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Find grace in the chaos of Christmas, mama

The one thing that’s up to you is to find the grace hiding in the corners of the day.

Find grace in the chaos of Christmas, mama

If you have children under 5 years old, you can almost guarantee that Christmas (or any holiday) may bring unique set of challenges along with the usual merriment.


Eighty-six percent of U.S. adults gather with family or friends on Christmas and 53 percent of people mentioned spending time with family and friends as their “favorite thing” about the holidays. But while spending time with loved ones at holiday gatherings can raise spirits and create feelings of happiness, parents of young children may also find them stressful.

Thirty-eight percent of people say they feel an increase in stress around the holidays, and children have a harder time than adults at handling it.

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No matter how much we plan and work, things will go wrong—sometimes gloriously so. Things that are likely to go wrong on Christmas:

1. Kids may not act gracious about certain presents they receive

Being kind and polite when receiving a present you dislike or already have is no easy task for a 3- or 4-year-old who has an only partially-developed pre-frontal cortex—the part of the brain that governs making good decisions and being socially appropriate.

All the modeling and preparing in the world may not stop your little one from hollering out, “I already have this!” or wailing, “This is for babies!” in an assertive but embarrassingly rude way.

2. Kids may be high on sugar

Even if you do your best to protect your children with liters of pure water and stashes of carrot sticks and hummus in your purse, they will consume large amounts of sugar such as red and green M & M’s and Aunt Nancy’s famous fruit cake.

Someone may dangle a lollipop in front of your child until a drop of drool actually drips onto his shoe, then mumble to you, “Mind if your child has this?” Your kids will sprint around the room, crazy excited one second and sobbing the next. They will eat less than a teaspoonful of the real turkey dinner.

3. Kids may act nuts around rarely-seen relatives

There's a natural law at play that ensures that children will wait until the very moment Grandma Muriel or Aunt Bea is in the room to morph into baby gorillas mixed with cheetahs. They will sprint around the room burning off their lollipops (see above), chocolate Santas or supersized hot cocoas.

They will play Crocodile Hunter with spears made out of the special-occasion serving forks. They will swear and if they don’t know any swears they will still say “poopy toilet” a great many times.

During “hide and seek,” one child will hide inside the very ottoman that Uncle Charlie has placed his brown-socked feet and dark beer precariously on top of while watching rowdy football. That child will spring open the lid of that ottoman just like a darling jack-in-the-box.

4. Kids may be overstimulated

Kids are used to their routines, not a house of people full on eggnog and small talk. They are amazingly good at picking up on everyone’s moods. They are not used to presents, the buzzing excitement of Santa, or being in a room with 40 people and three dogs for hours on end. They will be edgy and wacky.

5. Kids may not appreciate family traditions like you do

Although you can see the value in 30 years of reading the same antique book on Christmas Eve, one baby will rip a page clean off to teethe on it. Another tot will take her only tooth to the one single ornament that you got from your grandmother and almost swallow its sequins.

6. Kids may take poor naps (or miss them completely)

Kids may decide not to close their eyes when the bed is not their own, smells different or is surrounded by an extremely fascinating collection of Grandma's snow globes. They will protest your plan to have them nap on the long car ride or refuse to cozy up when they know full well that their three new presents that beep and light up are loafing right outside their bedroom door.

7. There may be stress

Juggling the mashed potatoes, apple pie, sippy cups, diapers, outgrown tricycle for your cousin, Christmas presents and your toddler’s inhaler will take its toll. You may be distracted while helping to wash 3 million dishes, so your toddler will need to do some super novel tricks to grab your attention.

8. There may be a mess

There will be clutter, boxes, glitter, tags and glue sticks everywhere. You may feel like you’re drowning in stuff.

But while all these things may happen, you don’t have to focus on them.

The one thing that’s up to you is to find the grace hiding in the corners of the day—like an overlooked Starburst that’s hiding deep in the toe of a stocking.

It takes mindfulness and resolve to deal with diverse challenges while remaining focused on exquisite moments of beauty, joy and love (and make those come alive instead).

Maybe the grace is when your child announces he wants to write a thank-you card to Santa.

Maybe it’s in a warm snuggle as you read a Christmas book with your toddler.

It could in be the way your child belts out a Christmas tune on the way to Grandma and Grandpa’s house or shares her new dolly with her sister.

The grace might be in a wild dance party where you twirl your toddler to some Jingle Bell Rock, an extra-long kiss with your partner under the mistletoe, or a squeal from your child devouring the holiday pancakes you whipped up for them.

It might be in a quiet moment lying in bed just before everyone wakes up where you can hear the faint church bells ringing out a carol that echoes off the snow.

When you shuffle into Christmas with your pajamas, your slippers, and an unwavering commitment to “scan for grace,” you’re likely to find it everywhere.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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