Christmas with kids

When I was little, I truly believed that my grandad was one of Santa’s helpers. He had white hair, a big round belly, a very convincing suit and beautiful handwriting in which he’d reply to our letters. Plus he was the jollyist, happiest man alive. I even remember him showing us photographs of himself with reindeer – probably in a garden centre display or something – which made it even more believable. I really was totally convinced and for many years, this magic was very much alive and a big part of our excitement in the run up to Christmas. It was this sort of magic that I couldn’t wait to recreate in some way when we had our own children.

Pre-kids, our Christmas countdown would be filled with parties, dinners out and dinners in – all of course with plenty to drink. I’d have new clothes for different occasions, usually things with a bit of festive sparkle, and I’d actually have time to think ahead about what to wear and when. Christmas shopping would be done with plenty of time, wandering around the shops, stopping off along the way for mulled wine. Now though, that all seems a distant memory! Instead, Christmas has now become about the little people in our lives – about making memories with them and making as much magic as possible. Evenings are now spent in my pyjamas rather than at parties or the pub (that’s also thanks to covid), and the times I have worn a sparkly jumper this year, I’m covered in milk spit-up within minutes. But still, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The year that Theo was about to turn one, I remember Andy and I having a disagreement. In short, I was well and truly ready to create as much festive make-believe as possible, and even though I knew Theo was too little yet to understand, I was ready to leave mince pies for Santa, along with all the other trimmings of awe and wonder. Andy however had decided that telling children about Santa was just teaching them to lie and that it wasn’t morally right to be dishonest (what?!) so he wasn’t sure about all the make-believe now that we had our own child. I remember being genuinely upset that he wasn’t on board – though it’s quite funny looking back to think that we actually had a falling out about Father Christmas. I even went so far as to say that if I knew this before I married him, it would have been a game changer. Harsh, I know. But times have since changed (luckily) and our feud is long forgotten, plus I’m over the moon that he is now fully embracing every bit of Christmas magic that there is… and I can see how much he’s enjoying it too.

This year, for the first time, a little elf has visited our house and is causing havoc each night. At nearly 4 years old, Theo is totally caught up in all of this magic and mischief, though he’s also getting increasingly frustrated about the mess that he’s making (and Wilf just likes to chew him given the chance). I know we are only a week or so in but so far we are loving thinking of deas and chuckling to ourselves as we set things up each night – I’m well aware though that this novelty probably won’t last. But for now, it’s bringing such fun to the Christmas countdown, and who knew that the adult us would enjoy this so much. Let’s just hope we keep remembering to keep this up, unlike last night’s panic ‘we haven’t done the elf!’ just as we were going off to sleep.

Theo’s birthday is December 27th, and I remember when I was in labour on boxing day thinking that it was going to be so lovely to have a Christmas baby. It is, as it’s such a happy time of year for us all, but at the same time it’s pretty bonkers. The get togethers and celebrations at this time of year are always so much fun, but there’s also the need for some down time too – boxing day therefore becomes a nice little breather for us ready for the next day of birthday madness. It’s a busy time of year but it’s wonderful nonetheless.

And then there are the presents. Growing up, us kids would take hours to open our gifts in the morning – we would savour and take our time, then play and put things together, and my dad would always be setting things up or trying to figure out how something worked. I love that this is now what we do in our house too. Last year, I remember really taking a moment as I stepped back and watched Andy and Theo fully immersed in setting up and playing with a Playmobil ambulance. The pieces were scattered all over the living room floor along with other gifts, wrapping paper was strewn everywhere and the new box of Ferrero Roches were already half gone. It felt just like Christmas should be: full up of spending time together and enjoying new things in amongst fun and madness.

We do struggle however with the abundance of presents and from day one, we’ve tried to make Christmas about traditions, spending time together and exchanging gifts, rather than a chaotic mountain of new things which just overwhelm. It’s a challenge at times trying to strike a balance, especially as we only have a day’s breather in between Christmas and Theo’s birthday, but so far we have created some really special moments. New pyjamas and new books on Christmas eve to snuggle up with are a tradition which we we hope to continue for many years, along with watching Home Alone on repeat pretty much from November through to March.

Now throwing covid into the mix, Christmas will be different again this year. There aren’t the usual get togethers that there would be – instead we’ve made loose plans for walks with friends, hoping that the weather will be kind to us, as we know that this year we can’t be in and out of each others’ houses for festivities. The boys’ won’t remember the restrictions when they’re older though, and in a way, I hope we won’t too. Instead, we’ll reminisce about doing things differently, the chaos making salt dough decorations, forgetting where we’d hidden presents and barely setting foot in actual shops for a change (though this does come with its perks of not having to explain to littles that no, you can’t have that toy, whilst also prizing them with snacks and frantically trying to tick things off your to-do list).

Like any other year, of course, this year we’ll continue to embrace the fun and magic, reliving our own Christmases as kids whilst we make new memories with our boys. And given that it’s been quite a year too, surely that’s an excuse to go that extra mile and make it one to remember, for all the right reasons.