When I was pregnant with Wally, young parents almost all reacted the same way when talking due dates—enjoy your freedom while it lasts, life as you know it is almost done, your lives are about to be turned upside down, get your sleep in now. It was so doom and gloom that Wally and I started to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into.

And all of those things were true. We didn’t sleep. We lost the freedom to spend all of Saturday movie hopping at AMC. We can count on one hand the number of times both of us have slept in past 8am in the past two years. I have found myself passing the same warnings on to those lucky preggos out there.

But—and this is a big Kardashian-sized but(t)—so many things have become so much better. I am suddenly the world’s greatest comedian to someone, who laughs at my every funny face. I have the perfect excuse for PBJ, Mac and Cheese, or chicken nuggets for lunch. I have an amusing little entertainer when grocery shopping who holds my list and says, “Peh-pers!” (“Peh” in a low pitch, “pers” high) every time I ask him what else is on the list. And perhaps the top of the “things that are much better with kids” list is holidays.

This Christmas, we got the chance to experience the magic of the season through the eyes of a two year old. Every Christmas tree or wreath we passed when driving, Wally would yell out, “Ooo, look at that one!” This gets to be a lot in the streets around our house, where there are about 15 wreaths per block. A bit like touring New York City with Buddy the Elf, I imagine.

This was our first Christmas season where Wally Ben could start to get into the meaning behind all the celebration. We tried our best to emphasize the Christmas story in as simple of a way as possible to help Wally Ben grasp it in a two year old way—Christmas is Jesus’s birthday. He was born in a stable with animals, and put in a manger. We even saw a Live Nativity, which Wally was very interested in, having heard a little about the story beforehand.

We also got excited about Santa, who we said comes to give presents to help celebrate Jesus’s birthday. We read The Night Before Christmas, and he memorized bits and pieces, including several of the reindeer names. I’d pause on one, and he’d say “Cupid” or “Blitzen”. The only part he consistently got wrong—”…and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of…” and he’d fill in the blank, “…mush”. A bit mixed up on his books there.

We went to meet Santa at a “Santa and Me” mini-session that our friend, Deanne, from work (who also is an excellent photographer) had. Wally Ben got 20 minutes with Santa, who lives with Deanne. (Did you know the North Pole is in Streamwood?) Her townhome community looks just like my sister’s neighborhood—so much that every time we’ve been to my sister’s house since our photo session, Wally Ben points to Liz’s neighbor’s house and says, “Santa lives there!”

On the way to meet Santa, Wally was all talk: “Waddy meet Santa! Waddy say hi Waddy give him hugs! Waddy give fist bump!” But our little shy guy was totally his public self when we walked in the door, which is to say, he clammed up, quieted down, refused to say a word, and forgot how to smile. Luckily we had twenty minutes, so here and there we got him to sit by Santa, open a present from him, ask for a choo choo, give a hug, and even touch his beard. As subdued as he was during the session, the experience changed The Night Before Christmas for him, prompting him to shout, “Santa!” every time I got to the first page Santa appears from then on, followed by, “Waddy touch beard!”

And I was glad that, as excited as Wally was about having met Santa, whenever we heard Away in a Manger on the radio and Wally picked out the word “Jesus” from the lyrics, he’d shout, “Jesus! Waddy saw him!” (It took me a minute the first time to realize he was talking about the Live Nativity.)

I couldn’t sleep the night before Christmas, since I was so excited that Santa might come. Wally was a little overwhelmed by my excitement, I think, so much that when he came down the stairs to see the stockings, presents, and empty plate of cookies, he wandered to the TV to zone out and stare at the On Demand Yule Log that was playing for a few minutes rather than jumping for joy. Once we showed him the presents were for him, he got into the opening, so much that he started to open every present under the tree—mommy’s, daddy’s, and his own.

In a few days, we’ll have our final Christmas celebration, and then the countdown will begin for next year’s Christmas! I imagine the next several years, holidays will only improve, as WV starts to grasp the meaning and excitement even more and we get a new little sibling to join him in the fun.

I think the next time I am talking to a first-time expectant parent, I might change my tune from the lack of sleep the little bugger is about to impose on them, and instead warn them—holidays are about to get so much better for the whole family! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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