Parenting and Surviving Christmas Parades and Santa’s Lap
Our Christmas schedule is always jam-packed for our daughters.
We watch Santa’s arrival by boat, a lighted tractor parade, a lighted boat parade; we buy a live tree, we decorate it, we celebrate Noche Buena on Christmas Eve because I’m brown, and then we celebrate Christmas day with my wife’s family because she is white and then we end it all with seven days on the beaches of Quintana Roo, Mexico because my life is good.
That’s on top of the regular stresses of the season, like seeing our family, making gingerbread houses, and spending countless hours buying gifts people will end up donating next spring cleaning.
My favorite Christmas event is Calistoga’s tractor parade. We get a hotel and get there early so we can walk around town and enjoy some of the other activities, like their Christmas fair at Pioneer Park.
As we were walking through the fair this year, my wife, Justine, said, “Oh, look, a cakewalk.”
For the first time, as an English-as-second-language speaker, I realized that I actually did not know what a cakewalk was. A cakewalk is very similar to musical chairs, except that in the end, you need to be standing on a number, and if that number is called out, then you win the cake.
A cakewalk did not seem easy. You know what’s easy? A cake run. You run to the store to buy a cake with your money like an adult. That’s easy!
This same fair had a tent with Santa in which kids could take a picture. We asked our oldest if she wanted to take her picture with Santa, and she said no.
This was a huge relief for me since I feel uncomfortable with the whole thing. Here I’m ingraining in my toddler really early on, “Go on, sit on this stranger’s lap. It’s okay. He has gifts.” Santa looks at them as if saying, “Yeah, little girl, sit on my lap, and I’ll grant you all your wishes,” which is not very different from Harvey Weinstein. Somehow Santa does not get canceled.
We make our way to the parade, and for one hour, the local vineyards, emergency responders, restaurants, spas, and farmers drive around this parade with vehicles representative of what they do, fully decked out and decorated with Christmas lights.
It is by far my favorite event of the season.
The only weird thing was this one guy on a giant John Deere utility tractor dressed as Santa. I am not making a comment on whether or not Santa can be a farmer. He only works one night of the year, and I don’t know what he does with the rest of his time.
I am also not making a comment on the noble profession of farming; we need farmers, or what else would we do with all of our disposable income if we didn’t use it to buy groceries?
My observation is that this guy’s Santa costume was terrifying. It was the nightmare before Christmas.
He looked like he had kidnapped Santa, skinned him, and wore his face while Santa was still held captive somewhere in the mountains inside a barrel of 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon.
We get back to our hotel room, get through our night routine, and we are able to have both of our daughters fall asleep at the same time, before nine, which, if you have ever traveled with young toddlers, is the holy grail.
But it wasn’t that easy.
My oldest, Jovie, snores like a sailor, and I snore like whatever snores louder than a sailor; I don’t know what, Sasquatch?
Justine can’t go to bed between the two tugboats communicating with each other, so she tosses and turns a little too indignant. I can feel that she is not sleeping, which I can tell, but I’m in that state of sleep where I can’t do anything about it or care.
Justine doesn’t get that she is no cake run to sleep next to. Once she falls asleep, she grinds her teeth, and it sounds like she is eating granola — if granola was made out of tacks, magnets, and paper clips.
Jovie wakes up at two in the morning and calls me over. I find her sitting on her bed, and she tells me matter of factly, “I have slept A LOT!!! I’m ready to go.”
“Jovie, it’s the middle of the night. Go to bed!”
She falls asleep, and then at 3:30, her sister, Amelie, wakes up, stands on her travel crib, and starts crying for Justine. Jovie sits on her bed, and I stand in the middle of the room, not knowing who to go to first, and all I can think is of the New York Times bestselling parenting advice book, “Go the Fuck to Sleep!”
Amelie gets what she wants, which is to breastfeed with her mom, but even that only lasts a few minutes before she starts to cry. So, at 3:55 in the morning, we bundle up and go out the door for a walk so Justine and Jovie can sleep.
Once the frustration of waking up in the middle of the night wears off, I remember I always end up enjoying these quiet moments with Amélie. They are so intimate. Something we share as if no one in the world existed. Here we are, in a city of 6,000 residents, at four in the morning, but we were the only ones up and down the road looking at all the Christmas decorations that were still on from the night before.
One hour after walking, she is having more and more tantrums, but I can see her body is in shock, and she won’t go to bed. I put her in the car and go to the only place I can: the next city over because everything in this town is closed until seven in the morning.
If you have never been, Calistoga is up in the mountains, and the next town over, Santa Rosa, is a short seventeen miles away but through snaking roads with no shoulders and plenty of precipices to fall on and die and no one to find you.
As I am driving in the fog through the precipices, I am overtaken by this very rational fear that this is how I die. When people ask Justine how I am doing, she would say, “he died.”
“Oh my god, he died! How?”
These other grieving faceless party would solemnly nod and say, “Parenting. That shit is lethal.”
By a Christmas miracle, we survive and make it to Starbucks at five-thirty in the morning. I need a lot of coffee so I ordered a medium hot americano, a medium iced americano, and a kids’ oat milk steamer for Amelie.
The barista tells me it’s going to be a bit because her machines are waking up, which I find really annoying because the last thing I need is to know that the machine got more sleep than I did.
We get our drinks, and we sit at the table.
My daughter climbs on her seat, sits on her knees, reaches for the drink, and takes a sip. She closes her eyes, savors the moment, and says with her baby accent, “Hmmm, that’s good!”
And just like that, the remaining frustration of getting no sleep and waking up at three melts away.
All the crazy is justified because she knows how to be so stinking adorable, and with one comment, she can disarm me.
It’s no cake run, but it is better than sitting on a perv’s lap.