Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Father Christmas Dilemma

Things I didn’t expect before I became a mum #698 - The Father Christmas issue is a big one when your kids are little.

In my family, we grew up believing that if we were good, all we needed to do was ask the big man for our gifts and they would appear... or sometimes not but we seemed to understand that Father Christmas delivered different types of presents to different kids. I don’t know how we reconciled that in our own young minds but we managed. Visiting him was a bit of a problem though and I’ve got a few teary photos on or near his knee. He’s weird looking and always so hot to sit on. Blegh. Nonetheless, it’s what we knew and I never thought twice about it. Until I had my own kids.

If I’m to be honest, which I promised myself I would be when I began writing, I’m not a big fan of Father Christmas. The whole concept just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t like the idea that presents appear magically from a man my children have never met just because the day  [and tradition] says so. I don’t like that they go and sit on his knee and ask him for any number of gifts and they will appear, in exchange for some carrots and a glass of milk/beer.  I don’t like that there’s no-one to thank for those presents. And, for me, it’s not enough to just see them excited to open something up from under the tree. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-Christmas or anti-presents. I’m not the Grinch. I’m just not a fan of the big man.

So, this is how we do Christmas. 

As much as I don’t like the FC concept, I also don’t want my kids to be the ones to ‘bring down Christmas’ for everyone else’s kids either. This is how I compromise. 

In our household Father Christmas fills up their stockings with lots of little presents. He gives them balls and books and lego and textas and cds and dvds and card games and anything FUN that will fit in their Christmas stocking. Not all at once of course – but those are the sorts of things that FC brings them. I act just as surprised as they are when they open each one up exclaiming ‘isn’t he clever to know what you like??!’ and other things like that. It really is a lot of fun and the boys love it. Under the tree they will find clothes from us [we always got clothes for Christmas and I've carried that on] and maybe something special like a new pool toy. Then, each Christmas, Mark and I buy them ONE BIG present to share from us. Things like a remote control racetrack or a high-end basketball ring. This year we’re planning on giving a soccer table. We like to give things that encourage them to play together, without a screen even though they ask, every year, for a wii, playstation, bla bla. We’ve got another couple of years’ resistance in us – I hope! 

So, when the BIG ONE comes out and they unwrap it, Mum and Dad get the big hugs and thanks and gratitude. They understand that it hasn’t arrived magically, out of thin air, from some man that they don’t know. They see that the work that Mum and Dad does results in special things for the family and we talk about why we gave it to them. We tell them that we thought about it and remembered a time that they played with one somewhere else and loved it and so we saved up and bought them one. Not in a, ‘this is a learning experience’ kind of way, but in a ‘we’re really happy that you like it’ kind of way. The way we do as grown-ups when we give presents to friends that we’re excited about... wait – do you do that? I do. As soon as I see the recipient like my gift, I get all gushy and tell them why I thought they’d like it and how I had find it online or I just saw it in the shop and HAD to buy it for them. But maybe that’s just me!

Is this the right way to do Christmas? I’m not sure, but I think we’ve covered our bases. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the great challenges of parenting is compromising what you once believed to be unwavering values in theory for the reality of life.

How do you do Christmas and how do you handle the FC situation? 

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