By: Brooke Takhar
When you have children, the holidays change. At Easter instead of eating half-price chocolate eggs and vodka for dinner, you “hide” the candy, then eat half the bucket and blame your husband/dog. In October instead of pumpkin spice lattes shared with a booth full of friends snarking about celebrities, you shuffle a kid door to door, drowning in a costume and 6 jackets, collecting candy they can’t really eat so you have to. (This trend is admittedly rad.) Instead of drinking rum and eggnog and ending up under your best friend’s Christmas tree with a weird stain on your ugly Christmas sweater, you wait in line for your kid to throw up all over a fat man in a sweaty fake beard. So, yay kids. Thanks for everything.
But, really, I’ve come to see it’s not all bad.
When you have kids you are forced to re-live your childhood, minus the awkward half perm and pristine pink and white L.A. Gears. It can be fun pretending to not be an adult all the time. The best time of year to get really really into it is Christmas. Once I stopped believing in Santa Claus (early twenties?), the glow of the season wore off a little. But now that I can threaten my daughter with him – all is right in the world.
After a bumpy two years with a toddler at Christmas, I learned some excellent hard lessons (there were tears and they were mine and oh they were shameful) that I’d like to share.
1. Show don’t tell.
Toddlers initially have no emotional attachment to Christmas. They see the tree going up and smell the toddies and watch you cry at “coming home from college for the holidays” commercials, but they don’t get it. Buy them Christmas books and flip through them before bedtime. Look at old holiday photos and share your favourite stories. Pick up some holiday clings at the Dollar Store and let them eff around and create a narrative while trying to unstick a snowman toque off their finger for an hour onto a dirty glass sliding door. Put on your favourite holiday movie and pray Gizmo’s cuteness over-rides Spike’s inherent creepiness.
2. Work food into it.
Guess what kids love more than you? Sweet stuff. Show me a kid with a mouth and I’ll show you a kid who will eat candy canes like they are a Michelin-starred restaurant’s amuse-bouche. A Saturday afternoon of sugar cookie baking with cookie cutters and sprinkles = solid gold success. Does it matter that their angels look like an elf’s sparkly bowel movement? No, it does not; they will be shoveling it into their mouths before you have time to Instagram the ridiculousness. Another huge success is hot cocoa with mini marshmallows (or as my daughter called it “hot cocoa marshtoes”). They will take a careful sip and look at you like you’re Walt Disney himself. Average out all the white sugar with lots of bundled up outside tasks – they can roll snowballs for the unsuspecting assault on your husband or tramp around a parking lot with you looking for the perfect tree to buy from a weird guy named Guy.
3. Don’t wrap the presents.
When your 2-year-old is shoved into the living room Christmas morning in their Santa baby slumber set and sees a pile of boxes, they don’t give a sh-t. We know there are super fun items under the custom wrapping paper, expensive “gift wrapping” tape, bows and hand printed labels, but all they see is recycling. Artfully arrange the unwrapped gifts under the tree, buy fun vessels like old timey lunchboxes to put little items in or jam the lighter items right into the tree. They need to see the loot. Seeing is believing. The quicker they’re in full blown rapture mode and ignoring you, the sooner you can pour the spiked coffee.
The very best idea is to try and be loose and easy with your kids at Christmas. There is a lot of stress at the holidays to put on the perfect meal, buy the perfect gifts, wrap those gifts masterfully with craft paper and baker’s twine, and not stuff your face with any and everything festively salty caramel’d. If your kids see you having a great time and embracing the holiday, they will probably feel that way too. Now, go forth and be merry, ok?
How are you feeling about the holidays right now? What are your holiday traditions with your kids? I’m still looking for new ones. (The year I held down my crying daughter to finish the Night Before Christmas App on an iPad doesn’t really count.)
Brooke Takhar is a mama of one monkey, based out of Vancouver, BC. She blogs about the trials and triumphs of parenting at missteenussr.com. When she’s not obsessing about her lack of DIY skills and exotic face creams, she shares her life and loves via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram (@missteenussr)