Christmas Chaos

Real-Life Christmas With a Toddler

If I had to use one word to describe my Christmas, Chaos would be it.

I had dreamy visons of my one-year-old son dressed in his Christmas jammys, inquisitively ripping at wrapping paper, giving it a taste, tearing it into a million tiny pieces and once in a while, maybe even unwrapping an entire gift. In my yuletide vision, Cillian would methodically investigate each new toy, poking at it with his chubby fingers, putting it in his mouth to make sure it wasn’t edible. I’d bask in the Christmas joy radiating off his beautiful face. I’d snap some Pinterest-perfect pictures, and enjoy my spirited Christmas coffee while he was easily entertained. I wouldn’t even stop him when he tried to pull the bows from all his father’s gifts. I’d just laugh and smile adoringly at my handsome husband while he marveled with me at our little creation. We’d spend the day snuggled around our Christmas tree while Sinatra softly dreamed of a White Christmas and the scent of Shimmering Pine filled the air. It would be the Christmas perfection written about in bedtime stories.


What happened instead was more like a Christmas cautionary tale.

Seven o’clock Christmas morning, my husband and I showed up at my in-laws’ house, presents in tow, to greet our son who had spent the night with his Nanny, Poppop, and five-year-old cousin, “B”. Like past Christmases, we went about waking the rest of the family. My husband and his mother made breakfast and coffee while I nursed little C and tried to get some excitement from him at the mention of Santa Claus. He couldn’t care less, perhaps because this red-clad stranger had eaten all the Christmas cookies. How dare he! Or maybe it’s just because he’s a toddler who can’t yet grasp such abstract concepts. Either way, my C monster saw Christmas Day as any other day and I couldn’t get him on board with my Christmas dream.

Then came present time.

I’m not sure how Christmas presents are opened in your house, but when I was a child, much like all other proceeding in the house, Christmas morning was orderly. It had to be with seven children! One lucky child was awarded the position of “Santa” (the only version of Santa we ever bought in to) and passed gifts one at a time to each sibling, in order. We all watched as each gift was opened and took the time to exclaim appropriately over said gift and thank the giver. By the time all the boxes were opened, each person had a neat little pile beside them and the paper was thrown away promptly. When I began Christmasing with my husband’s family, I was shell-socked from the very first tear of shimmering paper. The whole family rushes to the tree and immediately starts pulling at gifts and passing them to the designated recipient. Calling out names, asking whose is what, throwing packages through the air. To me, it was like a scene from a holiday movie where the elves realize it’s already Christmas Eve and Santa’s sleigh isn’t ready to go and he’s only checked the list once. Once divvied up, all the gifts are opened in one whirlwind of bows and paper and boxes.  The Christmas excitement it palpable!


This year was no different except that in addition to my husband, his brother, sister and parents, there was myself, two small children, and a fiancé – one of those small children being my highly sensitive little Christmas leech. The first gift bag full of paper was handed to C and, as expected, he began to pull at the paper and tear it up but instead of watching him delight at the package, I was being ordered to open my gifts and pass such and such to so and so and where is that thing and did you move that stuff? I felt overwhelmed, and if I felt overwhelmed, I can only imagine how little C felt in this giant Christmas commotion. My C monster lasted about ten minutes into the gifts when he started crying and trying to climb into my lap which, I usually encourage except I had my disappointingly-sober coffee in one hand and a heavy, seemingly fragile gift in the other. While everyone else excitedly tore into their gifts, I was drowning in a sea of Christmas cheer, being pulled to my holiday death by a whimpering elf-sized toddler. Perhaps my shoes were too tight, but I started to understand the Grinch and “Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!” Before I could even process what was going on, the family was having a Nerf gun fight across the living room. I can only assume the toy guns were under the tree that morning but for all I knew, a tactical elf just repelled down from the ceiling and told us that only we could save Christmas with these plastic weapons! Somehow I just missed it.

That morning set the mood for the rest of the day. C did not open any of this presents on his own. Two of them went home still wrapped in pre-Christmas condition and were put right back under the tree. Looks like I got an early start on next year! He had no interest in the very thought out gifts I had planned for him. Throughout the day, C slammed his fingers in a desk drawer, dropped a heavy roll of paper on his foot, didn’t eat much food, and to top it all off, mean-ol’-mama wouldn’t let him feed the dog his cinnamon roll. If you ask C, this was probably not the magical Christmas he had expected, and it certainly was not the one I wanted! He just wanted to be held while being put down, and he wanted to eat everything, but only if it was just being put in my mouth. He wanted everything but nothing and right now but also not yet and later. He wanted to just be loved but left alone but don’t leave him! It was exhausting, to say the least. As much as I love all the hullabaloo and excitement of Christmas, I would not have made it through this one without that jolly sangria and a festive nap. Merry Freakin’ Christmas.

Days later, he did LOVE the tissue boxes

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