How not to screw up your kids during the holidays

Hi there, Internet! Are the holidays tough for you? Allow me to bait the haterz in my comment section and just say they are very tough for me, a decided weak spot indeed. I wouldn't say I had a bad childhood comparatively speaking. In fact, it would be the height of hubris to think I'm the only one who was raised with a little violence or has lost a person or five through death or disavowal. It happens.

It's my theory we're all a little screwed up. If you are one of the lucky ones to have been raised in Mayberry by Ward and June Cleaver and all of your friends and family are alive and enthusiastic about sharing the season with your face, then happy holidays to you. Feel free to populate Awkward Family Photos with pictures of your gatherings. But the rest of us, I suspect the majority of the rest of us, or at least a good enough chunk of the rest of us who get struck down to an Oscar-winning moment the first time Miss You Most At Christmastime shoots through our ear drums in late November, this is the guide for you.

1. It will hit at odd moments. You'll just be melting some chocolate chips in the microwave like la-dee-da, or smashing candy canes for the World's Easiest Thing To Make With Two Toddlers and decide you need to pop on the holiday station for some seasonal tunes. Your kitchen is humming with tiny people proudly making a mess in their $10 Target snowflake aprons and begging for the Dora gymnastic dolls they saw on TV when BAM! you're crying. Do you  . . .

A. Try to stuff down the sobs and wind up snapping at the kids

B. Let it all hang out as you bawl to the closest person who will answer the phone, leaving your kids to gawk and wonder, "who is mommy calling an asshole?"

C. Give the kids spoons to lick and excuse yourself to the bathroom for a good five-minute cry, gather yourself and think, "yep, it's the holidays! Sucks for everyone over 12!"

ANSWER IS C. Sure, half of my kids' grandparents don't know what town we live in, but I think holiday music making people sad is universal. Christmas is fun and light and joy, but it's also a little bit sour once Santa evaporates. Also note I said to think that in your head. What you say to your kids is, "oops! Mommy had to make a pee-pee! More sugar?"

2. Family gatherings can be stressful. You may have to see someone who asks you if you are pregnant at every family dinner. This was cute when you really were pregnant for several years in a row, but now you're just With Beer. You will want to stage some polite rebuttals before encountering this person and consider the matter done before it begins. Otherwise, you know you're going to bad mouth the belly watcher in front of your kids in the car on the way over. And that's Grandpa. So just don't before you do and shake it off. (Good comebacks, in case you are wondering, are to ask the same of them or to say "YES!" and ask for money.)

3. You want your kids to have everything. So you buy them everything and when they whine, "but I wanted the unicorn Pillow Pet Dream Lite, not the ladybug!" resist the urge to say, "when I was a kid, all we got was a dime and a gum drop, you ungrateful little shit! Sometimes we didn't get presents until April! You are terrible!" Just remember, you made them this way. Kids have no point of reference. If you built a Great Wall of Presents that snaked around the tree and across the room last year, yeah, you're going to have to do that again and you don't get to complain when they do dastardly things like ask if there are more when they get to the end. Don't give, then guilt.

I'm not saying you shouldn't buy them anything, but if you're the type of parent to expect gratitude, don't feed their lives with excess to begin with. A trip to the Salvation Army this season might balance their little brains about abundance as well.

4. Conversely, fine, have it your way with the wall-to-ceiling bounty, but instead of wringing the kids' necks on Christmas morning when they ignore the swag sitting among torn paper and end up playing with the empty boxes, instead think to yourself, "wow, my kids are so safe, happy and loved. I did that!" Feel proud of yourself that you're able to create an environment where your kids are free to play, a place where they are warm and have food in their bellies. The school of hard knocks as an adult will eventually teach them gratitude. Just wait till your kids have to learn to make ramen noodles in the bathroom sink of the apartment they share with six other people. You're going to look like Wonder Woman. Let these be the good old days.

5. Some days are better than others. On the good ones, you don't need this guide. On the ones when you can't force a smile because the bills are multiplying like cats in an alley and you're cursing low-carb fad diets because that means people refuse to fill up on cheap bread, thus exponentially elevating the cost of your holiday dinner, do this: find an activity for your kids so your Grinch face doesn't rub off. Here are several that don't require headaches:

- Confine them to an easily cleaned area, hand them red and green crayons. Hey, no matter what they scribble, it will be Christmassy!

- Play this game: "What rhymes with . . . " I did this yesterday for a half an hour. "What rhymes with pickle? TICKLE!" and I tickle them or, "what rhymes with snow? BLOW" and I blow in their faces. I dunno, I guess you have to be three to find that funny. But the game is cheap and easy and pretty good at breaking mom out of a funk.

WARNING: Do not go on Pinterest to find an activity. All the complex projects and super-momming might drive you to booze. Seriously, you're telling me this craft is for a child:
How old? 32? Actually, this is rad. Thank you, Home Grown Hospitality!

Just having a project is a great way to distract yourself and put everyone in a better mood. Instead of brooding about bills and stress, hey, now you get to clean crayon off the floor - but that's AFTER the kids go to bed when you're free to be terrible!

The important thing to remember is that no matter how much it sucked for you as a kid, or how much your bills or other grievances are piling up, there's always wine at 5:00PM your kids are making their memories now. You have to pull it together so they aren't asking for therapy from Santa next year. Just distract everybody with endless crafts, cry in the bathroom when you have to and give yourself a pat for not being as terrible as these parents.



Filed under: Grinch the season, How-To

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