Beautiful toddler

What to Expect When You Have a Toddler at Christmas

I survived to tell the tale of my first semester in law school as the mom of a toddler. Truth be told, there were a few tantrums, a LOT of late nights, and many, many many hours spent in the same spot with my head buried in a book. There were too many nights that I didn’t get home to put my daughter to bed. There were many nights that my husband handled WAY more than his fair share of parenting duties (and for that, I am eternally grateful). There were way too many dirty dishes stacked up in the sink, excessive amount of fast food dinners and virtually zero quality time spent together as a family. But, we survived, we some how made it. And I haven’t failed anything. Yet. To law school parents and their law school ‘widows’: you are amazing.

Why I Use To Like Christmas Vacation

The holiday break around Christmas time is a significant benefit of being a student. The sensation of full independence that comes after completing your very last final test is enough to make me want to keep studying for the rest of my life. Even though I had to spend the first few days following my last exam resting from way too many late night study sessions, I was eventually able to get my act together and get started with the Christmas preparations.

At the moment, my daughter Emma is at that age that may be described as “in between.” Even though she’s not a baby, she doesn’t seem to have a very good grip on the concepts of Santa Claus and Christmas. She is aware of who he is and that he gives presents, but she has no idea what the term “presents” refers to (maybe that’s a good thing?). When I ask her what she would like Santa to bring her for Christmas, she looks at me with a blank gaze and typically answers with something incoherent — or ‘sticker. She’s really not that interested in opening presents, either. I’m not sure she’ll really clue in until Christmas morning when she sees her larger presents displayed ‘from Santa’.

Even though this is officially my third Christmas as a mother, celebrating Christmas with a toddler is a whole new experience for me, and I thought I’d share some of the ideas for surviving Christmas with a toddler that I’ve picked up along the way.  (I’m obviously hoping these tips will be picked up by the publishers of the “What to Expect” series, who will then promptly approach me for a book deal. So, in reading this, you’re basically getting the first look at the upcoming “What to Expect When You Have a Toddler at Christmas” book. It’s a working title, so just go with it).

How To Survive Christmas With a Toddler

  1. Stay away from the entire ‘Santa is watching’ theme, especially if your child is sensitive like mine was at that age. I learned this the hard way in Toys R Us yesterday, when Emma promptly burst into tears. (Do you blame her? I wouldn’t want some strange bearded man with a cookie addiction watching me, either). I’m also not personally a fan of threatening, i.e. “if you’re not good, Santa won’t come!” Because we all know the presents are going to appear under the tree regardless. And then who looks like the chump? Mom does.
  2. Shop online. Buy everything online. Seriously. Never shop in a store again. Better yet, shop online in your underwear.
  3. DO NOT bring your child into a toy store in order for them to “help” choose presents for other kids. Unless you are ready to deal with about 200 tantrums when they decide they “need” everything that is on exhibit. (In case you hadn’t guessed, I had the pleasure of experiencing precisely this just the day before yesterday. See #1).
  4. Avoid Pinterest and Instagram if you don’t want to see 1,000 photos of how much more put together other Moms (who probably have about 5 more kids than you) and their homes are. Put out some stale cookies for Santa and a half-rotten carrot for the reindeer, and take pleasure in the fact that your toddler is still too little to notice whether or not you’ve cooked cookies that sparkle like magic for the reindeer.
  5. Learn to embrace the chaos and enjoy the moments, no matter how chaotic they may be. Finally, remember: It’s the most wonderful time of the year, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes!


It’s possible that even the most disciplined, composed, and chill parent in the world won’t be able to keep their child from having a meltdown during Christmas. The final piece in your Christmas toolkit is the knowledge of how to assist a child who is feeling overwhelmed. ‘ Once a child has reached his threshold of tolerance and is experiencing the fight-or-flight reaction, the single most crucial thing to keep in mind is that he requires assistance from you in order to manage the situation and prevail over it. The most essential thing is to be compassionate to your child, to be present when you are with your child, and to recognise that your child can’t control how they behave.

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