My son is five (and if that didn’t happen in the blink of an eye), and this feels like the first real year we’re experiencing the whole “magic of Christmas” with him. I think he got the general gist of Santa and gift-giving and what-not last year, at four, but his ability to articulate his excitement and the sheer up-shoot in the level of said excitement is just exponential. Last year, it kind of felt like he was along for the ride; this year, he’s pulling the sleigh.
Which puts a little pressure on us, I guess. I don’t know, I feel like we went a little buckwild this year, when generally we try to restrain ourselves from going overboard with gifting. I, especially, grew up with intense financial anxiety which has not abated at all over time (if anything, it’s gotten worse), and I refuse to go into debt over trying to having The Biggest and Best Christmas. Bear is never lacking, never without, and while I think Christmas is a nice chance to splurge, I refuse to let my own mental health suffer so I can out Just One More Present under the tree.
I think it’s another way in which I am trying so hard to very conscientiously not be like my mom, who (after the Santa charade was up), would spend days leading up to Christmas lamenting how lame our holiday was going to be and mentally brow-beating herself over her inability to do More, More, More. And every year, the actual resultant display of gifts on Christmas morning was almost embarrassingly lavish; looking back on some of those childhood Christmases, I actually feel something bordering shame. It was all just So Much. And I appreciated the sentiment (still do), since my folks hustled hardcore around the holidays to give us the extras we often went without the remainder of the year. But then they always felt the need to keep up that momentum, or worse, out do it year to year, and that just isn’t always feasible. I’m not going to get myself in that situation.
Bear has woken up every morning since about the 18th asking if it’s Christmas yet, so he is quite excited for tomorrow, when I’ve promised him baking Christmas cookies, Christmas movies, a game of Qwirkle, making a holiday video message for Facebook, playing Christmas games online, and keeping at eye on the Santa Tracker. We’ve got a holiday open house at a friend’s tomorrow night after my husband gets out of work, so hopefully Bear will be well and tuckered out by the time we leave the party. We’ve been trying to set ground rules about when it’s ok to wake Mommy and Daddy up on Christmas morning, but given that he doesn’t have a clock it his room, the best we can do is, “not until you see the sun.”
He is deathly afraid that Christmas morning will be cloudy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about holiday traditions; we didn’t have a ton as a kid, but there were a few things that just elicited an almost Pavlovian response; like, as soon as we put on those heavy crushed velvet dresses, or as soon as the Animaniacs Christmas special came on, as soon as I could smell my mom’s hair spray and the sharp, ozone scent of the curling iron. Just these little sensations and experiences that triggered a Christmas Nerve. We each opened one present on Christmas Eve, snacked on antipasto, went to my Grandmother’s and my cousin Helena’s open house, and then all caught a few hours of fitful sleep before all waking up and congregating on the pullout couch in the living room to watch late night TV.
We haven’t developed anything consistent yet, but it also occurs to me that Bear’s holiday experiences are going to be fundamentally different as an only child than mine was, with two siblings two and three-and-half years younger than me. There’s no one for him to have those late-night Christmas moments with, which are honestly the thing I look back on with the fondest and most vivid memories. I’d like to come up with something, though, something that will say “It’s Christmas” for him the way those little rituals did for me.