The first thing people tell you when you become a parent is that time flies.
“Enjoy every moment,” they say, a wedge of warning dangling off the edge of their voice. “They grow up quick, those babies do!”
But for most of us, we’re too busy to really heed their wisdom.
We’ve got our hands full trying to change a diaper with one hand while we attempt to keep the kid from swallowing the golf ball he or she has somehow managed to wrap their lips around (where the HELL did they get a golf ball??!!)
Then if we’re lucky enough, after about a year of chaos and memories and milestones, we turn around one day and are slammed with the hard-hitting lightning bolt of realization: those people were right!
Our kids are growing up too fast!
All of those parents who have been through this already and who warned us to savor it all because it moves swiftly: it turns out they were right. Time is a jerk. The weeks and months have been blasting past us and we’ve been too preoccupied to notice.
And nothing hurts worse than being so caught up in the holidays that, come New Year’s Day, you look over at your kids through tired eyes and mutter,” Where have you guys been for the last three weeks??!!!”
But, don’t let Christmas slip away this year though, okay? Kids really shine during that time between Thanksgiving and December 25th and with good reason; it’s the season of endless imagination and possibility and excitement.
Listen, I have been a dad now for 4 years now, and a Christmas junkie for like ten times as long as that.
And after a lot of trial and error, I think I have finally figured out some of the best ways to make the most of the holiday season with my kids.
So that when this magic season finally does arrive, we’re ready to really live it the way it was meant to be lived.
Calls From Santa 1 of 15I don't mess around when it comes to Christmas. I am a die-hard. A junkie. I bleed tinsel and candy cane, if you know what I'm saying. And when November rolls in, I often pretend that I am on the phone with Santa Claus. Not just a quick 'hello' either. I have full on conversations with him in the presence of my three year-old daughter and one year-old son. Then, I hand the phone to them and just talk to them in his voice. They don't seem to care that I'm obviously the voice they are speaking too either! They talk to me as if I was the REAL DEAL! It's such an awesome way to get into the holiday spirit with little kids. Or, maybe I'm just full-on crazy. Either way, it rules.
A Month of Music 2 of 15People either love Christmas songs or they hate them. There really is no in between. Me, I truly dig them and luckily, so does my wife. So come Thanksgiving morning, we begin a solid month of Holiday Turntable Gold around here. And yeah, my kids really love it too, but do you want to know why? It's because at least two or three times an evening I catch them and their Mom dancing in a circle to some Sinatra or Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole. It brings everything to life for them, spinning and twisting does. And trust me, by Christmas Eve, these two crazy elves are always bugging us to play the records starting at breakfast time.
Santa Outfits 3 of 15If you have ever pondered getting you little kids a Santa outfit, but thought it might be too cheesy or oddball, I have the advice you need right here. Ready? GET OVER YOURSELF, SCROOGE!!! Deck the halls of their tiny bodies with as many Santa suits as you can get your mitts on, my friend! My kids LOVE getting dressed up like old Kringle. After all, he is a rock star in their world, right? We let them wear their suits around the house, when we head out for a bit of holiday shopping, and even when we go to see Santa himself. (Oh my God, check out Santa's reaction when another, littler Santa appears at his feet! It freaks them out!) Dressing up in the most iconic outfit on Earth is very cool, I think. And my kids think so, too. Plus...the photo-ops are endless.
Tag-A-Long Elves 4 of 15Listen up. Take your kids with you as much as you can this holiday season. Sure, we all need a break from them sometimes, and it's a lot tougher to get any kind of serious gift buying done when your two year-old is having a temper tantrum in front of the Orange Julius at the food court, but still. Drag them along most of the time because they are a constant reminder of what the holidays should really be about. They don't want to spend hours looking for that 'perfect gift' for someone and do you know why? Because that's all a crock of reindeer crap, isn't it? Kids just being kids constantly remind us that just being out and about in the world during the holidays is way better than fussing about worrying about things as goofy as shopping. There will many opportunities to go in to credit card debt this December, so don't worry. But while you can, make it more about the little ones than anything else.
Cut Down The Tree 5 of 15I know that not everyone can find a place where they can cut down the Christmas tree, and I'm sorry about that because it sucks. But for those of you who DO have that option: DO IT!!! Kids are totally riveted by the whole process, trust me. My three year-old daughter Violet loves to hike across the cold tundra with me and hunt for that 'perfect tree' almost as much as anything else we do at Christmastime. It's one of my favorite things to do each year. And I can't lie to you: last year we were SO into it that we went back the next day and got a second tree which we set up on the porch.
Take Pictures 6 of 15The thing about taking lots and lots of pictures of your kids at Christmastime, or any old time, is this. Photography makes us stop and smell the proverbial roses, or the poinsettias, as it may be. When we decide to capture our kid's faces in a certain moment or a certain light, we are forced to wholly and completely focus on them in the here and now. And that is exactly what we are after this holiday season, remember? So, take ten trillion pics of your elves this year, lots of them; in front of the tree, in front of your neighbor's overblown front yard North Pole display, anywhere you can. You'll never regret it.
Trimming The Tree 7 of 15This might seem like a given, but I am often surprised to find out how many moms and dads end up trimming the tree when the kids are asleep or something. Now, I understand that sometimes young honey badgers can make the delicate process of tree-trimming turn into a hellish ride across a desert of broken glass and all. But at least try, you know? Lots of children really love doing it and they are damn good at it too. Eventually, they will hit an age where it all goes smoothly and really good memories are made and a tradition is born. So don't give up on them if they weren't quite ready last year, because this year might just be the one.
