Christmas can be stressful for parents of little ones, but it’s also the most special time of year and well worth any anxiety that it brings.
Once Christmas comes and goes, it’s a bittersweet feeling. There’s an interesting combination of exhaustion and regret. There’s relief that it’s over at first, but then comes some dejection that the excitement that comes with it has passed for another year.
For me, although my wife did just about all of the shopping as she does every year, I was nearly hyperventilating at times in the weeks leading up to Christmas, worrying about finding the time to put things together, wrapping this and that and trying to pull off a surprise or two here and there for the family.
All that was forgotten come Christmas weekend, as I watched my kids be overwhelmed by their many presents, large and small, from our large family and particularly on Christmas morning.
However, before the kids could enjoy all the surprises that awaited them on Christmas morning, they had to wake up first. Of all mornings, they decided to sleep in. On any morning but Christmas, this would have been embraced because normally they are first up in the house.
There we were at 7 on Christmas morning in our new holiday pajamas Pam buys each year, waiting for our boys to join us. Pam had already been up for more than an hour in case Beckett wandered downstairs before us.
The boys had already had a full Christmas and I think it caught up with them. Due to our large family, we had already had two Christmas celebrations that apparently tired them out.
Either way, a few minutes after 7 that morning, Pam and I were in their rooms pulling off their covers and reminding them what day it was.
It only took the one reminder for their excitement to return and ignite their curiosity of whether Santa had come. We should all be able to bounce out of bed as fast as they did and to be that nimble on our feet at 7 in the morning.
Once they were up, their enthusiasm was awesome to witness.
In his typical fashion, Beckett was the most anxious and enthusiastic to see what Santa brought him and his brother, Carson, who has adopted a more subdued approach to most things in life.
Once the great revealing took place, the kids went about opening their presents.
Beckett’s aggressive style was on full display, ripping open the gifts at a frenetic pace, commenting on what he saw and then moving on to the next wrapped box. Some gifts slowed him down more than others, while some, such as clothes and books, barely stopped him in his tracks.
On the other hand, Carson was methodical and probably would have been happy with his one large gift — a standup kitchen set, complete with burners, a refrigerator, microwave and other items. He loved it and at least initially did not seem too interested in the other gifts under the tree. Eventually, he turned his attention to them. It was a good thing because his big brother seemed intent on opening them as soon as we were distracted.
For Beckett, the thrill is the opening of the gifts to see what he received and playing with them later, while Carson is more deliberate and seems to prefer to spread out the actual opening to enjoy the toys one-by-one as they are received. It sums up our kids and their unique personality pretty well actually.
Once all the gifts were opened and we forced breakfast on them, we pulled our annual Christmas morning surprise on them. Each year we hold back a big gift from Santa until later in the morning. One year, for example, it was a backyard trampoline.
This year I noticed something on the back deck while I took the dogs out and told the kids it looks like Santa left something outside for them. While the entire morning is befitting of videotaping, it’s this surprise that I think is the most treasured moment of the day because they truly are surprised.
Waiting for them were two new bikes, which they both seemed to love. Beckett talked incessantly while riding around, and Carson pointed and squealed and worked his way atop the seat. A little added feature to the bikes was something called Chalktrail, which allows the kids to ride their bikes with chalk attached to the back wheel, resulting in a trail of chalk on the road as they pedal.
At their age, my boys, 4 and 3, take their blessings for granted. To me, that’s perfectly normal, and I embrace it at their young ages.
At my age, I understand how fragile life can be and I don’t take anything for granted. Through life experiences, many of which are unpleasant, adults become more appreciative of the finer things and understand nothing is a given.
I’m thankful to be able to provide for them and am cool with them expecting lots of gifts from Santa on Christmas. They don’t have to approach life as parents do, and that’s part of the magical aspect of the holidays.
There will be many times in their lives ahead for them to show gratitude and understand not everyone is as lucky as they are. That will be instilled in them through learning moments and that’s a parental responsibility we take seriously.
In the meantime, I want them to have fun with what they receive during this special time of year and that’s the top priority at our house. It can be chaotic and hectic, but that’s part of the memory making process.