It’s an understatement to say that Christmas is not what it used to be. As a parent, it’s a financial nightmare. As a mother, it’s a logistical nightmare. As a family, it’s a hotbed of flash points some of which, inevitably, will lead to a Hunger-Games style fight with only one left standing victorious and sober. As a kid however, it’s without doubt the most exciting time of the year. It’s the time during which everything seems to stand a bit more still – mum and dad aren’t rushing off to work, Christmas lights are twinkling in the corner of every eye and chocolate is everywhere.
Of course, there’s one enormous advantage of Christmas when it comes to parenting. Despite the frantic throwing of money at anything plastic, the whirling around shops and shoppers, the manhandling of an oversized bird that doesn’t fit in either the fridge or the oven…there is Santa, Father Christmas, St. Nick. Thank god twice over for this icon of over-consumption, of obesity, of sugary drinks and, yes, I’ll admit it, discipline.
My instinct here is to say that I’m not proud of the way I’m manipulating this joyful season and the magical man with which we associate it but that wouldn’t be altogether truthful. First of all, I’m not the only parent doing this. You can barely leave your house without hearing some parent threatening to call Father Christmas while their toddler quakes with fear at the prospect of a barren Santa’s sack (this seems a very apt time to invite us all to snigger over ‘That’s not my Santa, his sack is too rough.’) Of course, just because ‘everybody else’ is doing it, doesn’t make it right (anyone else hear their mother there?) but it does mean that we can all relinquish some of the guilt associated with the emotional blackmail that we torture our children with at this time of year.
And let me tell you…we’ve gone balls deep with the emotional torture this year. We’ve invited Ben the Elf into our house which is far more of a chore than the pleasure I hoped it would be. That said, it bloody works. During even the wildest of emotional outbursts, I only have to throw a casual glance at the creepy Elf and the message is clear: BEN IS WATCHING YOU. SANTA WILL KNOW. She’s not afraid of Ben per se…more just quietly cautious. I’m ok with that.
I’ve changed Jimmy’s contact details in my phone to Father Christmas and replaced his picture with one of the rotund, red-clad man himself. When it looks like the toddler pot is about to boil over, my husband will surreptitiously pocket dial me and, just like that, a pant-wetting, dribbling, screaming fit is avoided. It’s just too damn easy.
Of course, with everything that’s easy, there is a price to pay and come Boxing Day we will pay this price with interest. I know this and I’d like to say I am prepared but I’m not. If anything, we are woefully unprepared. What the fuck are we going to do when she refuses to eat her turkey curry? Unlike the turkey, the threat of Santa isn’t going to hang around and I can hardly draft the Easter Bunny in at this stage. When she’s screaming for fresh water, for another cuddle, for a kiss, for another story, for a pound of flesh after we’ve turned her lights out, I can’t tell her Father Christmas is already making his naughty/nice list for Christmas 2017…even I draw the line there. What I do know is that we are going to have some dark, dark days when are arsenal is significantly depleted…in fact, empty.
So, here’s to the final few days of control because come Boxing Day, it’ll be more than just the empty boxes reduced to a sad soggy pile. My soul will be right there next to it, along with any chance of a harmonious new year.