Dear parents, the gig is up. I know you are happy the Christmas holiday is over. I’m no longer buying what your Instagram is selling. You never shared the story and as a new parent, I rebuke you for same. I went into Christmas blind dammit. You owe me something!
How naïve I was with my pre-parental, pre-serious man, pre-am-I-ever-going-to-use-these-damn-ovaries FOMO. My Fear of Missing Out on family life peaked at Christmas. I remember the morose feelings as the year 23, 25, 30 and 32 Christmas holidays rolled by. I lusted over your fake holiday photo cards (pre Jib Jab animated ones), believed your social media posts to be telling the whole story and worse yet, you kept the gig up even during actual happy family sightings at (dun, dun, dun) the mall the weekend before Christmas. Allyah were real, real, good at hiding the truth.
Now, as a parent, I know…I know that as much as thousands of parents in T&T are dreading the traffic tomorrow, about 90% of them are happy deep down inside that school restarts in the morning. The Christmas gig is up. The proverbial and actual collective sigh of relief will happen. Allyah happy the tree is coming down, parties are done and that no more pictures to share.
Let me explain.
This was our first Christmas holiday as parents. We travelled for same (ok to Tobago but here nah, we were not home so yeah, traveled!) so here’s what I learned:
- Tress are Treats: As a new parent, like I did you will likely spend a significant portion of the period leading up to and immediately following Christmas Day saying no,
behave, sorry, stop or other words from the unsung parental Christmas instruction classical collection. Our son managed to not eat any part of the Christmas tree. I’m taking that as success. There was a glitter filled poo once though…
- A broom with a side of Poche-A-Crème: Christmas time, everybody goes on holiday. If you had help with baby or cleaning, they on a break too – no doubt. Over the 6 night period on holiday for Christmas in Tobago, I did 18 loads of laundry. One-freaking-eight! Why? Because, when you vacation in T&T, you have a fear that water ‘can go’ at any moment. It’s almost like WASA is the Grinch that can steal Christmas. So, having packed light (you know, the new parent version of same), you can’t risk the $12.99USD “baby’s first Christmas” outfit to be dirty when the perfect picture moment arrives. I also swept and mopped twice a day (13 times actually, in the earliest days I swept and mopped 3 times) because small man is literally exploring the world through his mouth and those “passing through to Parang” came with dirty shoes that trod right through the designated Vacation play area. Right so…thanks for hiding that Christmas with baby on vacation is actually a damn near incessant time of cleaning in worry. I have the ‘cutex free’ Christmas day nails to show it. New parents grab a broom and a swig of ponche a creme to help you enjoy the season. You WILL be cleaning.
- The Myth of the Perfect Photo: Perfect family photos hide the truth of the tired mommy eyes, small stains from where child likely threw up or pooed at the wrong time and of course, the unicorn type photos have everyone looking at the camera.
These shots are one in 12 million. If you can afford, get them professionally done. We did not. Here’s our true story. This true story happened at home in sweet Trinidad. In line with the usual irony of my life, this, our first year as parents, neither my husband’s firm nor mine had no office Children’s Christmas party this year. So, the Saturday before Christmas weekend, I convinced my husband to don a red polo, dressed and styled small man using the perfect mix of coconut oil and cetaphil to ensure there was neither ash no too much sheen on his skin, dragged on an old red top (moms – please make shopping for yourself a priority for Christmas time…I totally forgot me this year) and headed to (dun, dun, dunnnnn) WEST MALL. Needless to say, West Mall, one of our country’s prettiest at Christmas is a zoo coming up to Christmas Day but hear nah, we work so that was the only day we could go. As it took forever to get everyone dressed, over pack the baby bag and head out, small man fell asleep as we hit the car. No problem, I told my Christmas giddy self, he would wake up in time to catch Santa and for our pics. Eh heh? He eh even wake up when we put him into the stroller. So my husband and I longingly looked at Santa, seated in Haagen Daaz with darn near only 7 children around and got no Santa photo with our wee tot. Morose again at 38, when we hit the fabulous poinsettia trees at West Mall, those two beautiful brown eyes I birthed opened and we quickly got into to action to set up what we KNEW would be the PERFECT family picture. I teared up. This. Was. It. Our first ‘Holiday Photo”. My son kicked me, yanked at my dress (I’m sure I had a Janet Jackson moment) and looked everywhere but at the stranger taking the photos for us….29 shots later, with at least 4 families now staring angrily at us for no doubt, hogging the best place at this poinsettia tree for pic
s, this was the best one we got….My son was a bit over stimulated by all the action in the mall and was grumpy all the way home. Christmas Eve pictures were also abandoned as our little one was much more focused on his final bottle for the day that posing for pictures with Santa Hat clad mom, dad and grandpa. No shit, this was our actual holiday what’s app image…
- Boxes over gifts: Of the 14 gifts identified for our son on Christmas Day, he played with the books my knowing grandmother gave him the longest. About 40 seconds. Otherwise it was the boxes that stole the show. Believe me, you could wrap empty boxes and your baby would still be as happy as the 8 year olds who got the newest tech toys or bikes.
- Weird Sleeping Habits: I admit it. My husband and I slept in another room for 5 nights so our son would sleep through the night while we were on holiday. We have the back pains to prove it. This is the kind of crap parents do – we hide from our Children. As cute as he was in his Christmas PJs, they looked cuter on the camera. Holiday time = team no sleep. On Christmas Day my dad put small down for a nap – on his chest. I was certain he would not sleep for long. Two hours later, grandpa magic was still in progress as they slept, all hugged up, on Christmas day.
- The sleep tent: My Shield of Armor: Speaking of sleep…knowing baby would need to nap as food was served at 3;30 on Christmas Day at our HUGE/ BIGLY/ TREMENDOUS
family lunch, I walked with our KidCo sleep tent. I popped it open at a breezy spot by the pool and was assisted by my aunt to put our son in it to sleep. I turned around to find another aunt and grandmother in teary-eyed laughter. My grandmother had never seen anything so hilarious. A sleep tent? BWAAAAHHAAHAHAHHAHAH. My aunt announced this is one of the many reasons why she stopped buying baby items for any working new moms – we overdo it. I smiled, got my food and chuckled to myself as my husband and I enjoyed two blissful adult conversation filled hours while our son slept safely enclosed and mosquito bite free in his sleep tent. Jokes on you!
- How many gifts???: One of the biggest lessons learned this year is the lesson about presents. When you become a parent, you are going to approach Christmas shopping with a weird realization….Where all these children come out from??? Damn near strangers will buy your child gifts. I was and is shocking. Somehow, your non speaking child manages to pick up children as friends in mere months of life and suddenly you wishing you had some elves to make some presents. I bought by 14 children’s gifts. Small man is 9 months old. I still have a bunch of them – now I have to chase the mommies to give them the late presents.
So, though my social media posts of baby’s first Christmas (still with no face shots by the way) show the joys of the season, there were many many stressful moments. On many days, sleep deprived and TIAD, I felt like I sucked at this new parent Christmas thing. I never even pressed pastelles! The true, whole story of baby’s first Christmas is laden in quiet moments too sweet to ruin by reaching for a camera, and in the near miss moments of burnt bottles and quelled arguments about whose turn it was to change pampers or on how we would tell that virus showing relative to please not touch our baby… We made it though. I sure am happy to have baby sitter back tomorrow and to wear an outfit for a full 8 hours that will get nether vomit nor drool on it. That does not make a bad parent eh – it makes me an honest, real, working one.
See you in the traffic.