Holiday Overstimulation and Kids

I wish I had the name and address of the nice elderly gentleman who gave Sweet Pea a Twizzler during the Holiday Pops Concert so that she would stop screaming. I would love to send him a thank you note. Perhaps the fact that we left the concert at intermission was thank you enough. Thank you and a meek acknowledgement from me that maybe a glitzy performance with loud music in a darkened auditorium was not the wisest choice of holiday-infused family fun I had made this year.

holiday overstimulation and kids

Holiday Overstimulation and Kids

I wish I could say the ‘not age appropriate’ holiday concert was my only misstep this year. However, it seems like so far, many of the activities I have planned for the holiday season have been more bust than boom. Or rather, loud boom (in the form of a temper tantrum) followed by a whimpering bust. With half of the holiday season over, where did I go wrong? Why is my adorable 2-year old not getting into the holiday spirit? Is there something wrong with her? Or, is the problem really me? Perhaps the problem is the unrealistic expectations I may have unwittingly set up to create the perfect Norman Rockwell moment, only to be smacked in the face with a reality that is more akin to ‘National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.’

Here is the evidence:

  1. Decorating the Christmas Tree (yep, it started right at the very beginning): We thought we were being smart by unloading all the Christmas decorations while Sweet Pea watched Minnie Mouse on TV. We probably should have set up the tree, lights, and garland while she slept but we let her ‘join’ in the fun. I grossly overestimated how much she would enjoy putting ornaments on the tree. Don’t get me wrong, Sweet Pea loved digging through the boxes of Christmas decorations. However, her 2-year old fingers had a really difficult time with decking the halls. I helped her with about two ornaments before she got frustrated… and went back to Minnie Mouse.
  2. Overcrowded Holiday Festivals: I was so excited to check out a local Christmas festival that featured hundreds of trees that had been decorated for charity. The website promised loads of fun for kids, which included a model train display, crafts, cookie decorating, a train ride, petting zoo, and Merry-Go-Round. What could go wrong? Well, it turns out the festival is hugely popular. So popular that there were probably thousands of merriment seekers. The festival took place inside the main event hall of the state fairgrounds… which made the entire event very… LOUD! It was so loud! It was so crowded! We bumbled our way back to the children’s area and I know Sweet Pea did have some fun. However, the line for the 2-minute train ride was 20 minutes long, the petting zoo was really just a few animals in cages (no petting that I could see), and the Merry-Go-Round was broken. We did not leave this festival merrier than when we entered it. I was overstimulated so I know Sweet Pea was probably at her wits end.
  3. Events that Make Your Kid Physically Uncomfortable: The next weekend I was sure would be a hit because we had tickets to ICE!. We got an early start so that we would not have to wait in line too long and the theme was Frosty the Snowman. I was super excited to share this experience with Sweet Pea because we had already read the ‘Frosty the Snowman’ book and would follow-up by watching the classic cartoon. However, in the staging area, Sweet Pea was visibly uncomfortable in her event-issued parka because she couldn’t move her arms. That was nothing though  compared to her reaction once inside the exhibit. The temperature inside the ICE! exhibit was about 10 degrees F– Brrrr! Sweet Pea broke out into tears as soon as the arctic blast hit her face. She would not walk at all and didn’t stop grimacing until we were back in the toasty 37 degree weather outside. Sure, by the end she kind of started getting into it… but it wasn’t the super fun experience I had hoped it would be. Even after we left the exhibit, it took Sweet Pea a half an hour before she was in good spirits.
  4. Christmas pictures and Santa: Again, I tried. I really did try to minimize the chaos surrounding the visit to Santa and obligatory Christmas pictures. My husband and I took off work so that we could accomplish both of these items during the week, when the mall theoretically wouldn’t be crowded. Swing and a miss on that one! Sure, the timing was about as perfect as we could hope for. However, our little girl was decidedly non-compliant. We made a valiant effort to sing, dance around, and otherwise be goofy enough to elicit even the hint of a smile from Sweet Pea during the photo session. The best we got for our efforts was– amused. Sweet Pea just wanted to be left alone to play with Daniel Tiger (see above). The visit to Santa was not much better. Oh, she sure admired Santa from afar… but when it was her turn to sit on the lap of the ‘jolly old elf,’ she burst into tears and clung to my leg. The best we could get was Sweet Pea sitting on my lap with Santa’s hand on my shoulder. ‘Sigh’
  5. Toddler Christmas Party: I should have seen this one coming from a mile away. I had spent all day preparing for the Christmas party. That meant I was not hanging with my beautiful little girl. I reasoned that we would spend loads of quality time together once the party started. Well, I was partially correct. We did spend loads of time together.. but that was because Sweet Pea melted down about 5 minutes before the party started, and clung to me screaming for the next 45 minutes. There were so many people. All the other kids were touching her toys. Why is it so loud?! Needless to say, it took a few minutes upstairs in the quiet of her bedroom– me rocking her and stroking her back– in order to restore Sweet Pea to her mostly effervescent self. She enjoyed the rest of the party.. and even shared Daniel Tiger with one of her friends. However, she stayed glued to my lap for most of the rest of the evening. I didn’t mind that one bit.

spoil daughter at christmas 7

And that brings me to this afternoon and the Holiday Pops Concert. I think Sweet Pea had about as much fun as could be expected. The first half ended with tap-dancing Santas and she really loved that. However, there were signs that this concert was too much for her. There were signs that what she really needed was a nap. So, we cut our losses and decided to end on a high note. Sweet Pea was fast asleep before we made it out of the parking garage.

Does that mean my 2-year old is too young for the holiday spirit? Nah– I think I am just expecting too much from her. I am thinking back to what I loved as a kid and expecting that my 2-year old will enjoy the things that I probably didn’t even experience until age 7 or 8. So, what do I do now? There are still 11 days left until Christmas after all. Well, I think focusing on doing less and just being together more would be a great start. After all, Sweet Pea may just now be learning who Santa and Frosty are, but she has known me since the moment she was conceived. Mommy and Daddy are her world. Everyone and everything else is just noise. So, we can still do fun holiday events but I think maybe I will take in down a notch. After all, there are still some books to be read, some Christmas shows to snuggle up and watch, some crafts to be done, and some cookies to be baked. Maybe by focusing on activities we can do together, as opposed to activities we can observe together, I will give Sweet Pea just enough stimulation that she too can warm up to this magical holiday and get into the Christmas spirit with me!

I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Thanks for reading,

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  1. I can SOOOOO relate to this! My 2 year old will sit on Santa. But we spend most of the church Christmas concert tonight in the hallway screaming, then a nice lady gave my son a candy cane that they were going to hand out at the end, just in time for us to sneak back in for the last song.
    PS you little girl is so cute.