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Who Invited This Crazy Toddler To My Relaxing Family Christmas

Originally published Saturday, 29 December 2012.


Last year was my first year as a mama. 

I had a 4-month-old. Not yet mobile. Very cute and cuddly. He mostly just ate and slept. And made our pictures about 300% more adorable.

This year was quite a different story.

With a 16-month-old, I should have worn a track suit and running shoes instead of a holiday dress and boots.

He did not get the memo about how to participate in a picture-perfect Christmas day.

During our sit-around-and-talk-and-put-up-your-feet time, he should have been napping. Instead, he was walking around his pack and play and squawking.

During our dinner time, he should have been sitting quietly observing the adult conversation and happily eating his holiday meal. Instead, he squirmed and wiggled and squealed as we attempted to quickly shove food in his face. 

Then, he insisted upon walking around the house which resulted in my leaving the table and the adult conversation to keep him from grabbing and breaking every breakable item in Great Grandma's house.

During family picture time, when he should have been smiling sweetly at the camera, he turned the opposite direction to stare at Uncle Steve and repeated ask him, "Dada?"

The next Christmas celebration didn't go much better.

While the other children toddled happily in the driveway, my precious boy repeatedly made a run for it, toward the street. 

He wasn't happy playing with the piles of toys with his cousins. Instead he preferred to open and close the bathroom door and fight me for access to the toilet. 

He didn't want to play in the grass. He wanted to walk barefoot in the mud. 

He didn't want to sit and happily open gifts. He wanted to climb up and down the stairs and scream and fuss and eat bananas.

Everyone else, including the three other 16-20 month old children, seemed to understand how to follow the holiday program. Not my kid.

And where his desires and our holiday plans came into conflict, he registered his complaint. Rather loudly. With arching of back and pulling mom's hair. Flailing and screeching and crying. Big crocodile tears. Lots of them.

It was an exhausting two days.

After which I have not one single picture of myself alone with my child. I guess because the two of us were never sitting still long enough for one to be snapped. 

Except for the 3 separate times that I sang quietly in his ear. The only thing that kept him still and quiet for any length of time. Once on Christmas and twice the next day, I sat and sang to my child. Over and over and over. The Wheels on the Bus. ABCs. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. The Itsy Bitsy Spider. And his favorite, James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James." Over and over and over.

What a roller coaster ride of emotions motherhood can be! So frustrating and so filling.

Sitting, rocking, singing to my child, I was overcome with complete irritation and annoyance at his behavior. But at the same time, treasuring his cuddly, little form. Overflowing with unconditional, inexplicable love for this child.

I missed out on conversations and bonding that I look forward to all year. 

Sitting with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Whispering with the girls in the corner while the boys watch the game. Hearing updates. Looking through old photos. Sharing stories, laughing, teasing, chatting.

Instead, I was chasing, sweating, scolding, calming, rocking, singing, while everyone else carried on with Christmas as usual.

Like going to Disneyland with all your friends and watching everyone else ride the rides.

I love my son. I love his personality. His crazy, energetic, curious, constantly exploring, busy, busy, busy personality. I also love Christmas with my family. 

I know in years to come, as more children join our extended family, I won't be the only one chasing a rambunctious child. I know in 20 years I will laugh at of these crazy Christmases past. I know there will be plenty of time for me to rejoin the grownup's table and chat the night away without interruption. For everything there is a season, blah, blah, blah.

But that doesn't change the fact that this year was frustrating and exhausting. I came home and cried. Big fat tears of frustration and exhaustion.

(If not for the "tag team parenting" efforts of my husband, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law, I'm sure I wouldn't have made it all the way home before shedding some tears.)

Nope. No Pinterest perfect holiday over at the Osbornes. Tantrums and tears galore. Struggling to remember it's about Christ's birth while having fist fulls of my hair pulled out by the strongest toddler known to man. 

I'm extremely thankful for both my family and my child. Oh my Good, Gracious Lord. Thank You for my beautiful, healthy, spirited child. 

I'm more thankful Christmas is about His birth, His life and death, and not my child's behavior. Thank You, Jesus, that You were born, that you came and lived and died for me and for this crazy child and for this wonderful family and for this whole wide world. 

Thank You, that Your life and death is what is most important. That my choice to follow you is what's most important. Not the ridiculous number of tantrums my child threw over that last 2 days.

And thank You for wrapping Your arms around this young, weary mom as she cried tears of exhaustion and frustration right after celebrating Your miraculous.

Thank You for meeting me here, in the trenches of young motherhood, with Your love and comfort.

For all my sisters out there, my fellow warrior mamas, running after your own crazy kids at a not-so-picture-perfect holiday celebration. You are not alone. I was there, battling tantrums and tears right along with you. And mixed with our immense gratitude for this blessing of family and children, we shed tears together, of frustration and exhaustion. 

Let's pray for one another. For His strength, comfort and love to fuel us as we battle through this next year of young motherhood. Together.

Merry toddler-tantrum-filled Christmas and Happy jam-packed-with-Jesus New Year.