It’s now just 3 days before Christmas and I am facing the raw reality of children who are too old for Santa Claus but too young to let go of their stockings. I am dealing with teenagers at Christmas!
Christmas is everything they are trying not to be. It’s enthusiastic, eager, traditional, family focused, sweet, wondrous, sentimental and at times, spiritual. None of these things are prioritised in the teenage mind. And yet some part of them still yearns for Christmas past when elves collected their present lists and Santa Claus traversed the globe at light speed.
So I have these schizophrenic hinterland creatures living in my house….
‘Oh I hope it snows! …When should we write our Christmas lists? …. Get out of my room DICKHEAD!! …. Leave me alone I hate you all! ….Let’s all eat shortbread and watch Elf …. But WHY can’t I stay out in town, after dark with people you don’t know? …. Christmas starts when Grandma arrives, when is she getting here, when!? …. This is the WORST DAY OF MY LIFE!! I can’t wait to leave home! ….. God bless us, every one!’
How on earth am I supposed to make THAT person happy on Christmas morning? What kind of gift would satiate the complicated needs of the teenager at Christmas?
What do they want?
It’s every parent’s desire to see their children’s faces light up on Christmas morning as they tear away wrapping paper to reveal the one thing they wanted more than anything else in the world. It’s just that I realise as they get older that not only do I have no idea what that is, neither do they.
What they actually want (but couldn’t possible know) is to go back in time, just for the day. To be younger, more naieve, less cynical and more gullible. But they can’t unknow what they now know and they can’t ‘un-teenage’ themselves.
I have been searching for the perfect present for them but I realised that even if I were to turn up on Christmas morning with a spaceship I am not going to return these lumbering half-men into the sweet little boys they once were. And it makes me question whether all the Christmas tradition that we all so desperately cling to is more for the parent’s benefit than the child’s.
Seeing them wrestle with their 8 year old selves reminds me that I am also wrestling with mine. Maybe the part of me that so desperately wants them to ‘believe’ in Christmas again is actually also a child, longing for my own Christmas miracle. There’s no question that Christmas got really special again when the boys were born and we got a 2nd chance at the Christmas magic.
Try forcing Christmas spirit on your teenagers. Go on, try!
One year I forced my oldest to help decorate the Christmas tree cookies. He protested that he didn’t want to do it but somehow I KNEW that once he started icing he would be consumed by Christmas joy, returning him to his pre-pubescent self. That’s not how it went.
This was the moment I knew that some of the magic was lost for ever but at least I still had the younger one to fuss over on Christmas Eve. We still put out a glass of port, a carrot for the reindeer, mince pie for Santa and stocking on the end of the bed. Now it’s really just for the sake of tradition and in some ways it’s a little sad but then I look at those boys and I smile.
My kids make me laugh out loud most days with their inapproriate jokes and increasingly adult humour. They tower over me and love to say how small I am. The other day I was hugging Bertie and he suddenly threw me over his shoulder in a fireman carry and swung me round. Obviously I swore and screamed in a most unladylike fashion!
They bring me as much joy as they always did. More in fact.
The child of Christmas past
This year instead of opening stockings on our bed at 6am as we have in years gone by we will open the stockings downstairs at around 10 with coffee. Less magical maybe but so much more civilised. And we all get a stocking this year because I am a kid too and obviously I needed more shit to buy!
I won’t force Michael Buble on them or insist they watch the Queen’s speech if they don’t want to. Boxing Day walk will be optional and no-one should have a Brussel Sprout unless they specifically request it.
I can’t get those eager little chaps back but that’s fine because I am immensely proud of my slothenly oaths. They are finding their way in a confusing hinterland and it’s a joy (mostly) to watch them grow. If they could stop growing soon that would great though.
Happy Christmas everyone. May all your wishes come true!