Before I had a kid, I thought that holiday gatherings were all about Santa-shaped cookies and eggnog. About decking the halls, stealing kisses under the mistletoe and feeling all of those warm and fuzzy feelings. And about cocktails—lots of cocktails.
Now that I have a kid, I know the true purpose of the holidays: To torture our toddlers.
I mean, it really is the perfect storm of family stress, skipped naps and fancy food amid the overwhelming desire for a Norman Rockwell–esque, frame-worthy picture. And that delightful combination can turn our little cherubs into screaming banshees hell-bent on destroying our holiday hopes and dreams.
Too dramatic? OK, then. Feel free to try any of these 11 surefire toddler triggers. I dare you. And while you do that, I’ll be starting on those cocktails. Let me know when you want one.
Dress your toddler in his holiday best. Halloween was a holiday, and superhero capes and fairy wings were allowed—often together. And now it’s a no-go because there’s a ham on the table and a sparkly tree in the living room. Go ahead and explain that one logically, Mom.
Encourage your toddler to eat delicious holiday food. There isn’t grilled cheese. There aren’t rice puffs. There don’t seem to be any dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets in the microwave. Unless Cheerios are about to spill out of that slab of meat in the center of the table, this is not a toddler-approved meal.
Give gifts to someone other than your toddler. There are presents…right…there. And they are not allowed to be ripped open and played with. Welcome to the ninth circle of toddler hell.
Go to an older relative’s house for the holiday. If that expensive crystal bowl on the coffee table isn’t meant to be used as a frisbee, why is it there in the first place?
Be in the same room with a Christmas tree. Everyone loves things that are bright and shiny, including you. You’ve got the sparkly jewelry and glittery shoes to prove it. Toddlers are only human—and maybe a little more in touch with those, um, human desires. So obviously that sparkly tree is meant to be touched…and also climbed. It is a tree, after all.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s discuss the nativity scene and/or train set that choo-choos around the tree. Toys! They’re toys, people! Why don’t the adults in the room seem to understand that?!
Watch a sporting event during a holiday get-together. It’s apparently bad enough that this isn’t Max & Ruby, but then throwing a ball around the living room is off-limits. I mean, that’s how toddlers learn: by watching. As parents should know all know from those old after-school specials: They learned it by watching you, Dad, OK? They learned it by watching you!
Try to cut a grape, take away a candy cane or otherwise try to avoid a potential choking hazard. Parents sure know how to cramp a toddler’s style. Let the screaming commence in 3, 2, 1….
Put restrictions on your toddler’s dessert intake. Like not letting him eat it all before dinner. Or not letting him scoop out chocolate mousse with his germy, little toddler hands. Or not letting him lick three different cookies, then put them all back on the tray for someone else to try. (Licking apparently adds flavor, just FYI.)
Tell your toddler that iPhones aren’t allowed at the holiday dinner table. Because we never do that at the dinner table, even in the most dire of situations. My toddler told you differently, Aunt Joan? Oh, that kid has such an imagination!
Ask your toddler to smile for a picture. Is a beautifully composed photo with a smiling toddler who’s actually looking at the camera and not moving—and that has just the right filter for Instagram—too much to ask for? YES.
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