There has been a rollercoaster of changes in our house recently, all of which are interfering with the slow and steady build up to Christmas and my preparations that I pride myself on each year. That’s the thing about this stage of parenting – one minute you’re stumbling along in a fug of wet-towel-on-the-floor acceptance, and the next thing you know, their entitled asses are off without as much as a wave goodbye.
Friends of ours recently arrived home from a long trip overseas to discover that their youngest had left the nest while they were away and I could tell by the emptiness in my friend’s eyes that she is still adjusting to the echoes in the house.
And just before Christmas. Very cruel.
At least NC has given us some time to acclimatize to the news that she is leaving us to manage her brother by ourselves for pastures new, but this bold new independence has empowered her in other ways as well. She now believes she can call the shots in terms of change in other long-held bastions of family tradition as well – and as you know, change is something neither my husband nor my son does well.
This Christmas, she has dared to request that instead of the cheap tat that Santa normally delivers to her Christmas stocking, that she has fewer, more useful gifts than the one-dollar bath bombs, multi packs of hairbands and five-for-one knickers with the days of the week emblazoned on the front of them, from Target.
Now, it’s one thing to get my head around her leaving us alone with her brother just before Christmas – but quite another when she decides to alter Santa’s responsibilities. As it is, I’ve had to accept that my mince pie is now vegan and veggie sausages have been added to the food mountain list for the past two Christmas’. Before I know it, she’ll be demanding sustainable gifts, or worse, suggest donating my personal gift budget to some donkey or goat in Africa – an act of questionable generosity that a friend of mine swears she does each year in place of our Christmas cards.
I like to think I am progressive and I certainly believe in change for the better, but you don’t mess with Christmas and customs that (albeit, may have scant regard for the religious connotations of the festival), yet continue to remain sacrosanct to our traditional family values.
There is a joy to tradition. It’s like having a holiday home and knowing that your own wine glass is there waiting for you each time you go. In the same way that there were certain things you could count on as a child – you would be eating your lunch for dinner if you didn’t finish it, there was absolutely no leeway for negotiation over bedtimes, you had to have one bath once a week, and there was always that comforting certainty of a giant tube of Smarties, an orange and a net of stale chocolate coins in your Christmas stocking.
I know that other families’ approach the gift-thing in different ways, but in our house, the stocking has always come from Santa and the more expensive gifts come from family, are wrapped and placed under the tree. As marketed by the retailers who import the tat from Asia, what Santa puts in stockings are “fillers”, and as such, not gifts that really serve a purpose. It is the crap that sits in your room once all the chocolate has gone, until the realization that it is useless tat sinks in – usually somewhere around New year. It is first-world materialism, and nothing to be proud of, so perhaps NC has a point and I should stop supporting child labor, play Hare Krishna instead of Buble as I dress the tree this year, and name my donkey “sacrifice.”