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Christmas morning with kids: Fantasy vs. reality

Jill is a sometime runner and expert wine taster from sunny San Antonio. She has a degree in social psychology, one husband and three children. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Babble and she's regular...

Christmas morning with kids is likely to be more Pinterest fail than Pottery Barn

Do you have a picture in your head of how Christmas morning will look for your family? If that picture in any way resembles anything you’d see in a Pottery Barn catalog, here's a tip: Stop spending so much time on Pinterest.

I know everybody loves the magic of Christmas, and Christmas is totally magic, people. It must be, because every year, we miraculously forget last year’s meltdown because it was taking too long to pry the armor — err, packing material — off of your kid’s new toys. We forget the fact that watching your kids open gifts on Christmas morning was freaking painful because you and your partner polished off two bottles of wine and stayed up until 3 a.m. trying to make sense of the 4,504 steps necessary to assemble a junior Batmobile.

It’s OK to fantasize about a blissfully picture-perfect Christmas morning: happy children playing with their new toys while the parents contentedly sip steaming mugs of coffee or cocoa. The family snuggled up on the couch together watching It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s even okay to hope… but let’s get real. That image that’s living in your head is probably nowhere close to what your Christmas morning will actually look like. For example: 

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Fantasy: You will gently shake your kids awake at 8 a.m. and wish them a Merry Christmas. They’ll bounce out of bed full of sunshine and cheer, and you’ll joyfully troop downstairs as a family to open presents and bask in the glow of togetherness.

Reality: Your kids will either wake you up at 4:30 a.m. or you’ll have to drag their butts out of bed for family Christmas time. The latter will become your reality once you hit the surly tween/teen years. There is no happy medium.

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Fantasy: You’ll take fabulous, share-worthy pictures of everyone in their matching Christmas jammies.

Reality: Making it past 9 a.m. on Christmas morning with no spills, stains or potty accidents is highly unlikely. And if by some miracle you manage to assemble everyone for a picture without a wardrobe malfunction, at least one person will refuse to look at the camera. Someone will roll their eyes or cry (it will probably be you). If you manage to assemble everyone for the perfect shot, your camera will choose that moment to malfunction.

Bottom line, if you want a great picture of everyone in their Christmas jammies, start in October or invest in Photoshop.

Fantasy: Your kids will love everything that awaits them under the tree and display appropriate gratitude and manners.

Reality: Be prepared for comments like “this isn’t what I wanted” or “this is lame.” And crying.

Fantasy: After the opening of presents, your family will enjoy a special holiday breakfast that you spent at least 45 minutes preparing (think French toast casserole or homemade cinnamon rolls). After breakfast, you’ll snuggle up and watch Christmas movies and enjoy each other’s company.

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Reality: Your small humans will want nothing to do with whatever culinary masterpiece you’ve created. In fact, the more effort you made, the more likely your child is to reject it and demand Cheerios. Regardless of age, kids will watch Christmas classics for about 37 seconds before rolling their eyes and sighing loudly, whining for Team Umizoomi or asking if they can go to a friend’s house.

My advice? Go with the flow and enjoy what you’ve got: every loud, sticky bit of it. It might seem a little cheesy, but if you have kids, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without tantrums, attitude, snot and poopy diapers that leak through onto your baby’s cutesy new Snoopy Christmas jammies. While it probably doesn’t hurt to hope for a picture-perfect Christmas, go in knowing expectations aren’t going to match reality.

Someday, you’ll laugh at those holiday photo fails… really, you will. Until then, know that it’s perfectly acceptable to splash a little bit of butterscotch schnapps in that hot cocoa. 'Tis the season, after all.

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