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The Prepared Parent's Guide to Baby's First Holidays

I am sure you want your holidays to be memorable and not overwhelming, and this can feel like a delicate balance baby’s first year. To keep things festive rather than frantic, put your family’s needs first and then consider extended family’s expectations. Here’s how to share your new blessing generously yet judiciously, so everyone can enjoy this special time of year - including baby.

Re-prioritize expectations. Traditions loom large during the holidays, but you don’t have to celebrate every season the same way. During the first year with baby, you will encounter new limits on your time and energy that you may not have imagined. Consider your family’s priorities before you plan. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about what you want baby’s first holidays to feel like, and then make that dream a reality by communicating what works for you with extended family.

Refresh routines. The holidays are always cause for celebration but when you’ve got a baby in tow, the season shifts into a slower gear. As a parent, you may wish to give up some traditional tasks that you would normally tackle with glee. Rather than sending a long annual holiday letter to family and friends, sending a card with baby’s photo is enough. Instead of baking a huge plate of cookies, how about doing a cookie swap with your parent group? Perhaps you decline a few holiday party invitations and choose the most baby- friendly ones. Now that baby is the centre of your family, don’t feel pressured to do everything you have always done in the past before baby.

Research stages. Whether you decide to travel cross- country or stay home and nest, consider baby’s age and temperament. Do your homework online and collect
as much information as you can about the challenges associated with baby’s upcoming stages of development. No matter what your circumstances, planning a joyful holiday starts with accepting the things you cannot change - like your baby’s needs at a particular age. If you manage your expectations, you can relax your way through the holidays, instead of stressing your way through them.

Request help. The holidays are a great time to make a gift wish list and ask for support from loved ones. Clear out the baby items you no longer use. Then chat with friends to find out what items were helpful to them when they had kids. Share your gift list with family in whatever way feels most appropriate. Don’t be surprised if you get more than enough support over the holidays simply because you asked for it.

Retreat often. Your baby does not care that it’s time for the extended family feast, so expect interruptions and have an exit plan in mind if unexpected meltdowns occur. When baby is upset, you might have the impulse to apologize. But put yourself in baby’s booties. A cross-country trip, a strange house, people poking and prodding non-stop... wouldn’t all of this make you feel cranky? Tantrums will pass more quickly if you stay in tune with baby and filter out expectations of everyone else. Remember that adults are perfectly capable of managing their own moods.

Simplify traditions. Keep traditions as simple as possible this year. Sitting in a dim room gazing at the twinkly lights is the kind of new tradition you can eagerly embrace. Here are a few other simple ideas: Read a holiday book aloud before bedtime; take your time getting out of bed in the morning; take after-lunch naps. Babyhood is fleeting. Slow down and squeeze all the sacredness you can out of this special season. Having baby at the centre of your holidays will only make each moment more special.

Stay detached. Aunt Franny may have strong opinions about child rearing and Uncle Peter may be known for low tolerance of the pitter-patter of little feet, but you are the parent now. Take care of yourself first, then your child, and then your immediate family. Stick to this plan even when you are with extended family. If relatives disagree with your child-raising philosophies, take a bemused but detached stance. Families are usually more diverse than we remember, especially when it comes to opinions. Allow others their points of view, while staying loyal to your parenting instincts.

Capture joy. A lot of energy goes into posed photos during the holiday season, but don’t forget to take advantage of candid photo opportunities with baby. Your little one will never be the star of the show quite like this again. Those first moments when friends and family meet baby will elicit grins and glee. When baby is happy, relaxed, and smiling, get your camera out and click away. Photos of loved ones with baby make convenient thank-you notes you can send over email after you return home.

Christina remembers the exhausted glory of being a new parent as a time when getting through the day was a triumph, never mind traveling across the country at the same time.


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