“You’ll shoot your eye out!”: How the holidays have changed since becoming a parent
BY VALERIE ROBINSON
Hopefully, you recognize my reference in the title as the signature line from the holiday classic A Christmas Story. Believe it or not, the first time I watched that movie was only a few years ago when my father-in-law introduced it to me, and it’s been my favorite holiday classic ever since. However, I’ll admit that the holidays hit differently in my new parenting season in so many different ways, and in holiday spirit fashion, I want to share those with you!
The importance of “presence not presents.”
Many of us have probably heard this phrase before, but I never anticipated how much it would affect our family and how important it would really become to us. Here’s the raw lowdown on young children and how they feel about presents: They don’t care. I’m not saying that in a mean way; I really mean that they don’t care. You could give my toddler an empty water bottle and a colorful, singing, battery-operated airplane, and he would be just as happy playing with the water bottle as he would be with the airplane. He cares about most if you’ll sit on the floor with him and play with one of those objects. My toddler, who is not very talkative, absolutely loves playing with his family. Young children thrive in active, social settings, and sometimes just holding their hand and going for a nature walk is all they want if it means spending time with someone special to them. During my parenting season, many people in my children’s lives have been so hyper-focused on the things they can buy for them. I can’t even tell you how quickly my house filled up with (sorry grandparents!) junk that’s hardly been used. But we didn’t want the stuff, and quite frankly, neither did the kiddos. Don’t get me wrong, we are extremely grateful for being showered in kid’s stuff, but we would’ve been just as happy with a day at an aquarium, park, or just arts & crafts at home! I know it probably just sounds so cheesy and cliche, and I know it’s not always easy being present and tempting to buy the next cool things, but pay attention to your little the next time you’re doing something together; are they smiling and giggling at their leapfrog laptop or at mommy making funny animal noises?
Bring on the virgin cocktails
Whether it’s because you’re breastfeeding, pumping, designated driver, or just don’t want to deal with a 7 am tantrum with a hangover (because let’s be honest, one drink will do you in), you just don’t turn up like you used to. I’ve dabbled with the idea of having a drink here and there, but it’s been so long since I’ve drank, I’m honestly worried about the outcome. Sleep deprivation and alcohol are not a great mix. But drinking aside, celebrating the holidays is just different regarding the social aspect. It’s not going to be easy landing a babysitter around the holidays, and so if you decide that you’re bringing your children, you can expect to coordinate setting up a pack ‘n play somewhere or leaving early for bedtime. Am I mourning this change? HA! Not even in the slightest. I now have a living, breathing excuse to depart from social gatherings. And my extroverts don’t need to fret either; I promise your threshold for socialization will evolve with children. You listen to loud and rambunctious all day long; you’re not going to really be in the mood for the adult version. I know it may sound boring as you read this, but just thinking about it brings a smile to my face. As I picture bedtime with my littles, our bathtime routine, dancing while putting on jammies, brushing our teeth together, snuggling up, and reading a story – I will pick that over the Christmas party EVERY time.
Pictures, pictures & more pictures
Did I mention pictures? I have USBs just for pictures of my kids. You take a lot of them throughout the year, but you take a hell of a lot of them during the holidays! And now that our daughter has been born, I’m obsessed with taking brother-sister pictures. So that being said, you do a lot more kid-friendly activities to document. I’m not just talking about going to a pumpkin patch; now you do the whole hayride, corn maze, corn pit, pictures with Santa, etc., experience! I find myself constantly googling venues we can hit up on the weekends offering holiday specials. And I’ve always been pretty festive during this season, but I get extra excited about crafting and decorating now that we have kids. Hanging up new stockings for your little one or making that baby’s 1st Christmas ornament is just indescribably special; it’s hard not to get excited about it earlier than usual. I took my kids shopping, and we bought our first “cookies for santa” plate together, and I couldn’t help but get a little emotional doing that together and embarking on this new tradition for our little growing family of baking cookies for Santa together. This leads me to the next thing…
The birth of family traditions
As a new, growing family, you’re going to have the opportunity to explore unique family traditions. This is my favorite change as I’ve become a parent. When my husband and I got married, we just combined/balanced whatever little traditions we had with our families. But now that we have our own kids, we’re exploring our own things, and it’s so fun! We’re getting into just dancing to our own beat and accepting the change with open arms because now it’s so special to have something unique with our kids.
Best types of presents
I talked about presence, but in no way was I suggesting to be anti-presents. I still relish in the joy of ripping wrapping paper to shreds as I unwrap a present, and some of the magic of Christmas is in keeping the belief in Santa alive! So yes, I still get some presents, but what to get… I highly suggest sticking to gifts that nurture your child’s development. I personally think age-appropriate books are the best. I also suggest jumbo lego, coloring books, balls – really anything that encourages creativity (often a fine motor skill) or physical activity (often a gross motor skill). I’m not saying you have to totally avoid the flashy, singing stuff, but I promise the less of that you have lying around the house, the saner you’ll be as a parent (there’s only so many times I can listen to a leapfrog song in a day).
So there you have it! Your life is changing as a new parent, and so are the holidays. And it’ll be an adjustment; there’s no doubt about that. But this change is good, it’s exciting, it warms your heart in a way you’ve never experienced before. Truth is, this will be an emotional season for you (I now sob at some point during every single holiday classic – ugh!). I watch Ralphie get frustrated at his mom, saying, “you’ll shoot your eye out,” and I think, “but you could!”. At different points, you’re going to be frustrated, overwhelmed, overly emotional, but you’re also hanging up their first ornament, their first stocking, sending out your first holiday card. This is so special. Embrace every single minute of it.
I wish you all the happiest of holidays!