Thanksgiving With A Toddler

Today is the big kick off of the holiday season. For most of us, it will be the first inevitable family gathering of the season. Since this could set the tone for how public outings go for your toddler over the next month, it might be important to pull some tools out of your utility belt to help you both survive until the new year. 

Spoken from childhood experience, Thanksgiving break is the first opportunity for your kid to unlearn every good habit they’ve practiced throughout the rest of the year. There’s no school, a flexible bedtime, and we, as adults, willingly load them up on sugar…in public. The following tips are designed to help keep your sidekick occupied, your wife off your back, and you on the couch watching football all afternoon:

1. Prepare your toddler for the big day

Even though he runs around in circles for no reason, thinks time out is funny, and has a natural aversion to nap time, the toddler is a creature of habit. Any deviation from the norm and things can get tense. So I’ve taken on the role of a secret service agent, briefing Boy Wonder in the car as we move from place to place.

“Okay Mr. President. We watch the parade from 9-10, then it’s brunch with Grammie, Turkey pardoning at 11, nap time at twelve – Please don’t give me that look sir. It’s for your own good. Your schedule is free until 1600 when we arrive at Aunt Brenda’s. There will be playtime with cousins, followed by a brief dinner, followed by more playtime. Then a visit to Gramma Shirley and we’re home free. We’ll end the night giving thank, reading holiday books, and possibly eating more pie.

“Clear my schedule! I want to sing ‘Wheels On The Bus’.”

Sooth the savage beast with a little game day prep. It can go a long way for even the youngest toddlers.

2. Contraband

A few goldfish will not spoil his dinner. It may just save you a meltdown or two. Just keep a ziplock baggy in your pocket and slip him a few to keep his belly full until that Turkey is ready. Which was supposed to be, what, forty-five minutes ago?

The same can be said of bringing a back-up meal. Face it. Toddlers are cute but they are picky. Bring a small Tupperware container of “safe food” that you know he’ll eat, slip it in the fridge, and bust it out if things go south. Don’t think of it as being rude. Consider it hostage negotiations.It will end the screams and shouts a lot sooner than turning in the other directions and saying, “Geez, that kid’s parents need to teach him some manners.”

3. Cousins

You’ve got a big screen t.v. to watch the Bills dominate the Cowboys. Your wife is happy catching up and gossiping with family, but what does a toddler have to keep them occupied? Cousins. To a little kid, especially mine, cousins are the best. Cousins are the barometers of how fun family get-together will be. Maybe that’s because they’re familiar, like brothers and sister that you don’t see enough to get sick of. My best advice, recruit the oldest, most eager of the cousins to “play” with your toddler. Voila, you’ve got a built in babysitter and uninterrupted game time viewing.

4. Tis the season

Family has a way of making you forget. On Thanksgiving morning you’re excited and think “Time with family. This could be fun.” But after an hour with them, you remember, “Oh, yeah, everyone is here is crazy. No wonder I moved 3,000 miles away.”  After two hours, I’ll be trying to drunk order plane tickets back to California and wind up with a California King delivered to my doorstep by Black Friday Eve. Merry Christmas to me! 

Kids can smell your fear, no matter how well you think you’re hiding it, and he will act on your cues. So sit back, relax, and learn to laugh. He might eat more pie than green beans. He may dump cranberry sauce all over his cute outfit. But today is not the day to freak out. Take Elsa’s advice and let it go. Remember all you have to be thankful for on this kick off to the holidays.

Have a super Thanksgiving IncrediDads!

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