Friday, November 29, 2013

Holidays with Toddlers

This seems to be a theme in my blog feed tonight, and is certainly a theme in my life at the moment, so I think I'll run with it. Holidays with babies are magical and fun. Holidays with toddlers are exhausting and difficult.

This is well traveled territory for this blog, but I'll say again that the minute my child threw his leg over the edge of his playpen and skittered to freedom, my whole life turned upside down. Up until that moment I could still largely go on about my business as I always had. Sitter cancel? No problem, bring the baby and keep him up until 1 AM - he'll be up anyway! Low on groceries? No problem, you've got boobs! Need a nap? Great, because the baby does, too. Need to work on a project? No worries - the baby will sleep, or play in one spot on the floor, or hang out safely in a swing or playpen. All of that is shot to hell now. And even months and thousands of dollars in baby proofing later, I am still reeling from the aftershocks of that one moment B's feet hit the floor after climbing out of his playpen. 

I felt it for sure this Thanksgiving. Despite all my planning ahead, things still didn't go as I would have liked. I got a jump on the cooking the day before - and B drove me completely nuts the whole time. He whined and cried and yelled "no!" and threw things the whole time as I rolled out pie crusts and chopped apples and zested lemons; he kept squeezing himself between me and the counter, then pushing me away from the counter with all his strength. Not to mention the floor strewn with crap he pulled out of the garbage, and the need to move everything higher and higher so he couldn't reach. It was an ordeal. However, I'm pleased with myself that I didn't snap - I stopped and played with him when I could, devised things he could play with, made sure I paid attention to him. I didn't rush or get annoyed when it all took forever to do; I knew expecting him to sit tight while I cooked for hours would be a lot to ask. But boy, was he irritating!

On Thanksgiving day thankfully my sister and brother in law were here to entertain him while I finished everything; and finish I did - glazed parsnips, apple pie, pumpkin pie, sautéed Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, a brandy cheese ball for a appetizer that never made it to the table in time. But any ideas I had about me, or the table, looking presentable, were shot to hell. I never even got to brush my teeth, much less do anything with my hair or put on a cute outfit or any makeup. I wasn't able to do anything with the table other than just throw everything on it in a desultory manner and have us sit down to eat. This is all unimportant stuff, I know. In the end my relatives were gracious enough to come to me this year, everything I cooked was good, B was happy, I got to use my grandmother's dessert plates for my homemade pies, and it all worked out. Still I have to say it just wasn't how I pictured it. I just wasn't as organized nor creative as I wanted to be. I'm an event person and everything has to be perfect; and it wasn't. I felt frazzled and too wired to appreciate the moment, too worried about B losing it any minute, too worried about the lighting not being right and not having enough serving dishes or spoons, etc. Yet another instance of my not being able to relax and be in the moment. I swear planning big dinners is always more fun than actually having them. 

Today it poured rain all day so there was absolutely nothing for us to do. We did get out for a nice Mexican lunch, and B did ok with that, but the rest of the day we had to just sit around the house. We didn't dare go out to any public shopping type areas, and the weather meant we couldn't go to any natural outdoor spaces either. I hope it clears up tomorrow so we can get out and get some much needed exercise!

I am definitely learning that all bets are off when it comes to toddlers. You just have to drastically lower your expectations of everything - especially yourself - and cling to the hope that when the kids are older you can start feeling somewhat normal again. So I'm having a mellow Christmas - no tree, just some basic decorating in high spots B can't get to. I probably won't hang lights either - I don't feel safe climbing around the outside of the house while pregnant, and there is no time to do that unless it's after dark when B's asleep, and I'm sure he'll get all tangled up in any electric cords I'd have to jerryrig. So this year it's just not worth it. 

I will: do a Santa train and get a Santa pic, send out cute holiday cards, make coconut balls for the one party I'm attending, do basic decorating, get B some cute presents.  

I won't: attempt any crafts, buy any presents for anyone other than B, do an expensive holiday photo shoot, throw a party, have a tree, light the house, or drag B to anything past his bed time. 

It's all about managing expectations. Accept these little kids for who they are and what they can handle, and keep in mind some day they'll be older and the real fun can begin. Until then - just hang in there!

Here is the one picture I had the presence of mind to snap of B's second Thanksgiving:


  1. Yay for one picture! I didn't get any and was ready for the day to be over. Toddlers are trying! Hopefully in a few years we'll look back and this and laugh. Right?!

  2. Yep! These kids turn our worlds upside down, and a lot of times, I have to remind myself that it's all worth it. I wouldn't go back to my "old" life if given the option. I'd rather be in toddler hell. : )

  3. Felix does the exact same things when I'm cooking!

  4. I can NOT believe you managed to cook Thanksgiving with a toddler in the house. Brushed teeth or not, you are super woman!

  5. I'm impressed. The only thing I needed to make was banana bread, and I failed at even that simple task.