Holiday Blog Event: Amy Lane – What Santa Doesn’t Tell You
Kids and Christmas—What Santa Doesn’t Tell You
Even though my oldest son was born on December 12th, let’s face it—that first Christmas was sort of a bust from his end, and the second wasn’t much better. I mean, long hours, lots of people, too much noise, too much excitement, and too many people not-the-mama or want-the-daddy are trying to hold you—how awesome can Christmas really be for the very very tiny? The adults are losing their minds. “Ohmigosh! It’s a toddler in a Santa hat, couldn’t you just die!” And seriously—you add a kitten to the picture or a puppy or hell, even a gold fish in a bowl with red and green rocks, and, yes, sugar shock will set in and we will really die of absolute cute—and what a way to go!
But for the little kid?
It’s a furry hat. If you’re lucky, you have enough hair by then that it doesn’t itch. The lights and ornaments on the tree are awesome until ten people yell at you to not play with them/yank them down/stick them in the light socket/hang them from the cat. So for most kids—Big T included—the first two big holidays are sort of like a William Faulkner novel: Sound, fury, nothin’.
No, it’s true. My December born Big T was no exception. In fact, for Big T, Christmas magic didn’t really start until September 24th before his third Christmas. That’s when his best Christmas present arrived (at least she was ordered on Christmas Eve, if her birthday is to be believed) and that was his little sister.
All of a sudden, Big T had something to offer the holidays. He got to be the big brother. Yeah, the little sister was wiggly, stinky, and a pain in the ass—however, she also didn’t know anything about Christmas, and by now, T was a veteran. He didn’t talk by this time—in fact, his Communication Handicap was just making itself known. But he did spend lots of quiet moments making wordless sounds at the wriggling pink thing, and he tried to put presents in her clenched little hands at every opportunity. I imagine he was explaining things like presents, and lights, and trees in the house, and that the music was nice, so that she wouldn’t be quite as overwhelmed as he was.
For me, that was when Christmas with kids really started.
It might have been different if we’d kept T as an only child. (For one thing, he eventually would have gotten that room made of Legos that he’s felt cheated out of all his life.) But we didn’t—we had three more kids, and T, who could have been fated by his handicap to be locked into a solitary brain by awkward words, was suddenly the big brother, the standard bearer, the one who got to do it all first and tell the other kids what it was like. By his very nature he is a sharer, but by circumstance he is the leader. He is the one who makes sure the younger kids (much younger than he is, by eleven and thirteen years) get to watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. He is the one who is willing to take small children to a really awful kids’ movie so mom and dad can wrap presents in Santa paper. He’s the one who lectures on selfishness (because he seems to have forgotten the twenty-item Christmas lists he used to give us back in the day!) but he is also the one who spends what little money he has on his siblings.
And his little sister is just like him. Except she likes to bake cookies on top of it.
Now, some people (my sister!) will say that youth is a bigger advantage in parenthood than experience. They’ll tell you that you don’t play with your children as much as an older parent, and, yes, to some extent that is true.
But I’ve never been so tired and so old that I’ve forgotten any of our many Christmas traditions, from crafting to fried chicken for Christmas Eve to driving around watching the lights. And now, as my older children enter their twenties and my younger children are still possessed of the inexhaustible energy of grade schoolers, I am possessed of some very salient Christmas truths:
A Christmas loved is a Christmas shared. That was true of Big T and Chicken when they were watermelon squirts on the carpet, and that’s true of them now that they’re grown and fully realized people. It is not Christmas for them if they are not bickering over movies or music or the best kind of cookie. It is not Christmas for them if they are not sharing it with their siblings. And it is not Christmas for me if I’m not watching them all together, raucous and loud and sometimes obnoxious and sometimes heartbreaking, sharing a holiday whose principle charm for all of us is being together.
And Christmas traditions are best when you see the best ones carried on. My younger kids have been getting gift certificates from Target as bribes from the school system. (I cannot explain this. Suddenly, the gift cards come home in their backpack, and I am like “What did you do?”) Squish and Zoomboy had plans for those cards—oh yes. They have toys that they want, and no one can fault them that. But they also said, “And now we get to buy Christmas presents with our own money!” And that made me proud.
For the last week, Squish, aged seven, has been working hard on the potholder loom that we got her last year, and every time she’s done, she decorates a piece of binder paper, writes “To: —– From: Squish” and has us help her tie a ribbon around it. We’re not supposed to know what they are—but it’s very apparent that just like her mother who knits and her father who makes fudge, she’s making people things for Christmas.
Big T would rather buy Christmas presents for his siblings than shoes, and Chicken, who is in animation school, makes us animated .gif(t)s.
That’s where I get most of my Christmas joy. Watching my children grow through this time of the year and watching them love each other. It’s like my Christmas present is getting to see that I’ve given them the best parts of myself along with the worst. It’s my gift to myself, proof that the hopes every parent has for his or her children aren’t all in vain. As I tell my kids when we take them shopping or bake cookies or go cruising for lights: “Just remember this moment when you’re picking out my nursing home.”
“Yeah mom—we’re keeping you in a shack in the back yard.”
Yup. See? That’s Christmas traditions in action.
About Amy Lane:
Amy Lane dodges an EDJ, mothers four children, and writes the occasional book. She, her brood, and her beloved mate, Mack, live in a crumbling mortgage in Citrus Heights, California, which is riddled with spiders, cats, and more than its share of fancy and weirdness. Feel free to visit her at www.greenshill.com, or www.writerslane.blogspot.com, where she will ride the buzz of receiving your e-mail until her head swells and she can no longer leave the house.
Check out her latest release, Going Up, available Christmas Day from Dreamspinner Press.
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