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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

All I Want for Christmas Is a Toilet Paper Roll

By Jessica Guerrieri

Too many mom-friends have declared defeat. 

They would rather entirely forgo putting up the Christmas tree rather than spend the holidays playing an elaborate game of keep-away between the toddler and the sparkly family heirloom choking hazards (I mean, ornaments). 

After all, they say, the holidays should not be a hostage negotiation. 

I, however, refuse to let a tiny human who still needs help wiping her own butt dictate my world. 

I intentionally married an engineer so that whenever we faced these décor and other safety hazards, my husband would always come up with a creative and ingenious solution. (Also, I knew that, between his mathematical prowess and my sassy, poetic genius, we’d spawn the gene pool’s most well rounded offspring.) To wit:

Our vertical “death stairs” have become a functional slide. 

Our four-cornered “stitches or staples” concrete fireplace (so named for the type of sutures that would be required if someone went headfirst into it) has become a soft toy chest/loveseat. 

And what would have been the plastic eyesore otherwise known as a baby gate has become a Joanna Gaines–inspired, Pinterest-worthy barn door. 

But my husband’s masterpiece was the aesthetically pleasing barrier he made to keep then-baby Charlotte away from our first family Christmas tree. I’ll never forget it. It was a baby gate of sorts, constructed from wood wrapped in wrapping paper. The idea was that it would resemble giant presents surrounding the tree. But its real purpose, of course, was to keep Charlotte away from ornaments and other dangers. 

While he was building the glorious contraption out in the garage, I took Charlotte over to the tree to begin the tedious task of teaching her to look but not touch. 

She had yet to express any real fears at that point. She went to anyone, laughed when our dogs pretended to wrestle, and, if I let her, would body-surf down the stairs (hence the slide-stairs idea). 

Charlotte went to touch the tree like Sleeping Beauty did the spindle. Immediately, she jerked her hand back, cried out, and rushed for my lap. By this point, my husband was three-hours deep into MacGyver-mode, and I didn’t have the heart to say that the whole project might not be necessary.

So Charlotte and I retreated to the living room, which had enough toys to rival Santa’s workshop, only for her to make a beeline for the bathroom to play with the toilet paper roll. 

The entire situation was a perfectly wrapped, carefully constructed metaphor for what the holiday season is like for children and parents everywhere. The presents ignored in favor of toilet paper, and the no-longer-needed thing that took hours to make, teach us that the real gifts we give each other are not things but lessons. And our teachers are the ones still figuring out the location of their butts. 

Jessica Guerrieri is a mom, humorist, and writer. Find her at and on Instagram @witandspitup.