Wouldn’t it be swell if everyone’s holiday resembled a scene depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting? It’s just not realistic— and where’s the fun in that, anyway? Smiles and tantrums, calm and kerfuffles, serenity and debacles are all the things that make the holidays unpredictable and beautiful. We compiled a list of possible snafus and survival tips to help you keep your cool.

holidaysurvival_katieself_holidaysurvival_national_redtricyclephoto: courtesy of Katie Self

Possible Snafu: Meltdowns on Santa’s Lap

Imagine you’re standing in the line of melting children and anxious parents waiting to overpay for that annual snapshot with the mall Santa. It’s your turn and suddenly one of your little angels develops an irrational fear of all things Santa. Mr. Claus props your kid up like a wet noodle as you’re looking for the nearest exit.

Survival Tip: What’s the problem here? A cheesy mall snapshot capturing a Level 4 toddler freakout and an obviously annoyed Santa is Instagram gold. Get the shot, dig out their favorite lovie you’ve stashed in the diaper bag and smile because this is a picture you’ll treasure.

Christmas Present Silly Facephoto: Jshontz via flickr

Possible Snafu: Gift Duplication

An adult who receives a duplicate gift will proclaim their love of the item while discreetly digging through tissue paper in search of a gift receipt, careful to preserve any tags. Children, however, are prone to reactions anywhere on the spectrum of matter-of-a-fact “I already own this” proclamations to window-shattering, rolling-on-the-floor screaming fits.

Survival Tip: Never underestimate the value of role playing. Prepare them for the possibility this could happen and coach them on ways to respond —  “No matter what you receive, just say ‘thank you'” It’s also a great time to remind them it’s the thought, not the gift, that counts. Play a fun role-playing game and simulate opening something they already own, allowing yourselves to get a little silly. Should the situation occur, it’ll be an amusing wink-and-nod secret between you.

babytoys_wusphotoland_flickr_holidaysurvival_national_redtricycle

photo: The Wu’s Photo Land via flickr creative commons

Possible Snafu: Toy Surplus

Once the pine-scented dust has settled, post-holidays, you’re left with a mountain of toys and tchotchkes that need to find a resting place in your already-busting-at-the-seams home. Finding space for the 25 spider rings and 16 pencils accumulated at the school Halloween party drove you to tears, and now you need to find space for a life-sized panda bear, Barbie’s Beach House and Ken’s midlife-crisis cherry red Corvette.

Survival Tip: Resist the urge to meet the garbage man at the curb come trash collection day and adopt a one-in, one-out rule. A couple weeks before Christmas, review your kid’s wish list with them and explain in order to receive, they need to give. Be prepared: They’re resourceful little boogers and will try to convince you they can find space for it all — even if it means shoving things under chairs, stacking items precariously or throwing out their underpants to make room in a drawer. Donate your gently loved, but no longer wanted, toys to a worthy local nonprofit organization.

Roboraptorphoto:  Angela Chasteen via flickr

Possible Inevitable Snafu: Batteries Not Included

Toy manufacturers seem to enjoy the idea of parents wrestling with a mini screwdriver to get battery compartments open. And they usually don’t even throw us a bone by giving us the first round of juice with a starter set of batteries. What do you do if it’s Christmas Day, no stores are open and Johnny cleared out his closet to make room for a life-like dinosaur that walks, talks, transforms and is slated to crush his little sister’s My Little Pony herd?

Survival Tip: Do yourself a favor and buy batteries in bulk before Santa makes his rounds. For the most part you know what gifts they’re receiving, so research the batteries requirements and be sure to have them on hand. Throw a few extra in the cart for the unexpected gifts from family.  While you’re at it, grab a toothpick-sized screwdriver the next time you’re at the hardware store— you’re going to need it.

pantryphoto: forwardstl via flickr

Possibly Snafu: Understocked Pantry

Holiday euphoria has fueled a sudden burst of energy and you have an inexplicable urge to bake 15 different types of cookies and a fruit cake. After a quick ingredient review, you realize you’re a ¼ tsp. of vanilla away from your destiny, but your little one is napping. Even if he wasn’t, you risk getting stuck in line behind the people clearing out the bottled water supply preparing for snowmageddon because they spotted a flake.

Survival Tip: Over stock-up on baking essentials. Most ingredients required for baking have a long shelf life, so if it takes you until Easter to use them all, no biggie. You can also get simple ingredients and lots of staples delivered to your home fast by using a food delivery service such as Instacart.

kid-drummingphoto: amblin via flickr

Possible Snafu: There is Noise … Lots of It

Maybe before you were a parent it brought you great joy to buy the most annoying gift you could possibly find for a sibling’s kids. Why not? You didn’t have to live with it and plus, when you were little your brother teased you relentlessly, so he totally deserved to lose partial hearing because you gifted his two-year-old cymbals. The day of reckoning is upon you— the gifts your kid receives will be big, they will be loud and they’re going to have more pieces than stars in the sky. Good luck, friends.

Survival Tip: We can’t help you here. If you fired the first shots, you have no choice but to accept an annoying gift or two. After the scores have been settled, initiate a peace treaty so no one needs to live in fear of what might be under the tree. Discuss parameters for gifts and work together to complete wish lists. If they break the treaty, you are well within your rights to unleash a wrath that can only be calmed by buying your niece or nephew a rambunctious puppy or a matching drum set for those cymbals.

What’s your secret to a stress-free holiday? Share it in the Comments!

— Maria Chambers