Things I Wish I Knew: Holiday Edition

I have beef with all the veteran moms in my life. No one warned me in advance about these two holiday takeaways that I feel obliged to pass on to all the pregnant Natalies who’ve yet to be responsible for a whole other human life on Christmas (or Hanukkah, but my extremely WASP-y brain feels like an idiot not knowing if one travels for Hanukkah. Surely I would go insane being around family for eight days??)

Technically this was my son’s second Christmas, but it felt like his first since last year was just a lowkey immediate family celebration due to COVID, plus he was still in the blobby, not-at-all sleeping newborn phase so everything’s a little cloudy in the ol’ brain bank.

  1. Pack early, and do it while baby is sleeping. HAHAHA to me who thought I could just throw my clothes in a duffel like normal, leave some extra space for the baby’s, and make packing a daytime activity to also keep him busy. The child was pulling things out of the bag faster than I could put them in & putting in extraneous items of his own (a pink hippo bath toy managed to stowaway on our travels.) This was all, of course, in addition to his current favorite games, “Ooh, are these cords?” and “I hope she forgot to close the bathroom door so I can go play with the bad end of a plunger.” While packing a place for him to sleep, a stroller for the forecasted nice weather, and an armload of diapers because his molars are breaking through and his butt is a faucet, I neglected to think of where he would eat. Big thanks to my grandma’s neighbors who lent us a high chair from their attic; the few meals we attempted with him on my lap were messy mini-disasters.
  2. It is exhausting. I realize the media has been trying to tell me this for years, but I wrongly assumed stress around the holidays is what you make it. I figured as long as I managed expectations, committed to only one Secret Santa exchange, and never started any super creepy Elf on the Shelf traditions (yes, I am judging you), Christmas would be enjoyable. Reader? I am tired. And I kept the bar really, really low. Having family Christmas in my grandma’s least-child-friendly-house-ever was not an assist. Constantly redirecting him, making sure he wasn’t going to grab any handblown glass or insulin pens (why bother to childproof when he has a mother who can follow him everywhere?!), keeping him out of presents, feeding him, cleaning up, doing that again, putting him to sleep in a weird place, wielding boundaries around family members, attempting to help out and participate in established holiday traditions– I could go on, but my privilege is whining. On paper, there are more people around to help out, but if your baby/toddler is like mine, that will only make them cling to Mom even more. Next year, I will absolutely be taking a day or two off after Christmas to sleep.

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