One thing about being a new Dad is learning that the divide between what I imagined child raising to be like and what it is actually like is as large as what I imagined The Log Cabin Bar in Yreka to be like (quaint, cozy, fire-lit), to what it is actually like (smelly, toothless, dangerous).
Christmas is the perfect example: I imagined Dylan, who is unable to crawl or speak, seeing Santa for the first time, pulling her little self off the floor and dashing toward St. Nick, yelling, "I've been good! I'd like a pony, please!" Instead, I've learned, Christmas is a horror-fest for small kids, filled with over-stuffed, terrifying creatures who get in the face of your child and yell Merry Christmas! or, Have you been a good girl? or, Where's the Log Cabin? and frighten your child.
Santa (as played by Dad for Dylan's daycare), was supposed to be, at the very least, a recognizable, warm voice beneath a soft and fuzzy beard, not a crazy man in a velvet jacket. The fear in her eyes as we placed her on Santa's lap made me think someone switched Dad for Charles (or Marilyn) Manson, and Dylan spotted the error first. The other smaller kids hid behind the couch and could not be coaxed out with wrapped gifts or candy. Dylan had no choice (remember, she still can't crawl away from us), so we have loads of photos of a laughing Santa and a screaming baby.
The Christmas lights were supposed to be softly blinking beacons for Santa's sleigh, helping Dylan drift off to dream of sugar-plum fairies. Instead, ours turned into mini-strobe lights at an Ibiza rave, keeping Dylan awake and dancing in her crib until the early hours of the morning.
The presents were great for hours of fun ... that is, the wrapping paper and toy packaging provided Dylan with hours of fun. The presents, not so much. At least the wrapping paper has less lead-based paint than the toys.
And the Christmas tree? Actually, that was a hit. The lights weren't too disco, it had lots of shiny things, and, of course, was loaded with sock-monkeys. Because Dylan can't crawl (except backwards), she couldn't yard the branches and ornaments off. During meltdowns, we'd prop her in front of it and she'd instantly smile and coo. Unfortunately, this means that the tree will have to stay until every last Fir needle has dropped on the carpet, the cats have pulled down all the ornaments, and the dogs have sufficiently marked its base.
Despite being overwhelmed, Dylan had a pretty good Christmas. Lots of love, toys, and even a little of Grandma Lucy's French Toast for breakfast. We paced the gift giving (there's still a pile of unopened ones under the dying tree), and she didn't get left anywhere or knocked out of her car seat. No one even spilled egg nog on her head.
I can't help but think that in four months she'll be a year old. A year! It makes me realize that I need to stop, breathe, and try to catch all the little moments right now. But, it's inevitable, and it's coming. I can even picture her first birthday now, Dylan running toward me, arms outstretched, yelling, "I want a pony!"