Monday, December 28, 2015

Parenthood: Week 133 – Putting On Christmas For A Toddler

Parenthood transforms a person from being a spectator during the holidays into an active participant.

When you are kid, your parents do most of the shopping, decorating and planning that goes into making holiday events and traditions a reality. When you are kid you “help” but it’s the parents who really make thing happen. When you become an adult and get married you start taking on a more active role in the holidays. You are expected to bring a dish to holiday parties, and with your own place you have to take on decorating, getting a tree and establishing your own holiday traditions with your spouse. While all of this takes work, it’s stuff that you and your partner are doing for yourselves. The consequences are not that great if you mess something up.

Parenthood changes all of this. Without a kid you can show up for family party whenever you feel like it, drink and eat carelessly and leave when you feel like it. You can really party. With a child you have to carefully plan your arrival and departure times around naps and bed times.

At these events you are constantly tag teaming with your spouse to make sure that your kid is doing okay. When you have an infant, you have to watch who is holding your child and make sure your baby are not being overwhelmed. With a toddler you have make sure that they do not run into things, break random things and eat too many cookies.

You and/or you spouse are “on” the entire time you are at a party. You are more concerned about what you kid is eating for dinner and you curb your drinking to make sure that you are in a sound mind to handle the inevitable meltdown as your child’s bedtime comes and goes.

At home you and your spouse are part of the holiday production team. You figure out a list of events and activities, decorate the house and create “Christmas magic.” You try to make something special for your little one because as adulthood teaches you, nothing about Christmas is inevitable; all of what is special about this time of year is a result from careful work and planning.

This was the first year that Ollie really understood and looked forward to Christmas, I felt more pressure this year to make this time of year special for Ollie. Diana did most of the work taking the lead with decorations, present shopping and wrapping. While there was stress involved with this process, there was also a lot of excitement.

After all of the parties and the craziness, we are exhausted.  Putting on Christmas for a toddler is really tiring and having a kid, like with every other part of your life, changes everything.  It's about taking on the work that your parents do for you in a way that feels meaningful.  It's not about obligation but the sharing of joy.  It's about doing work for someone you love and finding joy not in receiving but in giving.  Maybe it's through this process from experiencing the holidays first as a child and then as parents do we truly understand the meaning of this time of year. 

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