Somewhere in my rookie parenting brain, I thought maybe, just maybe, I might get to rest over the Christmas break. I thought I’d get a chance to lie down and binge-watch some smutty series on Netflix while overdosing on licorice. Between all that, I’d take little naps coinciding with my sugar lows while visions of my next Twizzler-bender danced in my head.
Well none of that happened.
Toddler One and Two had other plans…and they all involved me.
Until two days before Christmas, Toddler One was adamant he wanted a fish for Christmas. Determined to nail my first big Santa gig as a parent, I delivered. I got him the little tank, fish food, water purifier, and a fancy Betta fish. I was giddy driving home from the pet store knowing I’d totally outdone myself.
But I had ulterior motives. Not only did I want to outdo myself in the Santa department, but I wanted to get my kid something that would occupy him ALL. CHRISTMAS. DAY. If he wanted a fish, he was getting a fish.
Then, not 48 hours before the anticipated delivery was supposed to happen, Toddler One changed his mind. He no longer wanted a fish. In fact, he now hated fish.
“Fish make me feel sick,” he said.
I let out a defeated sigh and through gritted teeth asked, “Okaayyyyy…what DO you want from Santa?”
“A choo-choo,” he said, “One that goes around and around with buttons.”
“You want a remote control train?” I asked.
“YEAH!!” he roared as he dove off the couch.
As annoying as this last minute demand was, I figured a train would occupy the toddler even better than a fish. So like Arnold Schwartzenagger in Jingle All the Way, I dashed around town like a commercial Christmas psycho, looking for a remote control train to satiate Toddler One’s desire.
Six exhausting hours later, I arrived back home…without a remote control train. The thought of being a Santa failure weighed like a lump of coal in my stomach. Over the next 24 hours, I warned Toddler One that sometimes Santa can’t come through on last minute wishes.
Christmas morning came and the fish was welcomed into the family with a lukewarm reception. After staring at him for all of three seconds, the fish was abandoned for the flashing, blinking allure of toys and more toys. An hour after that, the novelty of the new toys wore off and both toddlers were clingy, overtired and bored.
In that moment, I wished…WISHED for that train. The coveted gift that would have entertained the toddlers for hours so I could just…lay there.
I had visions of the train going round and round with Toddler One’s infectious giggle in the background. He’d play for hours figuring out all the buttons. He’d even share happily, nay, joyously with his brother. And that’s when I’d make my move. I’d slink away to the couch. I’d lay down on it. I’d sigh. I’d hear that sweet, familiar sound of the Xbox turning on and then…I’d veg while tiny minions delivered licorice to my mouth.
And in that moment, everyone’s Christmas wishes would have come true.
Somewhere late on Christmas day, after both toddlers had climbed all over me ALL DAY, I got squirrely. Toddler One refused to nap and no new toy would please him. In a fit of exasperation I yelled, “WHAT!? WHAT DO YOU WANT?!?!”
He burst into tears and screamed, “YOU!”
I put my face in my hands and slumped down to pick him up. He cried and cried, which made me cry. I told him I was sorry and held him until he fell asleep on me. And that’s when it dawned on me. I wasn’t going to get away. No fish, no toy, no train would give me the elusive break for which I so desperately pined.
Because all my kids really wanted for Christmas, was me.
Determined to redeem my super Santa status, I vowed to deliver. If all my kids really wanted for Christmas was me, then that was what I was going to give them.
So for the next ten days, we never left each other’s side. They climbed on me, slept on me and ate on my lap. We had extra-long bedtime snuggles, epic bath times, and I responded to every tiny night whimper. We built snow forts and snowmen; made blanket tents and block towers. We read every book. We wrestled. For ten days straight, I was theirs—and they were mine.
As the holidays came to an end and work loomed in the future, I wondered how the toddlers would deal with detoxing from our bonding binge. I dropped them off at the babysitter’s house that first day back to work, and with nary a tear, they both went willingly. I got in the van and drove off only to find I was the one crying. Our vacation was over. Our intense snuggle time had come to an end.
But there was more to my tears. I was exhausted. I pulled over and let myself have a little cry. (Who am I kidding, it was a big ugly sob.)
Then I wiped the snots and tears away, and I got down to business.
No, not work business, but self-care business.
I phoned in a sick day.
Because as much as I loved our bonding binge, all I wanted for Christmas was me too.