Category Archives: Holidays

Happy Whatever Day

I was talking with a friend one recent Monday who has 18-month-old twins. She told me that she and her husband had taken these twins over the weekend to a  relative’s home for a belated Father’s Day celebration. “Oh, how fun!” I said, and then I came to my senses. “I mean, geez, I’m sorry. You must be exhausted!”

When my starter child Benjamin was an infant, holiday get-togethers were still something to look forward to. Sure, sure, there was the inevitable crying from being passed around too much, and the seemingly constant need to excuse myself to go somewhere private to feed him. (In fact, I did miss an entire Thanksgiving dinner, start to finish, when he was going through a growth spurt at 5 months old.) But none of that prepared me for the horror of following a curious toddler around our relatives’ homes at holiday functions.

THE SEVEN HORRORS OF TODDLER HOLIDAYS

1)     Naptime. Every holiday function begins right in the middle of naptime. If it doesn’t, then the rule is that the food is served right when naptime would normally begin. Every parent knows that a naptime missed is the opening chapter of an epic tragedy. The novelty of the situation will briefly put the inevitable on hold—but eventually fatigue will win, and the child will stage a dramatic meltdown, the likes of which will leave an indelible impression upon all who bear witness. You’ll feel like people are judging you, and it’s true…they are.

2)     The food. Your child won’t eat any of the food served at the holiday, because none of the dishes are on the list of the four or maybe even six foods the toddler deems permissible. You’ll make a plate for the child anyway, secretly hoping that maybe this time will be different. You’ll present the plate to the child with enthusiasm. “Look what I brought you! Mmmmm!” The child will grimace, maybe poke at a scalloped potato, and then exclaim something along the lines of  “YUCKY! YUCKY YUCKY NO NO NO!”   The older relatives will look down their noses at you for raising such a picky eater. Someone might sigh and cluck their tongue and say, “My kids always ate their dinner…children these days are given too much freedom,” or “My Jenny was always such a good eater that I could take her anywhere and leave feeling proud.” It’ll sting, but keep in mind that their memories have been rewritten by time and vodka.

3)     Knickknacks and/or holiday decorations. Your sweet munchkin will hurl themselves at fragile, precious family heirlooms as they stumble unsteadily through the unfamiliar house. And who can blame them? It’s fun. You’ll lurch anxiously along behind them, crouched down in an approximation of their height and lunging radius, the unnatural posture causing debilitating and lingering back pain for at least a week. The other guests can’t help because they’re busy drinking and eating and judging you.

4)     Diaper changes. There will be a ton, far more than in a similar time period at home. So, let’s say that you normally change 3 diapers between 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm at home? Bring at least 6 diapers for the same time period at a holiday function. The other ironclad rule is that somehow, some way, you’re going to end up getting poop on something important that belongs to someone else, like a white guest towel or a silk throw pillow or maybe even Aunt Betty’s vintage mink coat. You could change that diaper out in your CAR, and I still guarantee someone else’s valuable item will be contaminated.

5)     Which brings me to potty training. Someone is going to see you changing one of those diapers, and they’re going to start grilling you on potty training. No matter what stage you’re at, you won’t be far enough along for them and everyone they know. They’ll recount at least 3 of their friends or family members who did it faster, better, and much, much earlier than you are doing it. You lazy, lazy, incompetent slacker.

6)     And if anyone asks about your child’s sleep habits, I’m begging you to LIE, even though it goes against your truthful nature. Unless the child goes to sleep promptly and independently at 7:00 pm, never wakes up in the night, never gets in bed with you, never gets up at 4:00 am for the day for no good reason, never demands water or another book or more snuggles. If you have one of those (fictional?) children who goes to bed, sleeps all night, and wakes up at 7:00 am rested, cheerful and refreshed, then go ahead and answer truthfully.

7)     But then be prepared for them to say you’re abusive for not co-sleeping. My advice is to excuse yourself from the conversation to go and clean up all that poop.

The good news is that all of those people will forget about how obnoxious your kid was (or they never really noticed or cared in the first place…a lot of those feelings of judgment come from the inside rather than the outside). Or they’ll have toddlers of their own someday, and you can be the kind and generous one who tells them how great they’re doing as their child hurls Great-Great-Grandma Daphne’s one-of-a-kind Austrian crystal vase to the floor, the one that she smuggled out of the old country cleverly baked into a loaf of simple peasant bread.

