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A Quiet Holiday, Toddler-Style

It is Christmas Day, and BabyC is taking a peaceful morning nap, her tummy full of blueberry pancakes and Mama’s milk. She is 13 months old, and I wonder if she noticed anything special about this morning. Daddy didn’t have to go to work, and the three of us snuggled in bed for a few extra minutes this morning. Then Daddy made breakfast, and BabyC and I played with her grandmother.

BabyC happened upon a gift bag and slowly explored it. It was a 30 minute process. The bag contained 4 pieces of wooden play food, each wrapped in tissue paper. BabyC pulled out the first piece, slowly unwrapped it, and examined it. It was a piece of wooden swiss cheese, and she stuck her finger into each of its little holes. She shook the tissue paper around, listening to the noise it made. Then she picked up both the paper and the piece of wooden cheese and took them on a lap around the house, as if introducing them to their new home. Finally, she saw the gift bag again, and it seemed to occur to her that there was something else inside. She pulled out another piece and repeated the process. She has not yet learned to open an entire gift at once. Instead of finding the limits of the gift first, she was truly enjoying every part of it. And I think she has no idea that there are probably 10 more gifts for her under the tree. There was no, “what’s next?” after opening her gift, and we didn’t push another one on her. Instead, we had breakfast together and then started winding down for her nap.

We are taking this holiday SLOW. This may be the last year that we can do this for a long time. I’m guessing that by next year, BabyC will be old enough to be more excited about the prospect of opening gifts on Christmas morning. She may not have the patience to snuggle in bed, have a leisurely breakfast, or truly enjoy each gift before she wonders what could be in the next package.

A few weeks ago, a new friend asked me if our family had any holiday traditions. The question took me off guard, and I realized that we really don’t have any traditions yet. Last year, BabyC was just 6 weeks old. Our house had been full of family for the first few weeks of her life, but Christmas was quiet and uneventful. Husband had to work, and BabyC and I were still focused on getting enough sleep. I remember that Husband was so tired after work on Christmas Day that he didn’t feel like opening gifts (I insisted). We didn’t even bother to get a tree last year.

I wondered if this was the year that I should ramp up the holiday cheer a bit. Should we start some new family traditions? Should we plan a big traditional meal? Should I get busy baking cookies and making candy? Should we stand in line at the mall so that BabyC can sit on a strange man’s lap for a photo? Should I shop for stocking stuffers and put out cookies for Santa?

No, I decided. BabyC doesn’t “get it” yet this year, and I wanted to enjoy that. She had no expectations about this day. What she does “get” and enjoy is spending time with her family. All of these ideas I had about creating the perfect holiday meant more work for me and less time with her. I know BabyC well enough to know that sitting on Santa’s lap for a picture would be the opposite of fun for her, so we skipped that, too.

Earlier in the month, we went out to cut our own Christmas tree on Oregon’s BLM land. That was a fun outing for the entire family and may become a tradition. We love our unique “Dr. Seuss” tree (i.e., an imperfect, wild specimen) filled with ornaments from my childhood. Husband’s mom is spending the week with us, and she and BabyC are reconnecting. Husband and I went out to see a movie together for the first time in months. I considered doing some baking, but Husband brought home a huge stash of assorted cookies and peanut brittle from a work function, so we’ve been enjoying those instead. I thought about baking a ham, but we decided to go with boiling some local Dungeness crab for a quick and yummy Christmas dinner instead.

At the rate we’re going, it will take BabyC all day to open her gifts, but that’s OK. We’ve all been using the sign for “thank you” quite a bit lately, and BabyC has started using it, too. She doesn’t understand that Grandma gave her this gift, so she should thank Grandma, but she does sometimes sign “thank you” when something makes her happy. Or maybe she is just blowing kisses – it is hard to tell. Either way, there’s a lot of genuine gratitude going around, which is a good family tradition.

Next year, I’ll make some Christmas cookies, and I bet BabyC will want to help.

Happy Holidays from our house to yours. Gratitude and blown kisses to you!

  1. My daughter is 22 months, and she could still care less for presents. In fact, she was not interested at all. Not in the unwrapping, not in the playing, I think she was still too overwhelmed. In fact, many of her toys (from generous grandparents, we only give three gifts) I have put away to give out later in the year. I thought this was the year – the year we needed to start traditions, Santa, etc…but, I still think we have another year. My husband and I used this year to start talking/figuring out what traditions we want to start for our girls. So, next year might just be a “practice” year for babyC. đŸ™‚


    December 29, 2011
    • Thanks for the reassurance. Others have told me the same thing, so now I’m hoping for a gentle transition holiday next year:)


      January 13, 2012
  2. Kim #

    Such a beautiful post. My little guy was born in early November of 2008, like you that first Christmas was quiet, no tree, no decorations, just the three of us. It was lovely. We have begun our own little traditions since then, but nothing too crazy, we keep it simple and special.

    Sounds like you are your way to creating some wonderful family traditions.

    All the best to you and your family for a wonderful 2012!


    December 30, 2011
    • Happy 2012 to you as well, Kim! And thank you for your lovely comment.


      January 13, 2012

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