At the beginning of December, I started to think about how my toddler would cope with the festive season. My 10-month-old will breeze through it. He’s a flexible, happy little thing who loves getting involved with the fun. Of course, my toddler used to be that way… but alas, things change.
I did some research and some planning and felt like I was gonna absolutely nail it this Christmas. I was going to prepare him ahead of time, read Christmas picture books, have escape plans, lower my expectations, and stick to bedtimes… and after ONE Christmas event, I was made very aware that I was NOT going to nail it this Christmas.
It was the Toddler Group Christmas Event. My Mum bought us tickets. The plan was to go to a church for a Nativity Christmas story, and to have a photo with Santa. Simple enough.
I told him the information I’d been given and showed him photos of the actual church we were going to. I didn’t leave anything as a surprise. And yet…
As soon as we parked the car, he imploded.
Parents of toddlers know that their little ones have a variety of cries… this one was the hyperventilating, harrowing wail. My least favourite.
His hat wasn’t covering his ears properly. He wanted his blue coat, not his green coat. He couldn’t walk. He wanted Nanny to walk in front not behind. He wanted me to carry him, but I was breathing too loudly etc etc etc.
We hadn’t even got to the church bit yet!
When we walked in, it was cold. He wanted to take his clothes off. I should have taken him home there and then. He was shivering and trying to strip!
Of course, I had to say no to the naked thing.
He wanted chips. I said no.
He wanted to pull my hair. I said no.
He wanted to mould himself into my body. I said, “What you’re trying to do is impossible.”
He was coming up with a list of things he knew I would say no to. Fuelling his own fire.
But my mum had paid for tickets, she’d driven over an hour to come with us, she was so excited to have this Christmas experience with her grandsons… and there was a slight chance that he would calm down and we’d have a glorious Christmassy time. So, we stayed.
All the children sat down and had their snack. He was surprisingly OK with this. Things were looking up. He felt safe in this scenario because it was something that happened every Wednesday.
He sat next to his friend, and they made each other giggle.
After snack, there was the Nativity reading, which they completely ignored and giggled through… I was slightly embarrassed, but I was mainly relieved that he’d stopped wailing.
Santa arrived. Poor bloke.
Needless to say, it was like my son came face to face with Voldemort.
I apologised to Santa, hoicked my toddler over my shoulder, grabbed my mum and the baby and ran out of the church. I was calling time. We were done.
As soon as we got outside, I had to put my boy down on the ground; he’s just so heavy. I was also carrying the coats and bags and presents. He didn’t react well to this. I walked the 2 minutes to the car with him trying everything in his power to stop my feet from moving… whilst screaming and hyperventilating… you know what I’m talking about.
When we got to the car, I dumped everything and hugged him. He flopped on me. I said sorry. I said sorry because he felt out of control, and I wasn’t helping him feel better. Everything was new. The smells, the space, the sounds, the textures, the man dressed as Santa asking people to sit on his knee (which was quite alarming for 2021)… everything was different and he was grappling at me to help him feel grounded. It took me too long to get him there.
In the car on the way home, when the hyperventilating had subsided and we were singing along to Bear Necessities, he said, “I loved toddlers today, Mum.”
What are you talking about?
I mean… Unbelievable.
He baffles me.
I suppose he was just sat there thinking about having his snacks and giggles with his friend – if that’s what he chooses to remember, then that works for me.
I’ve learnt that I’m not going to nail it this Christmas, no matter how prepared I think I am. I’ll do my best. I’ll try and make sure that my little family unit stays as calm and as happy as possible, but I’ll also be OK with it all going wrong sometimes.
If we have moments of snacks and giggles to look back on, we’ll have had a good Christmas.
To the parents who are anxious about this upcoming Christmas… stop by every now and then to know you’re not alone. It’s probably a bit premature to do ‘The 12 Fails of Christmas,’ but I think the toddler and I have it in our locker. At least while it’s happening, I’ll be thinking, this is great material for my blog. Every cloud.