Saturday, December 10, 2011

Behind the Photo: A new Christmas tradition

It's hard to start holiday traditions when kids are small. A tradition carries with it the steep expectation  that things should go a certain way and I've found that high expectations and children just don't mix. Until now, we've not really had any Christmas traditions with the kids. For one, they've been barely cognizant of what's going on and I'm not one to fill their head with ideas especially when I'm still (yes, still) struggling with how to explain all this to my children and steer them away from the crass consumerism that so disgusts me.

Over the past five years, I've either been pregnant or had a newborn or a newly mobile infant on my hands. Church services, live nativity scenes or other Christmas shows, visits with Santa Claus or parties, among other things, have been out of the question. I've not been able to predict with any  certainty whether my children will be in the mood for these activities, let alone whether I'd be semi-conscious at the time.

Right now, the kids are a whiny bunch of billy goats that we loathe to take out in public. Fiona is in the "I do it" stage. Owen has turned into a raging lunatic toddler who throws things. Danny is five, but still somewhat cranky and loud. They've not had much exercise lately because of the temperature and it gets dark before dinner. Recipe for chaos, I tell you.

We've been desperately trying to find ways to entertain them which do not involve taking them out in public. Our solution? Bundle 'em up, strap in the van and search for Christmas lights. It's not without it's unpleasantness, but at least they can't physically reach us.

We hear this a lot from the back seat:


"STOP THE CAR." (Danny)

"BACK UP, BACK UP." (Owen)

But it's worth it. We found the holy grail of Christmas front-yard scenes:

Christmas lights, Griswold style

Fiona calls out from the back seat continuously, "OOOOOOOOOOOO, CHRISTMAS LIGHTS." It's only cute the first 10 times; after that, I kick myself for not bringing ear plugs. And when we found Santa the other night, Fiona darted around me, out of the van and nearly ran out in front of the only car we'd seen in a while. Terrifying.

This man, I mean, Santa, sits in his yard which is decked out with Christmas lights and dinosaurs (he runs a reptile rescue).  He hands out candy canes, lets you take photos of him with your kids and actually chats with the kids for a while. We gave him a small donation for his rescue operation. It sounds creepy, I know. But he's a nice guy and we'll likely skip the crowded mall and go see him again next year.  

Danny was delighted.

Danny told him that he wanted a fast car. And when Santa asked him if his sister had been good, he told him, "Yes, but sometimes she's bad." I bit my tongue, because, you know, he hadn't asked me if my son had been good. I was totally in the mood to rat his little butt out, too. Fiona stood in front of him and whined, "I want a new puzzle." Then when we got back to the van, she cried that she hadn't gotten a new puzzle. So sad (and one of the reasons I don't like this time of year with small children: they live in the moment. If they say they want a new puzzle, they mean that they want it now.) They conned us into letting them eat their candy canes on the ride home, too, so you can imagine how bedtime went that night.

We've done this a few times this past week. It started as a desperate attempt to occupy the children between dinner and bedtime. It's turned out to be the only Christmas related activity we can get them to sit still for; mostly because we've strapped them in.

1 comment:

Monica said...

totally can relate in terms of the activity when the kids were smaller. now that the smallest is 3 it is a little more manageable. i cannot BELIEVE that lighted house. it is commercial-worthy. ;o) and that neighborhood santa sounds like a really good bet. we actually saw santa at CHURCH. which is a strange mixed message, but i was totally thankful because we DO NOT DO the mall. ever. ;o) it does get so much harder as they get older (at least for us) to manage the consumerism. :o(