Christmas Debrief: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Parent of the Under 6s.

Christmas Tree with Presents

10. Don’t feel guilty about perpetuating the Santa Myth. 

We all have them, those kill joy friends who, with slight condescension, explain how they aren’t going to lie to their children about Santa, blah blah blah…implying we are somehow stunting our kids intellectual growth or some other bullocks.

Poopoo to them! Science now says we are actually doing our kids a favor not only in creating joy and excitement, but laying down the pathways for a lifetime of Yuletide happiness.

With this in mind, much of this list is geared towards helping you keep the myth alive. These are some of the very useful lies I’ve used to extricate myself from otherwise myth-busting moments.

9. Santa outsources toy making!

Once upon a time, in a world with far fewer kids, Santa’s team could make toys for everyone but nowadays, he occasionally has to supplement with store bought toys. Of course he gets them at a great discount thanks to bulk buying. This provides the alibi for when they start to recognize labels and packaging from toy stores and brands.

8. The elves shop at Ikea.

Everyone knows the elves make the toys and are responsible for wrapping them too. Nowadays, anyone living within a 50 mile radius of Ikea is probably getting their wrapping goods there. Seriously, the Swedes are genetically engineered to be perfect at making Christmas accoutrements.

Thanks to Ikea rolls, I no longer find myself  at 11pm at night faced with a new roll of wrapping paper, for which I payed through the nose, with a total of  4 centimeters of paper, just enough to cover the cardboard core or 1.75 small presents. Also, any gifts exchanged with friends for our kids are now extremely likely to be wrapped in the same paper scheme as what you already have under the tree.

#8 and #9  will also ensure you don’t start getting some rather perplexed looks from your five-year-old next time you unwittingly take them to Ikea a little too close to Christmas.

7. Santa only handles presents for kids.

It’s better than the ‘only for those who believe‘ for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I believe yet I don’t get any or at least very few gifts under the tree. When disciplining my kids, I don’t need them pointing out, that given the lack of booty with my name on it, I must be very naughty indeed.

Secondly, when rushing to get ready for some Christmas party and wrapping a present for the hostess, your kid will know that we adults exchange presents because Santa already has so many kids to focus on. And this leads us to #6

6. Santa leaves parents any surplus wrapping paper he has.

Santa realizes that mommies and daddies also like to give gifts and generously leaves us any extra wrapping paper he may have.  This ensures no suspicion arises when you are caught wrapping a gift for someone in the same paper used for all the previous year’s gifts.

5. Write gift tags with your other hand.

It’s only a matter of time before your kids learn to recognize your own handwriting. I would suggest getting Santa’s script down now. I once entertained using cut-out letters à la ransom letter but that would take way too long not to mention  be a bit macabre. I may eventually get some a rubber name stamp for everyone –though it strikes me as a touch too retentive, even for me.

4. If you can, wrap presents in advance.

Where do I start….first off I have yet to master this but having found myself acting like the grinch this Christmas morning, not wanting to come and see the magic despite the very reasonable hour at which the kids woke me up, I feel it’s time I get my act together.

It goes without saying –but I’ll say it– one should only do this if you are SURE you have a 100% full-proof hiding place. It is much better to say all those presents are things I’ve been saving for your birthday –albeit with a painful need to buy a whole other set of presents –then admitting defeat. I think the article I linked to earlier mentions claiming Santa had to do some early deliveries due to a bad back and asked parents to store presents in advance. Only you know what will realistically work for you.

3. Plan on buying only three or four toys per kid, less for the under-3s.

When you are in the shop, you will accidentally buy more anyway so if you get your list + the extras, it’s already ample.  Think of this equation: for each extra gift under the tree, other gifts lose their ‘novelty/special’ value exponentially. It’s better to get one or two really special gift they will remember vs tons of tat that will get cast away before you can say: the turkey is done. I often cull last minute and set aside stuff for upcoming birthdays.

