How Not To Do the Chicago Holiday Scene With Kids

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend. Feeling festive, I decided to take my two kids into the city for some Christmas cheer: the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza, followed by lunch and the big tree at Macy’s.

I’m a planner.

I chose today because it was early enough in the season that most people would be at work rather than taking the day off to take in Christmas cheer.  Fewer crowds while I push around my stroller – check.

I chose today because although cold enough to require heavy coats and mittens, it was still warm enough to wander the market while enjoying a barehanded snack, even for my youngest. Non-bone chilling weather – check.

I chose to go to the market right when it opened at 11 to avoid the lunch crowd of those working in the loop, and to be able to make it to Macy’s before the lunch rush hit there, too. Good timing – check.

We parked.

And then it fell apart. You know, in the actual execution rather than the planning.

So, here’s what not to do:

Do not go on a big adventure on the first day after a holiday weekend. Let’s face it: My kids were already train wrecks from a weekend of eating junk, dropping their routines, sleeping badly and away from home and let’s not forget – getting attention 100% of the time.

In short: My kids were cranky as hell.

Do not think your kids will cooperate with winter gear on their first trip out. I’m no novice - I planned well, from the mitten clips to the hats that tie securely beneath the chin. Their coats fit. They were toasty. But my son is 18 months old. He had decided he hated the big coat and hood long before I even took a step towards his hat.

The result: An angry toddler clawing at mittens and throwing his hat up and down State Street. Screaming.

Do not fool yourself into thinking small kids will be enraptured with holiday lights. My daughter, now 3, finally loves Christmas trees and lights, which is absolutely awesome. Her brother, however, could not care less. What he loves is running loose. Which he cannot do in crowded Daley Plaza when I’m alone with my kids.

What do you get? Pouty preschooler asking for more Christmas trees as your son bucks and fights to get out of the stroller – pulling his sister’s hair when all else fails.

Do not think eating at a department store will be easy with crabby kids, no matter how many times you ate there “back when you worked.” Macy’s used to be a lunchtime staple for me. I love their 7th floor with Frontera and salads. I know the layout and which lines are shortest.

Those meals were a little less hectic than the burgers we ate (but did NOT enjoy) today.

The rundown: Angry son is still bucking, screaming and swaying, but at this point is at least indoors and therefore mitten-less. Daughter is crying because son is still pulling her hair and she wants to go home... NOW. Screw the trees. Write a letter to Santa? No, thank you.

I manage to push stroller over to table while balancing tray of food including large caffeinated drink for me, which I never manage to touch. Sprint to get high chair on other side of room while hoping no one steals my daughter.

Spread out food on tray for kids. Son chucks tray and licks burger directly from table. Mom gags in mouth but carries on.

Daughter looks up, two bites into meal: “I have to go potty.”

I give up. Kids eat fruit pouches for lunch on the way to the bathroom.

Do not assume it will be easy to use a bathroom, even when they’re on every floor. Two words: logistics suck.

The scoop: I took both kids into the handicapped stall and helped my daughter go to the bathroom. As usual, Austin cried when at the sound of the loud commercial toilet flush. I needed to change Austin’s diaper, too, but there was no changing station in that stall. I headed back out by the mirrors and sinks. Not there either. Clearly in everyone’s way with my stroller, I left and prayed mightily to the gods of absorbent diapers to keep his clothes dry a little longer.

Do not add on that “one last stop,” no matter how sure you are that it will salvage the day.

The final straw: I took the kids up one more floor so they could see the big Macy’s tree above the Walnut Room. Cranky, wet-diapered son threw a tantrum at the same moment Abby opted to stick her foot through the “viewing window” – losing her shoe in the process.

I am unendingly thankful the shoe landed on a ledge I could get to and did not fall down one story onto Walnut Room diners’ heads.

While both kids were freaking out and I was trying desperately to regain control figure out what the hell to do, a woman began critiquing my parenting.

I hung my head, scooted my tail high up between my legs and hobbled home.

A disaster? Yep. But all the planning in the world can’t predict a day with toddlers and preschoolers. You get what you get. And then you try again the next day.

Will I be down in the city again soon? Absolutely.

But maybe I’ll wait a week.

It's Fitting - Holiday Horrors

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