Ah, the sounds of the season — silver bells, Christmas carols, my husband cursing at a defenseless pine tree until it submits to its inevitable fate and stands up straight in its stand.
Throughout the years, countless crooners have penned beautiful ballads about the many joys that this season brings. But whomever first sang about the wonder of seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child was seriously smoking something (and may I have some, please?)
Christmas has long been my favorite holiday, and it’s not just about the giving and receiving of gifts. Something about this season stirs in me a need for quiet reflection. The tree, the stockings, the lights, the music — everything calls forth the comfort of old memories, and gratefulness for all of the years I have seen, the relationships with which I’m richly blessed. There is a distinct sense of anticipation in the air, a calm quiet as the world around us takes a collective pregnant pause before the “birth” of a new year.
As it turns out, the one task biologically programmed into all children is to shatter any hint of calm and quiet they come across. When I had children, I happily anticipated sharing with them the joys of the holiday season — pictures with Santa, (watching my husband) chopping down a tree in the winter wonderland of Montana’s thick forest, driving through the city to gawk at the beautifully lighted homes — but my expectations were flawed. I’d assumed full cooperation and excitement from my kids. The real-life responses from my real-live children were ho-ho-horrible.
Apparently, your holiday traditions have to be kid-proofed every bit as much as your medicine cabinets and silverware drawers. After dragging myself through a third Christmas with these bite-sized barbarians, I submit to you a list of ways to kid-proof your next Christmas:
1. Visiting Santa: Neglect to anticipate long lines and waiting times, and don’t bring enough snacks. Feed kids the free candy available from Santa’s Elves, and slowly grow hangry as you wander lost in a crowd of screaming children and frustrated parents. Try to force kids on Santa’s lap as they suffer an extreme bout of stranger danger. Finally coerce a photo in which neither is smiling, but instead peering at the camera with a look of complete shock and fear, sticky red sugar streaming down their chins. Still insist on displaying photos proudly, like a badge of honor, on your fireplace mantel as you drink wine and wonder what your life has come to.
2. Chopping a Tree: Over-prepare with plenty of snacks, blankets, extra coats, gloves, and hats. Also, just buy a fake tree. Use the time you save to drink more wine.
3. Parades: Snacks, snacks, snacks. Bring blankets and a stroller, but don’t actually put the kids in the stroller, because they will want to be carried. Try to get close to the front of the crowd, and maintain a firm, choking grip on toddler’s coat hood, as he will assuredly make a mad dash into the parade’s path when Santa or candy is sighted. Bring a diaper and eight dog poo bags, because you don’t want to change toddler’s explosive diaper on the wet, cold ground, and there are no bathrooms nearby. Bring two sets of gloves for yourself, because toddler will toss one into the road on the long walk back to your car. Allow toddler to eat exactly one Tootsie Roll, after which he will morph into the Incredible Hulk and power his way out of his seatbelt. Arrive back at home. Drink wine.
4. Touring Lighted Homes: Play Christmas music for exactly one minute, until toddler demands Barney’s “Popcorn Song.” Drive leisurely through town to a notoriously decorated house, find parking, and unload children. Walk around and see the lights, and allow your kids to accept candy canes from a kind and jolly elderly lady. Watch in horror as your kids tear through the plastic wrappers with their teeth, devouring their entire candy canes like starving anacondas scarfing down a possum. Try to drive through one more neighborhood as your toddler repeatedly screams that he WANTS TO GO HOOOOME!!! Crank Bing Crosby up louder. Race home, pull in the driveway, and unbuckle toddler as he screams that he WANTS TO LOOK AT CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!!! Drink wine.
5. Advent Calendar: Decide that you’d rather de-fang a wild raccoon than feed your children chocolate every day in December. Pinterest “DIY advent calendar.” Finagle your own version out of items in your craft drawer — some twine, a roll of burlap, some tiny gift bags. Purchase a tin of cheap, plastic toys, filling each gift bag as you dream of your children’s joy as they open them each day, anticipating the arrival of Christmas. Watch as your children become bored with the toys and give less and less sh*ts about the calendar. Palm forehead as you realize that said toys are only adding to the kids’ swath of destruction that you have the pleasure of cleaning up each evening, and that your kids no longer appreciate receiving gifts, because they just expect them every morning at breakfast. You have successfully turned them into greedy little a**holes…
…And just in time for Christmas!
Drink wine. Cry a tiny bit.