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December 28, 2018

How I Did NOT “Get Ahead of Holiday Hiccups”

Contributed by Emma Hartman, Program Coordinator (Mars, PA center)

Had I found the time to read our previous article on How to Get Ahead of Holiday Hiccups, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to write this today.


My daughter is a funny, strong willed passionate 2 ½ year old. This year, for the first time, I saw the wonder of Christmas through her eyes and it was nothing short of amazing.  My ‘hiccup’ was a combination of going a little overboard with gifts and more significantly, way overboard with unrealistic expectations…sound familiar?

My Hope:

In my head, I was expecting a room full of laughter as we open presents by a warm fire, afternoon games while the little one naps and a beautiful spread of food served at precisely 5pm…and most importantly, pure happiness exuding from everyone, all day.

My Reality:

All night stuffy nose = tired toddler and tired parents in the AM. But, oh boy… PRESENTS! Lots of excitement, so many presents! Too many presents! Meanwhile, mommy has a headache, my child doesn’t want to wear clothes anymore, and we are swimming in unwrapped gifts and scrunched up balls of wrapping paper.

Nap time arrives… two hours later she finally falls asleep. My husband and I play one very rushed game before I realize that dinner should have been started long before now. 5pm goes by. 6pm goes by. Dinner FINALLY makes it to the table. At this point, our poor, sick daughter is now overtired, VERY hungry and sobbing at the dinner table. Mommy just wants to go and lay down.

My Reflection:

Oh no! I did it; I did exactly what I coach fellow colleagues not to do —  have overly high expectations and then take it personally when things don’t go to plan. After a month of trying to plan the most perfect day, I ended up feeling overwhelmed, sad and very ready for it to be over. After a wonderful chat with a co-worker I realized that it will be okay. Next year will be different. Next year my expectations will be realistic, I will not expect so much of myself or our daughter whose stuffy nose just got the best of her.

Children are so observant; they soak up the room around them and these experiences have a significant impact on their social and emotional skill-set as they age . They rise with the excitement but then have very little control of how to bring that excitement back down without crash landing. It’s our job as the adults to take a deep breath, smile kindly and help them through it, whether dinner is on the table on time or not. They will remember the special moments, the feelings, and how those around them were feeling far more than the gifts, meals, and predetermined schedule.

When the holidays come along next year I will not strive for perfection, I will strive for reality. I will spend less time thinking about aesthetics and more time helping Penny through whatever the day brings.