Books & Shows 8 of 15Watching your DVR'd episode of Wonder Pets Christmas Special for the 33rd time in a week, or reading 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' so many times that the Little Golden Book logo is imprinted on your thumb might not always seem like your ideal way to spend an afternoon or an evening during the holiday season, but do it anyway. Little ones typically LOVE Christmas shows and stories a whole lot. And yeah: it can be a bit taxing when they seem to latch on to ONE thing and want you to watch or read it with them over and over again, but remember, that's just a youngster thing. As they grow older, they'll branch out and enjoy some variety as much as you do. Plus, aren't you the same guy who watches that marathon of A Christmas Story every single year? Yeah, I thought so.
Talking About Santa Claus 9 of 15I believe in Santa Claus. I stand out on the back porch of our house with my daughter, in June...in February, it doesn't matter when really, and we stare up at the sky and when I see a tiny blinking light way up in the night sky I holler out to her, "There he is! There's Santa and his reindeer right there right there right there!" Oh man. She gets so damn excited, just like I did when I was so young. She smiles and points and starts talking non-stop about how cool it is that he is out there checking on her even though Christmas is way off. And now, when Christmas is not a long way off, I talk even more about Santa with Violet and Henry. We talk about what reindeer eat and what kind of cookies we should leave Santa this year, and whether or not we might hear his sleighbells come Christmas Eve. It is, quite possibly, the greatest back and forth running conversation I have ever had in my life. So yeah, I believe, and if you get what I am talking about...then so do you.
Make Time 10 of 15This might seem sort of general, but it's also quite possibly the most important tip I can pass along to you. The holidays are hectic and busy and chaotic. The year is ending and it's very likely that things at work are a bustle. I understand all of that. But don't let it stop you from making time for your family. The holiday season is essentially four or five weeks long and when you break it down, that's not that much. It will be gone in what seemed like an instant. So fight yourself if you have to. Go to war with the parts of you that are struggling to do all of those 'grown-up' things that are so important to get done before the 25th, and just find a way, at least once a week, to spend as much as a day with your kids as you can, doing something fun and Christmas-y. You can thank me later.
Wrapping Gifts 11 of 15Let's face facts: both kids and grown men pretty much suck at making wrapping paper and bows and ribbon do what it's meant to do. It doesn't matter, though. There is great charm to be found in a poorly wrapped gift, I say. There is something sweetly earnest in gobs of Scotch tape showing where the paper got ripped. Most importantly though, young kids really enjoy wrapping gifts they helped pick out for their Mommy or their Daddy or their brothers or sisters or grandparents. So by all means, let them help you wrap it all up. My daughter looks so serious when she's helping me that I can't help but smile at her trying to fold down pesty corners, her tongue poking out of her lips in beautiful concentration.
The Island of Lost Treasures 12 of 15The Island if Lost Treasures is the name I reserve for oddball trinkets and decorations that end up revealing themselves each and every year when I drag down the Christmas boxes from the attic and tell the kids to gather round in a voice that probably sounds a bit too much like my secret hero, Clarke W. Griswold. It really is a strange blast to holler the same things to my wife and kids, year after year, with genuine giddiness each and every time. "LOOK VIOLET, it's our Super-Deluxe AC/DC Family snow globe! I totally forgot we had that!" Last year we lost most of our Christmas stuff in a fire in our home, so I'm pretty sad that lots of those special things we had just begun to love as a family are now gone forever. But I'm going to start getting excited about new things that I will pick up this year, and I know that Violet and Henry will be more than happy to get pumped up right along with me.
Christmas PJs 13 of 15Every year we make a really spectacularly big deal out of hitting up Walmart or wherever with the kids and snagging them each a couple of pairs of Christmas pajamas. It's pretty funny because they aren't all that into the actual picking out/purchasing of them, but once we have them at home and start breaking them out during the weeks leading up to Santa's arrival, they love them. After dinner, my wife or I will say, "Okay, who wants to get into their candy cane footie pjs right now??!!" and you'd be surprised at the shrieks of effervescence that rise up out of their tiny lungs. It's just another little cool way to keep the holiday spirit close at hand, I reckon.
Dream Big, Big Dreamer 14 of 15Encourage your children to dream really big this Christmas. Let them riff on Santa Claus or the ten thousand things they want to find under the tree or how they hope it starts snowing on Christmas Eve and never ever stops. Kids are dreamers by nature, you see, and that part of them, that chip inside their minds that takes a small idea and rolls with it until it is the most magnificent bit of legendary babble that anyone has ever heard, that's the type of stuff that will broaden their minds and entice their imaginations for the rest of their lives. Even in ways that it's almost impossible for us to fathom. So, recognize that the holidays is a time when kid's brains are just exploding with visions and possibilities and encourage them to run with all of it. By doing that, I assure you, you will be helping them create memories that will make them smile every single Christmas rest of their lives.
Christmas Is What You Make It 15 of 15No one knows your kids like you do. And no one has the same memories of a childhood Christmas quite like you have. So go ahead and be Santa Claus this year, and not just with toys and all. Rather, take all of those memories that you have from when you were a Christmas Kid yourself and let them filter down through all of the love you have for your own kids now. And with that in mind, come up with your own ways of making spirits bright. Because when it comes to the magic of Christmas, your kids are pretty lucky to have you around, you big overgrown elf you.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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