consumption of candy canes during flu season. Have a spare outfit ready to go to avoid he or she wearing only a diaper for the rest of the festivities. Trust me on this one.
- Christmas hangovers are the real deal. Your kids will be so rotten, spoiled, sleep deprived and malnourished you will wonder if they will ever return to their sweet selves. Be warned, it will take close to a week for the sugar crashing their tiny veins to water down. Don’t take it personally when they take a swing at you for trying to “help” them assemble their Lego castle. It’s the Christmas fudge talking.
- There will be a moment when everyone is happy, calm and thankful. The children will pass out hugs and tell you how much they love you. It will make all the madness completely and utterly worth it. But don’t bother taking a picture, because no one will believe it wasn’t staged.
Happy holidays parents! Embrace the crazy, it’s what makes it fun.