In many ways, having children makes the holidays incredibly magical. Suddenly putting up a tree and covering your house in lights seems much more meaningful and you forget how much time it will take to put all that shit away. When you buy gifts you imagine their wonder and amazement as they open that perfect toy on Christmas morning. In other ways, those little candy cane-addicts make the holiday season the most miserable time of year.
Traveling with children is never fun, but multiply that un-funness by 10 million around the holidays. Not only are you trying to travel simultaneously with half the country, but the pressure to have a good time and be a perfect happy family is at an all-time high. No one wants to spend Thanksgiving refusing to speak to their spouse because they had a stress fight over the armrest on the airplane. Some people will ask you “how was your vacation?” Make sure you tell them that traveling with children is never a vacation, at best its a trip, at worst it is actual torture (semantics are important). Traveling with children during the holidays is something else entirely. I imagine that the experience is a lot like running a marathon (I say imagine because I have never run more than five miles at one time in my life). You want to run the race, you have prepared for it in every possible way, and you know you will be glad you did it once its over, but I’m guessing while actually running you are just thinking “FUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK.”
Before children are sentient, its not too hard to finish holiday shopping with them in tow. It’s not fun, and they still might scream the whole time, but you get through it and they don’t remember anything you bought them. Once kids hit about 2.5 years, a separate shopping trip must be arranged. This is annoying and depending on the amount of help you have in town, almost impossible. My husband and I have resorted to throwing toys under a coat in the cart and then distracting our toddler with candy and screen time while checking out. When I’m alone with the kids, these shenanigans aren't really possible so I order most things online (which for some reason makes me feel very grinch-like). When we do get to a store shopping for someone else, or shopping for completely unrelated things, there are toys and sparkly shit EVERYWHERE. It’s meltdown city the minute my kid sees a candy cane or endcap of Paw Patrol toys. Then I have to deal with him and completely forget whatever essential errand we were running in the first place.
Fantasy vs. Reality
Every year I spend a lot of time planning all sorts of festive activities that I think will delight my children. Cookie making, visits to Santa, sledding, decorating the tree, Elf on the shelf… if its seasonal AF I’ve probably got it on the calendar. I have high hopes for these events and always envision special moments that I will remember for a lifetime. In reality, my toddler usually does not give two shits about any of it. Decorating cookies is just an excuse to eat sprinkles and make a huge mess, Santa is fucking terrifying, Elf on the shelf is stupid and I always forgot to move her. We can’t even try sledding because global warming melted all the fucking snow.
I’ve discovered that my toddler HATES opening up presents. He won’t do it. He won’t pull on the paper even a little bit. He gets antsy and starts trying to escape. The only way to get him interested in whats going on is to take every toy out of the box, put them completely together and appoint a sacrificial adult to play with him. He does like all the toys the dogs get, though. He also likes yanking all the ornaments off the tree that we’ve told him not to touch 6,000 times. For these reasons I’ve shifted all my future Christmas hopes onto the baby.
Now that my older son is almost three, he is somewhat able to tell us what he wants for Christmas. But we are still going to buy him a lot of shit he didn’t ask for and may or may not even want or like. As of now, the three things I’ve actually heard him ask Santa for are:
- The Paw Patroller (A “hot" Christmas toy I bought early because I have already been sucked in by the fear of scarcity)
- Paw Patrol bandaids
- Tic Tacs
The baby isn’t able to talk yet, but he already has some clear preferences. He will be receiving nothing from the Christmas list I would imagine him writing:
- Ikea chip clips
- Any type of coaster
- The ability to chew on his brother’s face
- Pop cans, preferably Coke classic
- My teeth
- My hair
- Shiny tables to pat vigorously
- Moles or other skin imperfections to scratch
In case anyone is wondering, here's my Christmas list:
- Some fucking sleep
- A full night's sleep
- So many naps
- All the naps