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December will be magic

20121201_130647Christmas 2014 will be our third together as a family. This is the first year our three-year-old has really understood something about the fuss. Needless to say, it has brought new meaning and depth to the whole period for his parents. Having a child trumps everything, most importantly it offers instant validation of wanting to stay at home, thus avoiding all travel nightmares. Yay!

In 2014 however, the hitherto quiet crimbo tables are being turned on us, as my family will be descending on us in reasonable numbers. There will be family members snoring in every room. I predict our son will love having the family in his house; he will love being close to so many people he loves and who love him. These are truly days out of the ordinary.

But it is not all calm and magic. In fact, December has already been tough on our son. Sure he’s enjoying the daily rituals of opening the advent chocolate calendars and lighting candles. We’ve been wrapping presents and writing cards. We got the tree up and have been decorating (and moving baubles around) for days. We’ve been baking: at home, in nursery, with friends. Sugar intake and party attendance has rocketed. No wonder excitement levels are sky high. Our son normally is good a self-regulating, but we have had more meltdown, and more major meltdowns, in December than the rest of the year put together. There are usually straight-forward reasons for the explosions, but I think the undercurrent is Christmas-related. It certainly isn’t helping.

Admittedly, I never really acknowledged the darker side to this time of year. Call me stupid, but I never noticed just how ramped up it all is – it was all water off a ducks back. I enjoyed the nice bits, and ignored the rest. But now it seems inescapable. Loud and sleekly commercial. But worst of all: it is so coldly aimed at children. It makes such demands of small people. (I imagine the need to manage December will only increase over the next many years as he grows older and more aware. As school and peer pressure set in in earnest.)

I’m happy to report, that we successfully have been escaping Father Christmas. Much as I love Christmas, I never got the attraction. I loathed the lines of waiting only to perch on a stranger’s knee, and perhaps to be handed a cheap present. You won’t see me going to any lengths to convince my son he exists, and that he will only get presents if he is nice. A strange and bearded man sneaking into the sanctuary of our house through the chimney? At night? Leaving stuff around? Let’s not jog the imagination, or worse still memories of lives and families past.

Traditions have memories at their core, casting shadows or glitter over the past, and hopes (or fear) into the future. I can’t help but think that for our children, this can be a painful, soulful season. New traditions is a careful balancing act for us all.

Our son LOVES Christmas as much as I do, but the protracted excitement is taking it’s toll. I’m trying to embody super parental calm (yeah right) to weather his frequent storms. I’ve found the best escape in entering straight into the spirit of it by making stuff together (mostly) at home.

When we bought our tree, our little man was sweeping pine needles off the ground with a broom he found. He did a damn good job of it, and so the salesman gave him a cut off branch of fir – his own little Christmas tree. Daddy tied it to his bed and we put two small baubles on it. He falls asleep looking at it every night. Oddly, enough, this does seem to have a very calming effect on him.

December is magic.