On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my toddler gave to meee:
12 play-place viruses
11 mismatched dress shoes
10 stepped-on Chex squares
9 glittery sneezes
8 cups a spilling
7 boo boos swelling
6 pre-used Q-tips
5 sticky huuuuugs
4 chats with Siri
3 loud fits
2 naked Barbies
And a heavy diaper full of cold peeeeee
Our Christmas angel is a tradition I started last year. Inspired by Elf on the Shelf, the kids wake to find a short note from her each morning. Unlike Elf on the Shelf, though, she is not super creepy and she only notices the kids’ good behavior.
I know I haven’t been a good girl ALL year. I lied to the kids about what really happened to the Oreos at nap time. Taught my little ones a few choice words during some particularly stressful mealtime preps. I may have even tricked them into an early bedtime once or twice to catch some alone time with the hubs. But I’ve been trying really hard to be the best wife/mother/friend I can be, and overall, I think I’ve come out on top — at least B-plus range! The hospital bill we just got in the mail says all I’m getting for Christmas this year is last month’s epidural, but if you’re feeling generous and my name comes up on the “good” list, I hope you’ll take my wish list into consideration:
‘Tis the season to be thankful, and it can be hard for many of us to pull ourselves out of our exhausted, overworked, eye-twitching world to realize just how lucky we are. Everyone knows we’re grateful for our spouses and kids and homes, but it takes a little something extra (usually vodka) to find gratitude in the tantrums and leaky diapers of daily life. Luckily for all you worse-for-wear parents out there, I will now illustrate how to dig deep and turn any less-than-perfect parenting moment into a reason to beam with gratitude. You can thank me later!
SITUATION NO. 1: In the epic struggle between your sense of shame and need for sustenance, the grocery store (and whatever children you’ve mistakenly brought with you) is winning. Maybe they ran out of car carts. Maybe the deli was offering slices of the wrong color cheese or the lobsters weren’t available for a meet-and-greet. Maybe you had to bag your own groceries next to a display of loosely packaged cookies within your child’s reach and said display is now laying scattered on the floor, crunching under your non-car-cart wheels. MAYBE you just made the mistake of having more than one kid with elbows and decided to strap them next to each other in a metal cage on wheels for an hour, hoping for the best.
TRY THE THANKFUL APPROACH: Thank you, grocery store, for never failing to create an incredibly humbling atmosphere in case I start to get too cocky about my parenting skills. The tantrums you elicit combined with your patrons who can’t resist telling me how full my hands are (without ever offering to help soothe a single thrashing, screaming toddler they don’t know… weird!) remind me that I am but a discarded cheese wrapper at the bottom of the shopping cart of life. If not for your weekly reminder, I’d have nothing but toddler church farts and garbage-can-tastings to keep me grounded. I vow to never give annoying, unsolicited parenting advice to anyone again, ever.
My kids are ages three and under, but I talk to them about God. I tell them the Bible stories, teach them about showing love to others, even sprung for a teething rosary. And every Sunday, we have “the church talk” on our way there, reiterating why people go to church and why it’s important to be as calm and quiet as possible: though today they are too little to fully grasp what we do there, it’s a place full of people we don’t want to disturb as they try to listen and pray.
And despite these measures, the torrent of infantile wailing and gnashing of teeth that so often awaits me in that Sunday service is almost enough to trigger an existential crisis.
I grew up attending weekly Catholic Mass and then studied religion in college. The church has always been a place I could go to find peace, learn, and connect with something bigger than myself. Since my kids started joining me three years ago, despite having still attended Mass almost every Sunday, I may have heard four minutes of sermon, total. So it made me wonder — as both a woman of faith and a mother of young children who could pass for your average exorcism candidates some Sundays — why bother taking them at all?
Parenting experts (and grandparents, fellow mothers, random strangers at every play place/library/church service/grocery store) have lots of opinions on what to do when your child misbehaves or otherwise chooses not to do what you ask of him. Redirection. Yelling. Time outs. Making games out of chores or tasks. Spanking. Encouraging them to talk about how they feel and not being frustrated when their only answer is “gassy” as they airplane-run into another room.
Every method has its advantages and disadvantages, and approximately none of them ever really work on a toddler. My toddlers, at least. But lately, I’ve noticed that sometimes the universe steps in and picks up where the permissive/authoritative debate falls short. It’s called karma, and I’m thrilled to report that unlike the responsibility of chiseling crushed pretzels out of car seats, kids are not exempt.