parent opinion

"Kids prefer a Christmas filled with laughter. We need to stop stressing."

The bonus baby was sound asleep. We fetched the trampoline that had been hidden in the neighbours’ garage for weeks waiting for us to assemble it in time for our youngest child’s Christmas morning surprise. But our anticipation was short-lived: when we opened the box and stacked up bars, nuts and bolts, we discovered there was no mat.

Because it was such a big present we hadn’t bought any other toys and there was absolutely nothing of the older kids’ stuff (they were all teenagers) that would be appropriate to share. It was so late by now that every single shop, even the milk bars, had closed for the holidays.

After a drive to the factory where we had bought the trampoline, calls to the security firm whose sign was outside and the discovery that they no longer worked for the company, desperate calls to the local police, we had everyone racing to find somebody who could unlock a factory late on Christmas Eve.

Luckily, we struck gold – an employee was tracked down at least an hour’s drive away. The vision of a small child without a Christmas present to open had obviously tugged at everyone’s heart strings and engendered the most tangible evidence that there were indeed angels on high.

Long after ‘Carols by Candlelight’ had finished, my husband arrived home with a new trampoline – complete with all the bits and pieces. A bit of Christmas cheer later, we decided it was far too dark to assemble a trampoline, so we stuck bows all over it and collapsed into bed for the few hours left before the first rays of Christmas sunshine woke our boy.

Although this Christmas saga had a happy ending, there has been a long list of Christmas ‘stuff-ups’ in our house. From the time I forgot to thaw the turkey (because I had too many tastes of port as I made the Christmas mince), and the rainy Christmas day when the kids got new bikes (they had to ride round outside and track the mud back in!), to the time the dog got into the Christmas stockings and we woke to purple bubblegum stuck all over her fur, the carpet and the sofa (what was I thinking anyway – that Christmas would be a better time to allow bubble gum?).

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Every year, as the ads come out weeks before Christmas showing tantalising visions of happy families in beautiful (spotless) homes with dazzling (colour-coordinated) decorations and sumptuous (hot) dinners, I promise myself I will capture the magic this year – I will plan earlier, get organised, write lists, whatever it takes.

However, while my Christmas spirit is willing, I don’t actually have any more time or energy in December, despite the doubled up workload I am embracing.

Sadly, the ads never mention that kids still have to be cared for (and they aren’t any more likely to pick up after themselves), washing still has to be done and bathrooms cleaned (do Christmas fairies do housework?) as we bust our butts writing cards (home made, of course), organising clothes (and haircuts) for the kids to attend Daddy’s work party with Santa (as we moan about spouses not being invited to the ‘grown ups’ version) and perusing cookbooks (late at night) to make this the best feast ever.

A stressed mummy is hardly conducive to happy holiday memories so it’s time to grasp at a little perspective. Let’s ask ourselves, who is Christmas really for? The kids would probably think it was Christmas if they could eat bread with sprinkles and drink lemonade for lunch and little ones are often more intrigued with the packaging than the gifts.

So why do we repeatedly succumb to this pressure of Christmas perfection? Instead, why not plan a bit of cheer this Christmas by chilling out, doing less and playing and laughing a whole lot more. After all, this is what little ones remember the most fondly.

This post was originally published on Pinky McKay and has been republished with full permission. 

How do you celebrate Christmas? Tell us in the comments. 

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