Put the rest of the money in a future toy fund. Have you seen the price of Legos? Trust me parents, you will need this christmas nest-egg once they start getting a bit older.

2. Spend Christmas at home. 

This may make me unpopular with grandparents but I am long past caring. If your kids are young and still believe in Christmas, it’s best to spend it at home and persuade others to visit if they really want in on your celebration. If you must, travel for Thanksgiving, but keep things easier for Santa by only having to deliver at home. It’s also a wonderful time to start your own traditions.

1. SLOW DOWN and Don’t make plans on Christmas day.

If there is one thing I regret more than anything, is rushing P through her 2nd and 3rd Christmas. The first few years years of Christmas I made plans.  One year we went to a brunch (popular with us expats who don’t always have access to ingredients we need) to avoid having to slave over a hot stove. Similarly, I also invited people over and realised I needed to speed up the magic so I could go cook a perfect meal because every one feels like they need to create Pinterest-suitable tableaus in their homes. (Piss off Martha & Nigella for starting this trend!)

Young kids open presents SLOWLY and this is a good thing. There is NOTHING worse than rushing your kids through gift opening so you don’t miss the kick off to the free champagne or to get that bird in the oven. Seriously, you only have about 2-3 years where they will savor each gift and give it play-time before moving on to the next one. I rushed my eldest through this twice and by the time I’d learned this valuable lesson, it was too late. And don’t think you can fix it second time around; younger siblings get caught up in the present opening frenzy, carried by the momentum of their older brothers and sisters.

Put your phones and iPads away. Enjoy your kids; let them relish the delicious and magical experience Christmas morning can be.

Happy Belated Christmas,
With love, MM.

How Halloween Saved The Christmas Countdown

I have a tendency to beat myself up over things. Right now, as I type this, a little voice is berating me because every time I check a published post, I find a typo but by the time I log into WordPress, I can no longer remember where it was.

Halloween 2012 was great fun but after an excruciating few weeks where little C never managed to earn a piece of Halloween candy after dinner, leaving her sister sweet P to work her way through both bountiful stashes of candy booty, I decided to jump on the candy fairy wagon for 2013.

It’s actually genius. You get the kids to pick out 10 (or whatever you deem reasonable) pieces of candy and the rest gets packed up to be collected by the candy fairy for less fortunate kids. In exchange, the fairy leaves a gift for the kids. For our inaugural year, I chose a small box of lego. I was so impressed with how willing they were to let go of the booty, I even stuck two lollipops on the box and a little fairy dust –aka sparkles that never actually make it into anything crafty.

The extra candy was hidden away to be disposed of when the kids were out. So of course, six weeks later, it’s sitting exactly where I left it. Every time I look at this one shelf of books, the candy bag says:

tsk tsk tsk, here I am still waiting to be given away. What’s wrong with you? You need only walk to the security gate and hand me over. Surely that’s not too difficult? Even for you?!

I could go on. Luckily, Thai Halloween candy is so unbelievably lame, I wasn’t tempted to consume it myself. Had there been decent candy, well I don’t even want to go there.

Thai Halloween Candy

Chocolate Flavored Skim Milk Tablets. Yum.

Before I know it, it’s November 31st, and I haven’t bought anything to put in the advent calendar! Crikey, what sort of SAHM am I? And then I remember the Halloween stash. Saved by my incompetence. Determined not to stuff them with sweets, I pick out a lone pack of candy for day one and vow to buy stickers and things for the next 23 days.

Day two rolls around and I have to distract the kids, while briefing Jefe where the candy is and tell him to put some treats the next box.

Later that day, I run off and buy a collection of erasers and small safari animals. I was rather pleased with myself, until I realized only the gorilla and brown bear fit in the boxes. Oh and strangely the camels. Every other creature will have to be a stocking stuffer.

This time I take it as a sign that the rest should be filled with the Halloween candy, reducing the pressure on my budget and my conscience as the voice from the book shelf is much softer now, with only half a bag left waiting for a home.