How to Ruin Thanksgiving: Bring Your Toddler

messy toddlerBroken heirlooms. Crying. Nursing at the table. Sweet potato in everyone's hair. Judgy friends and relatives grumbling. Know what doesn't pair well with Thanksgiving turkey? Toddlers. Know what I'm super grateful for this year? That my son is long past the toddler stage so I can eat my turkey in peace.

Toddlers and Thanksgiving go together like gasoline and matches, like dogs and chocolate, like fingernails and chalkboards. And the worst of it isn't even the hell your toddler puts you through as you try to survive the meal. Nope. It's the hell everyone else puts you through because you dared to expose them to the realities of a normal, healthy toddler.


When I think back on all my worst moments as the parent of a toddler, they all have one thing in common: they all happened in public. Toddlers do all sorts of antisocial things. They're little people! They're just learning how to behave and they're pretty high-maintenance, still. But man, that toddler-like behavior sure does piss people off! If you can't control your kid in public, you are obviously a "bad parent," and if you're too strict with your child, you're a "bad parent."

Take the pressure of managing the toddler chaos, the strain of travel, and all the other holiday-related pressures and the stress just feeds straight into your child, making them even crazier than usual. I get indigestion just remembering dinners past during the toddler years. I remember one year when my husband spent the entire meal eating in the hallway with our son. Fun times! But even sweeter was the way our dinner companions complained about that. Gee ... glad you missed him. So did I. But did you really think he really wanted to be out there?

What if your toddler wants to nurse in the middle of dinner? Sorry extended breastfeeders, but you are not going to get this one right. Your choices are as follows.

  1. Take the child to another room to nurse and listen to everyone click their tongues because you can't stay at the table and make your kid wait for just 45 minutes.
  2. Make your child cry at the table because he wants to nurse and listen to everyone complain about your crying child. (No, he doesn't want a bottle. It's not about hunger -- he's freaked out over having to eat with all of you and needs some comfort.)
  3. Nurse your child at the table and incur the eye-rolls of They Who Do Not Believe in Public Breastfeeding. Because you should not feed your child in the same location where people are eating. That's just gross!

Oh well, sucks to be you. Literally. And what I really love about managing a toddler at a holiday meal is the way even other parents seem to get amnesia about how hard this was when their kids were toddlers. So if I can have but one wish this Thanksgiving, it's that we give the parents of toddlers a break. Hey, I know, maybe SOMEONE ELSE could offer to get off their butt and entertain the toddler for a few minutes so you can finish eating! I think we would all be thankful.

Are you dreading sharing Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends or do you get enough support?


Image via deltaMike/Flickr

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