Sorry, I Have Toddlers

Sorry, I have toddlers.

Instead of sending out Christmas cards this year, I’m sending up a white flag.

In truth, organizationally, I haven’t yet recovered from my second pregnancy. The last time I sent out Christmas cards, I barely had a baby bump from our election night baby who was due the next summer.

Most of the time I have no problem owning the fact that I am not a Pinterest mom who does themed décor for each holiday. The weeks when I do manage a shower every day, I think, “Hmm, I sure am showering a lot,” without even realizing this was normal. I don’t feel put together, perfect or enviable. But it doesn’t bother me.

Until the holidays.

The holidays are when I really feel it, because that’s when all the normal people with either no kids–or at least kids who can use the restroom independently–really turn on the afterburners. They go above and beyond with the decorations and the family portraits and the cards and the fancy treats at get-togethers. Their kids are in new Christmas outfits that probably coordinate. They make things. They do that damn Elf on the Shelf and create interesting tableaus each night that they artfully photograph and post for your enjoyment. They aren’t late and their houses are clean. It’s not a big deal, because this is the only time of year they are pulling the late shift. It’s OK. It’ll be over in a few weeks.

Right now, my whole life is the late shift. Things like daily showers have become my extra effort. I get to the holidays, and I can’t turn it up any hotter. This is it, this is me at full blast. I have no afterburners at this point, and I have no idea when this part ends and I finally get a break. Do I get a break, or do I just develop more endurance? The thought terrifies me.

Anyone who has survived toddlers without going full-on Britney Spears crazy has discovered the same secret to get them through it: No Expectations. None. Expectations will be the death of you. And yet you can’t escape it during the holidays, even if you are keenly aware of the dangers.

SOrry, I have Toddlers

You have these visions of sharing a lovely thanksgiving meal together, or sitting by the fire and gazing at the tree, and these ideas are so humble, so innocent, that when your toddler comes along and say, hypothetically, dumps out

your entire turkey and brine and floods the kitchen, or singlehandedly pulls down the Christmas tree, you are caught off guard. You’re devastated. And you swore you would never set yourself up for that again.

It’s heartbreaking because you let yourself dream this one tiny dream, be it of a stout-brined thanksgiving turkey, or an evening where no one throws up, or even just a few hours of sleep, and when it’s dashed it’s can feel like a knife in your heart.

The rest of the year I am good at no expectations, so the holidays just bum me out. I wish I could enjoy them more from the sidelines, knowing that soon, my girls will be joining in on all the making and doing and giving and we’ll be doing it all together, but I can’t. Not this year. Between the turkey, and the tree, I’m spent. So at the next party, I’m not going to feel at all bad when I show up empty handed and immediately begin pouring myself a glass of wine without presenting the host with a lovely tray of handcrafted sugar cookies or a crocheted something I found on Pinterest. I’m just going to help myself, sit down, put my feet up, and say, “Sorry. I have toddlers.”

Merry Christmas.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls ages 6, 3, and 1. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

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3 Responses to “Sorry, I Have Toddlers”

  1. Andrea Smith says:

    Oh man, I get this. Daily life, not enough sleep, basic house cleaning, laundry piles, feeding hungry people, homeschooling my oldest, etc, is too much for me. I struggle to tread water on ordinary days. I try to find some sort of “balance”. This week I have clean toilets, but we run out of clean underwear. I work with my daughter daily on her reading, but we eat boxed mac and cheese. Then sometimes it completely falls apart, like we each get the flu one at a time and spend 5+ weeks in a sick house and it takes another month to dig our way out and find our “routine” again. Then along come the holidays. Surprise, treading-water-mama (sometimes floundering about to drown), hold this anchor of holiday preparations! You think your house is hard to keep straight? Lets add six boxes of decorations, and a whole mountain of NEW STUFF from loving friends and family! You think cooking nutritious meals for your family is challenging? Let’s make gluten free Christmas cookies and bread for all the neighbor’s too! You still staring at a stack of guilt-inducing thank you notes for your nine month old’s baby shower? Hey, lets’ have everyone in the world send us Christmas cards with cute little Christmas tableaux pictures on them and now they want one from us too. Oh, and don’t forget to show up to my husband’s office Christmas party, daughter’s dance recital, and church holiday dinner with everyone in the proper attire ON THE SAME NIGHT. Then there is giving gifts to everyone in the entire family (plus 7 birthdays). I found myself hyperventilating on Black Friday KNOWING there were a million sales and deals and I didn’t know which ones I should be looking for, nor had I done the homework to know which ones were actually “deals”. And then the pressure of Christmas memories for my kids. Aye-yi-yi! THIS is why I turn into a Bah Humbug Scrooge around the holidays. I get you! I really do!

  2. ellen says:

    lol! i like it! ive seen right side up trees, and even upside down ones, sideways. hmm i think ?clare ? has discovered something here…. more tree to display your ornaments on…

    i did the tree in a playpen a few times to try to save it.

  3. josette says:

    I love you Erin and I’ve found myself in a mental chaos many times. Give the girls hugs from Aunt Jojo!