The Daddy and I are now past this phase, and it is AWESOME. Our kids, now 4 and 7, arrive at holiday gatherings and disappear with friends or cousins, not to be seen again until dinner time. I’m not gonna lie—it is fun to again be able to participate in holidays again.

There is a part I miss, though. It’s the part where I carried a tiny, warm, sleeping babychild into the house after the car ride home, carefully taking off their little shoes and ridiculously teensy-weensy socks before tucking them into bed. Awwwwww.

So cherish that part. All the rest of it is for the birds.

toddler

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Hoochie Mama Princess Party

Smack between Christmas and the New Year is Ellie’s birthday. When I was pregnant with her and realized when she was likely to be born, I knew it would be trouble. Holiday-time birthdays are always eclipsed by someone else’s birthday (I’m looking at you, JESUS).  It didn’t really matter when she was a baby, or even last year when she turned 2, but I suspect age 3 is when they start keeping a mental record of the ways that you’ve failed them. This year, I had to produce A PARTY.

There were a fair amount of mental gymnastics involved. For example, the gifts. What would be for Christmas, and what would be for her birthday? Here was my detailed, insightful approach: I bought a bunch of stuff for her and decided that I would figure it out at the last minute.

But then on Christmas Eve (the last minute!), I realized that if I didn’t put everything I had for her under the tree, the Scales of Christmas Gift Justice would be tipped wildly in Benjamin’s favor. A disgustingly luxurious first world problem, I know. Nonetheless, I couldn’t let it happen, so all the gifts went under the tree and I shopped for birthday gifts after Christmas. There were lots of deals (yay!) on crap that nobody else wanted either (boo).

Next, I went to order the cake, which was great because I knew exactly what to get: The Barbie Princess Cake. I take her grocery shopping with me nearly every Sunday, and each time we have to go to the bakery counter to look at it. I’m sure you’ve seen a version at your local bakery – it’s a Barbie sticking out of a huge skirt-shaped cake. This bakery decorates the skirt area with a cascading spray of delicate pink buttercream roses. For the last several months, she has squealed over it regularly. “Oh MAMA! Wook at da bootifoh pwincess! I have it on my birfday???”

After briefly considering the possibility of making the cake myself, I went to the bakery to order it. Right before I walked away, I thought to ask,

“How many people does the cake serve?”

The bakery attendant referred the question to the stern-faced cake decorator, who replied tersely, “No one knows.”

“What do you mean,  no one knows?”

“Because of the shape of the skirt and the many layers of cake, it’s impossible to say.”

“Surely you must have a general idea?”

“No, there’s no way to say.”

I stared at him dumbly. I considered discussing this with a manager, or attempting to perform a complex mathematical equation, but instead I  just gave up and ordered a dozen pink cupcakes too, in case the voluminous cake skirt was heavy on architecture and light on actual cake.

When the day came, Ellie was wide-eyed and thrilled with everything. My little girl loved it all – the decorations, the food, the party guests, the presents, and ohmygoodness – THE CAKE. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Everything seemed so innocently pink and royally wholesome, the doll posing demurely in her cake like a blonde Kate Middleton…

until I released Princess Barbie from her cake-and-buttercream prison. And then several of the party guests, including myself, started to giggle after a brief, stunned moment of silence. Because this was no Princess Barbie after all…this was Princess HOOCHIE MAMA Barbie:

(Special self-congratulatory note: I arranged those flowers. All by myself!)

As you can see, although the picture doesn’t even do it justice, her outfit is something one might wear on their way to work as a “hostess” in a “club,” perhaps a club designated for “gentlemen” somewhere near “the airport.” In real life, the dress is even shorter than the picture makes it appear. It is more like something that someone (not me) might wear as a SHIRT. And it’s made out of shiny plastic, which makes sense because you could just wipe the cake off of it and all, but STILL.

And then, the shoes:

When we saw the shoes, the giggles turned into gales of laughter, which brought The Daddy over to see what our problem might be. Ellie came too, and said, “Oooohhhh, she has a pwetty dwess on!”  Which made us laugh even more.

When I put Ellie to bed that night, she snuggled into me and thanked me for her party. I asked her what her favorite part was, and she said it was her cake. I felt so very happy to be able to make her 3-year-old birthday dream come true.

As for Hoochie Mama, she’ll be undergoing intensive psychoanalysis to deal with her daddy issues and her propensity for exhibitionism. I’ll keep you posted!