The Only Problem with Low Expectations…

Oh, Christmas.  The one part of Christmas Jimmy and I were looking forward to was being Santa Claus and seeing the look on Daniel’s face Christmas morning.  That assumed bright spot kept us going through ennui, a scorched dinner, disappointment, passive-aggression, depression, narcissism and omni-present illness that characterized the holiday this year.   Christmas Eve we made cookies for Santa, had a great dinner, drove around the neighborhood to see the lights, and threw out the food we made for the reindeer.  We read The Night Before Christmas before tucking in Daniel as is our tradition; once we were sure he was asleep, we set about being Santa. Jimmy and I had high hopes for the next day.

Cookies for Santa

Cookies for Santa

Santa on Christmas Eve

Santa has been here!

When we heard him stir on Christmas morning, we got up, turned on the tree and went to get him out of his room. The first thing that greeted me was an overturned potty and a naked little boy.  Cleaning up pee is always my favorite thing to do first thing in the morning!  Once the room was clean and he was dressed, we urged him to go see what Santa brought him.  And urged him.  And urged him.

Daniel wouldn’t go into the living room.  He informed us that he couldn’t and instead ran into the guest room to hide. No amount of coaxing could get him out.  We implored him.  We begged him.  We cajoled him, incredulous that our 3-year-old didn’t want to see his presents.  The more we asked, the more defensive he became, informing us that his name wasn’t Daniel.  It was Diesel.  His “I can’t”  became higher and whinier.

We were flabbergasted.  What the hell?  We had bought wonderful gifts that we thought he’d like.  We had cherished making Santa magical for him, but he wouldn’t even take a look.  We looked at each other, speechless, and feeling bad that we felt so irritated with our child on Christmas morning.

We should have expected something to go awry Christmas morning.  In retrospect, Daniel had been shy and avoiding all surprises lately; what is Santa but one huge surprise?  It was still a kick in the gut, and maybe if we felt better, we would have laughed it off.  It’s just that this part of Christmas – being Santa for Daniel – was the one thing we had thought would go well, would be a no-brainer.  It was the only part of Christmas that mattered for us.  And so Jimmy was speechless and I wanted to cry at 9 AM on Christmas Day.

We finally managed to coax Daniel into the living room, and once there, he was as excited as we hoped he would be.  The bittersweet feelings remained, though.  I felt like we were the worst parents in the world having to guilt our child into enjoying Christmas, and his initial reluctance was just one more reminder that this holiday has been less than ideal.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

Here are a few more ways in which the holidays have continued to be less than ideal:

  • Jimmy contracted my pink eye
  • Jimmy finally was struck down by whatever Frankenvirus I have
  • I made my third trip to the doctor on 12/26 because I still felt like crap.  I was given a second dose of antibiotics and Claritin D (I’m happy to say that only 2.5 weeks after I got sick, I began to feel better.)
  • My pink eye is better, but my new supply of left contact lenses haven’t arrived, so I’m alternating between glasses that occasionally hurt my face or one right contact
  • I’ve cried twice
  • We have no energy
  • Daniel is being very 3, very contrary.  We’ve taken away toys every day and instituted a reward chart.  We have good days and bad days.  I know it’s normal, but it’s frustrating and depressing to feel like you are constantly disciplining your child and then the more you have to discipline, the more you worry you are crushing his spirit.
  • We are not enjoying this time off. Daniel probably isn’t either because he thinks we’re yelling at him all the time.

In short, what I’ve learned over the last 2 weeks is that you can accept and prepare for low expectations, but sometimes, those expectations aren’t low enough.


We’re two-thirds of the way through December 31 in my neck of the woods, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  It has been a shitty year for my family, and Jimmy and I cannot wait to see the year depart.  2012, it’s not your fault explicitly, but I have no problems blaming you.

Tonight, I will raise my glass of champagne high in celebration and joy as the last few seconds of 2012 tick by.

Goodbye, 2012.  I won’t be sorry to see you go.

May 2013 be kinder to us all.


  1. I’m so sorry you’re having a rotten holiday. Sometimes maybe no expectations are the way to go, but at Christmas with all the weight of tradition, that’s hard to do. I hope things look up for you all soon.

  2. Sorry Christmas started with that odd beginning! I will never understand 3: it was a strange age that I didn’t excel with 😦 I did lower a lot of expectations. Now I’m able to raise them again, so I’m enjoying that. I’m doing something I always wanted to: reading the “Little House” books to the twins. We are having a blast. So maybe keep hope alive: he will eventually appreciate traditions. And maybe he’ll create some new ones: at 3, the twins introduced some fun rituals that we still enjoy today (like the bedtime guarantee). Happy New Year!!

    1. I love that you are reading the Little House books to both your boy and girl! 3 has definitely been a very odd age so far. Some really great highs and some really profound lows. Ugh!

  3. Sorry Christmas morning didn’t pan out the way you had envisioned. Santa didn’t really take hold/make sense until age 4 here, so there’s still time!

    I hope 2013 is an awesome year for you!

    1. Thank you! The bar for 2013 is set fairly low. I have a shy boy, so I think it will take him a little bit longer to warm up to Santa. Maybe next Christmas will be better.

  4. Oh, KeAnne, what a crappy way to spend the holiday! I’m sorry it wasn’t what you’d hoped.

    Funny, though … our kids, ages almost-2 and 6, didn’t want to open presents, either. And I was sick with a sinus infection. Finally I went and lay down in the living room and told them I was going to open MY presents, dammit. 😉

  5. What a bummer holiday. I’m so sorry it didn’t live up to your very realistic expectations.

    I had really be hopes for Thanksgiving this year and it ended up being such a disaster and I was so disappointed that I went into Christmas with very tempered hopes. It ended up being okay but I’m realizing that with a toddler (and a strong willed one that that) there is just no way you can expect anything. You’re bound to be disappointed.

    I hope 2013 treats you better than 2012 did.

    Abiding with you.

  6. My kid was totally scared of Santa when she was 3 (or… almost 3 maybe? My memory is vague). I’m not sure why, but I think it was something about him sneaking into the house that was scary. She also was not at all into surprises. BUT this year, at 4, she was all about Santa and really excited, so we grown-ups got to have a good time being Santa. There’s still hope! (and sorry I’m so far behind! I will get to all your posts, probably soon!)

    1. It is such a relief to read this b/c honestly, we were like, WTF???? Do we have the only child who doesn’t care about Christmas? Rationally, you know it’s because he’s 3 and shy and scared of new things but ugh! So thank you for reassuring me that it will likely be better next Christmas.

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