Around Thanksgiving each year, I find myself browsing Pinterest and looking at beautiful Christmas trees covered in bows and glass ornaments. Adorable little trains run on tracks under the beautiful trees. Tall soldiers stand on either side of the fireplace. Garlands hang from the staircases and everything is magical in its glow. I think about how I could make my house look like that. It couldn’t be that hard, right?
Then I look up from my phone and reality sets in. My living room has about 37 toys scattered across the floor. I can’t see the top of the coffee table because it is littered with Pete the Cat books and finger paintings. Everything and anything that is breakable or that can be put in the mouth of a 1-year-old has been moved to the highest shelf. I look like I live in a preschool classroom without the laminated calendar on the wall.
I have two little boys, Simon, 1, and Henry, 4. They are the lights of my life and Christmas with them is going to be so fun this year.
But I have also learned that Christmas with small children, especially two rambunctious little boys, means destruction.
When Henry was 1, I was so excited to get out my Christmas tree, decorate it with my beautiful ornaments and have him help me carefully place them all on the tree. It was going to be such a fun family tradition. I was even going to play Christmas music.
Let’s just say that it ended up being a complete and total disaster.
First, don’t give your 1-year-old anything with a hook on it. I know, I know. This should be common sense.
Second, when you hand a 1-year-old a beautiful glittery ornament made of glass, they will get so excited that they will squeeze it until it breaks into tiny little pieces.
Third, if the ornament does make it on the tree, your child will most likely put it on the same branch as the last six ornaments they hung and refuse to put it anywhere else. The branch will be so weighed down by all the ornaments, they will slowly drop to the floor and shatter.
That was the year I invested in my first extremely ugly set of shatter-proof Christmas ornaments. My pretty glass ornaments that have not been destroyed are in the basement, waiting for the day my boys turn 18.
I have also learned that no ornaments can be placed anywhere on the bottom half of the tree – shatterproof or not. They will be grabbed and launched across the room. My dog is terrified of a toddler with a Christmas ornament.
This also means we can’t put lights on the bottom half of the tree. Toddlers love to pull a cord, and when they do, the tree comes down with it. This year, I am considering just putting a tiny fence around the tree so I can have a fully lit tree again.
And you can’t put presents under the tree for other family members without sitting down and explaining to your toddler that, no, Santa has not come yet and those presents are not for him. I made that mistake a couple years ago and woke up one morning to a disappointed toddler sitting in a pile of wrapping paper with a gift card from Pier 1 for my mom and some makeup for my sister.
And even if you do sit your toddler down and explain to them that those presents aren’t his, they might just become overwhelmed with joy at the sight of wrapping paper and go to town anyway.
We now store all presents on the top shelf of a closet until Christmas Day.
One day, I will have my beautifully decorated Christmas tree with glass ornaments covering the entire tree. I will be able to set out my freshly wrapped Christmas presents two weeks before Christmas without having to worry about a sweaty-handed toddler ripping them open.
But that also means I won’t have two sweet boys on Christmas morning, opening up their presents with pure and utter delight. And that is one thing that makes my heart so full.
So I will keep buying shatterproof ornaments as long as I have to. I will only wrap the top half of my tree with lights. I won’t set out any presents until Christmas Day. Because I dread the day that my little boys grow up and Christmas morning just isn’t the same.