Christmas, Birthdays and Easter with kids

When I was five my parents surprised me a few days before Christmas with a visit from Santa (aka Dad in disguise). Little me was playing happily in the living room when the front door crashed open and a tassel-toting red-white blur sprinted into our house, dropped a heap of presents by the Christmas tree, and dashed back out the same way he’d entered, presumably to continue his feverish delivery spree. I’m told I underwent several minutes of Post Traumatic Santa Syndrome, during which I sat motionless and wide-eyed, He-Man toy in hand, rhythmically opening and closing my mouth like a guppy out of water. Emotional scarring aside, the thought that my parents did all that for me still kicks up a chunk of emotional warmth in my heart.

Do you remember waiting in anticipation for your birthday? Forcing yourself to sleep on Christmas eve? Last year, leading up to Eldest’s birthday, the household was abuzz with the usual reminders of the upcoming Big Day, including loud utterances such as “I can’t believe we’re gong to have a seven-year old in the house” and the like within range of her hearing. The Wife, whom I blame, particularly enjoys stirring the children up into a frenzy of pre-birthday hysteria. So much so that on the morning before her birthday, I was mercilessly wrenched from peaceful slumber at three-thirty in the morning by Eldest, only so that she could tell me that it was her birthday the following day.

She was in a state of barely controlled delirium; so excited that her little body seemed to be vibrating at such a high frequency that it hummed, and levitated across the bedroom carpet. My first thought was obviously along the lines of, “What on Earth am I supposed to do with this information now?

But it came from a good place, so I concealed my grumpiness and replied, “That’s great my love, but it’s only tomorrow. Why are you waking me up today?”

“Because it’s my birthday tomorrow!”

…the logic continued…

At that time in the morning I have the brain functioning of a sedated sea sponge, let alone the capacity to cope with a child so pumped up on endorphins that a hummingbird would appear lethargic by comparison. I feel bad about it now, but I dispatched her to her room under instruction to get a little more sleep and to come back at a more comfortable hour of the morning. To her mind that was apparently at four-thirty. We had an early breakfast that morning.

Last Christmas Eldest placed herself in a state of panic because she couldn’t fall asleep on Christmas Eve. I may have mentioned that “he [Santa] only visits when the children are asleep” (not the cleverest thing I’ve ever said, I’ll admit). To her mind this meant that children who stayed awake all night didn’t receive presents, which in turn caused her to fret so much that it kept her awake.  This was disastrous, as the Wife and I were waiting in the shadows like coiled springs ready to pounce and place the much-anticipated presents by the tree. Added to this we also needed to half-eat a cookie, make a bit of a mess of reindeer food (nuts and grain left in a cat bowl), fill some stockings, and half-drink a beer, all of which were left out for Santa. If you’re wondering about the beer, I may have mentioned to my kids that I occasionally meet with Father Christmas at the pub to discuss the naughty/nice dilemma, and consequently they now believe he prefers Windhoek Lager to milk. Eldest finally fell asleep around four, after much cooing and comforting, and the Wife and I took shifts keeping vigil up until that point.

Then we have Youngest (4). Shortly before Easter this year the Wife and I were jolted awake to horrible wails echoing from her room.  We expected to find a child nursing a broken arm or a missing eye or, worse, having discovered unicorns aren’t real and never were. What we found was a forlorn figure crouched in abject misery in the centre of her room, cradling her Easter Egg basket. Between the sobs – that kind of crying where they can’t seem to take a full breath of air – she managed to tell us that the “East-East-East-Easter B-u-u-u-n-n-n-y di-di-di-didn’t bring-bring me-me any e-e-e-ggs”. My first thought was a PG version of “what the fudge”, but the Wife sat down and explained that the basket they’d decorated the day before was for an egg hunt, not in fact the chocolate-generating equivalent of a Christmas Tree. She had carefully placed the basket in a corner of her room on a floral blanket and had even gone so far as to secret a carrot from the kitchen to quell the furry pom-tail’s beta-carotene dependency. This all done, mind you, of her own volition either during the pell-mell of bedtime readying, or during the night. Neither the Wife nor I had noticed the small shrine to a mythical rodent at the back of her room the night before. This was also the first year in which she was able to fully grasp these concepts, as opposed to being on the business end of gifts and chocolatey goodness at random intervals throughout the year.

We, the parents, are the architects of our own circumstance, so I have scant ground upon which to vent or grumble. In fact it’s quite the opposite. When I was younger I always wondered why adults invested so much in happenings that will be forgotten by children almost as quickly as they’re experienced. The simple answer is that it’s as much fun for us as it is for them, and we’re building happy memories. For ourselves too. Life doesn’t end after kids.

Don’t even get me started on that bloody tooth fairy.