Parenting toddlers is messy, and things get broken. So rather than toss ornaments after they break them, I'm keeping them to remind us of all the memories of this season of life.

Why I’m Keeping All the Broken Christmas Ornaments

Parenting toddlers is messy, and things get broken. So rather than toss ornaments after they break them, I'm keeping them to remind us of all the memories of this season of life.

By Jess Carpenter of Jess Carpenter Writes

Saturday, I was elbow deep in my favorite activity: Dishes. The thing that got me to stop? The sound of shattering glass. Obviously, I launched into my natural, “What did you just do?!” while running to the front room where we had just decorated the Christmas tree not one hour ago.

There, my one-year-old stood with a grin that rivaled Baby Grinch, three shatter-proof ornaments in hand. Behind him, my three-year-old was on her hands and knees, desperately trying to pick up the pieces of the ornament she had just shattered. Of course, she couldn’t have been playing with the shatter-proof ones. She had to reach up high on her tiptoes, picking out the one ornament I had bought on the honeymoon my husband and I took five years ago.

The sand and glitter were strewn across the floor, the shells and little sand toys haphazardly being picked up in her tiny hands. A priceless ornament filled with the memory of one of our first big trips together as a couple was now gone forever. I won’t get the ornament back. But as I watched her pick up the pieces of the ornament (for like, 0.3 seconds because it was glass), I wasn’t mad anymore.

Part of me was upset, of course. Truthfully, it wasn’t the first ornament she had broken, but the look of devastation on her face, trying so hard to make it better, shattered my heart like the ornament.

“Hey, it’s okay,” I said, sitting down next to her and grabbing the glass out of her hands. “This was a special ornament. We have to be really careful with them because when they break, we can’t fix them. Let’s not touch it, though. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“It was an accident.” She ran into the other room and closed the door behind her. I picked up the glass, and before I could go get her, she had come out of the room and began picking up the sand, little by little, with her fingers.

I stood up from the floor and glanced at one of the higher-up ornaments on the tree—a replica of our wedding cake that I had someone handcraft for me. The kind of ornament you only buy when you don’t have kids that will surely break it. But, surprise, it was the ornament my daughter had broken last year.

She had dropped it, breaking off the bottom third of the ornament. I should’ve thrown it away, but I didn’t. Because last year when she broke the ornament, I was sad and frustrated, and too stubborn to throw away something that had cost so much money.

But now? I laughed. I picked up my little girl and showed her the broken cake ornament that she had dropped last year. I hugged her, told her it was okay and explained why we needed to be careful. Like any toddler, her mood flipped and she broke out into a smile with an, “I love you, Mommy,” before running off.

I’m glad I kept that ornament. Because even though it’s broken (and probably a sight for sore eyes to anyone who comes over), it’s still a memory. The memory of our wedding, and the memory of our kids who seem to break more things than I ever thought possible.

I smiled as I cradled the seashells and glass pieces from the newly broken ornament.

Truthfully, I’d like to keep this year’s broken ornament as well. It seems to be a new trend around here. Though with it being glass, I don’t think it will be saved. But if I’m lucky, only a few more ornaments will be broken and I’ll have another one to keep. It’s just another memory for our tree.

Ornaments are meant to be looked at. Christmas is magical, especially for the kids, and if they can’t touch your tree, what’s the point? We get so caught up in creating this perfect Christmas for our children, but we often forget that all they want is to be present and be kids. They want to look at the shiny Christmas lights, touch the glittery ornaments, and revel in how pretty all the decorations are. Maybe, just maybe, we’re taking Christmas a bit too seriously.

Maybe your tree looks like mine, lopsided, with half-broken ornaments all around it, and three—now two—glass ornaments on the very, very top. Maybe you look at all the picture-perfect trees and wish you could have them. Surely, those people don’t have toddlers breaking all their precious ornaments, right?

Granted, I’ve learned my lesson. I think glass ornaments are going to be banned for at least 10 years, and even then, I’m sure there will be plenty that will still get broken. And for the record, I can’t even put Christmas presents out until the kids are asleep on Christmas Eve because they will unwrap them, so I’m really winning as a mom here. But, does it matter if you have half-broken ornaments versus picture-perfect placement?

No, it really doesn’t. Motherhood and parenting is messy, and it’s supposed to be that way. Keeping my broken ornaments shows me that it’s not a perfect, effortless journey to raise kids. Everywhere we go, and for every “big” memory, I buy a Christmas ornament. It’s a family tradition, and one that I am keen on keeping.

But, I’m switching it up a bit. I don’t want memories of only good things, like vacations and milestones. I want our Christmas tree to show both the good and the hard—cause that’s what parenting is about. Heaven knows in a few years I’m going to laugh about all of it.

So, if you come over and see a few broken ornaments on the tree, don’t worry, they’re supposed to be there. I’m not that disorganized. And feel free to ask me about each one—I’ll take you on a trip down memory lane.


About the Author

Jess Carpenter has a B.S. in psychology and an M.S. in health. Moonlighting as a writer, she’s also a professional hide-and-seeker, mediocre chef, and hazardous waste handler–AKA a wife and mom. You can find her chasing after her kids with a laptop in one hand and a snack in the other. Instagram: Website: Twitter: