Thursday, December 18, 2008

There is a long long span of years between the last year you believed in Santa and the first year that your own child gazes up at the Christmas tree with that wonderful look on his face and you can hear what he is thinking:

"We have a tree in our house and it has lights on it and I wonder if I can juuuuuust reach that shiny thing with the ribbon on it."

"No Mace. Not a toy. Put it back, please. Put it back. Put it back. No. Put it [BIG CRASH] dang it."

As fun and magical as this time of year is for a parent of young children, it also means certain adjustments in how you do Christmas.

Christmas Past: as you bought gifts, you wrapped them and put them under the tree.

Christmas Present: you stash them in Grandpa's closet (hoping they don't pick up any strange smells) and then only pull them out after the kids go to bed Christmas Eve, wrap like crazy, accuse your husband of not wrapping his fair share and then get irritated because his presents aren't wrapped neatly enough.

Christmas Past: you decorated the tree, taking care to place the ornaments at evenly-spaced intervals to avoid any bare spots, and making sure that each ornament was pretty and in good shape.

Christmas Present: the only ornaments at the bottom of the tree within reach of a 21-month old are "the disposables" -- meaning they were purchased several years ago as gap fillers for the tree and if they are pulled off and used as pavement material for the new road being laid in your hallway with the Tonka dump truck, it's all good and no one gets hurt.

Christmas Past: your favorite ornaments were beautiful ornaments your parents gave you when you first got married or that you bought the first year you were married when you lived in San Diego and got a bunch of Christmas ornaments for seventy percent off the day after Christmas at the San Diego Zoo.

Christmas Present: your favorite ornaments are the ornaments your five year old made the past few years in preschool and kindergarten -- you know, pieces of wrapping ribbon glued to cardboard stars with glitter clumped in the middle -- and the ornaments with pictures of the kids on them. Oh -- and the ornaments that are closest to the top of the tree (away from sticky fingers) are always the 1st Christmas, 2nd Christmas, 3rd Christmas ornaments that your sister-in-law buys for the kids every year. I know that when I'm 60, I'm going to pull those ornaments out and cry every year when I put them on the tree.

Christmas Past: you went to a Christmas Eve service at church, slept late the next morning, had a leisurely breakfast and then at about 10:00, opened the couple of gifts you got from your husband and family.

Christmas Present: you still manage to make it to a Christmas Eve service, but because there is no childcare for Christmas Eve services, you are completely stressed the entire service because you are trying to keep your youngest in your lap and he wants to go up on stage to play with that drum set that's just like daddy's. After the service, you rush home so the kids can eat and you can get PopPop dressed in that Santa suit and daddy out on the roof with the jingle bells, so that you can get the "Santa sighting" over with and the kids in bed before 9:00 and can start wrapping up all those gifts by 10:00. The next morning, everyone's up by 6:30 to unwrap what now appears to be piles and piles of gifts under and around the tree and you barely glance at your own gifts because you're so focused on catching your child's reaction to receiving a red lightsaber on your video camera.

I like Christmas Present better than Christmas Past, even though the clean-up takes three times as long and at least three ornaments die every day the tree is up.


  1. That was fun reading! cherish those moments while you have them! It gets better each year. One thing that we started as a tradition in our family and it still happens (despite the lads being 18 and 15) is Santa puts a sack filled with goodies beside the boys' bed when they are fast asleep and they get up at around 7am and jump in our bed and they open each parcel with delight in their faces. That's always fun and they still look forward to that next week. Phil always does the Christmas Day breakfast!

  2. That was neat to read. Made me feel Christmasy. Is that a word?


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