Christmas is looming large and loud in our house. Lists are dotted about the kitchen in unnaturally tidy handwriting, featuring ponies, playmobil, i-phones and other expensive electronic gadgetry.
The home-made advent calendar has been patched up ready to hold 24 daily trinkets for just one more year and we are on the trail of costumes for the school play.
When the children were at nursery, the slacker parents (me included) could get away with cutting holes in old sheets, wrapping tinsel around a wire coat hanger and telling our daughters what beautiful angels they made.
But those days are over.
At their last school, the Christmas Show required a Victorian street urchin costume for one child and a dalek outfit for the other. I think even Russell T Davies would have had trouble fitting the song about sausages and pizza into his Victorian Christmas Dr Who episode.
I am not handy with a sewing machine, but I can read. So when it seemed the show owed something, however small, to an idea first mooted by Charles Dickens, I suggested, helpfully I thought, that I should read A Christmas Carol to them at bedtime.
Their response was immediate and scathing… “We don’t need you to read it to us, we watched the DVD at school.”
There’s nothing like being a parent to put you firmly in your place.
This year, we’ve been getting a regular countdown.
“Only 32 weeks until Christmas.”
“It’s November now.”
“Has Gran asked what we want yet? Tell her money.”
Last year our son started showing signs that the concept of Father Christmas was losing its sparkle.
“I’m not sure I believe in Father Christmas, lots of my friends at school don’t.”
The first evidence of our children moving into middle age was a shock, especially after all the years of seasonal subterfuge:-
- scoffing most of a mince pie, leaving just a few crumbs in front of the fireplace
- crunching on a carrot, artfully leaving a morsel that Rudolf just couldn’t manage
- slugging back the sherry and filling the stockings with presents wrapped in paper they hadn’t seen lying around the house (especially hard to achieve, that last one)
And still we have bred a Doubting Thomas.
The worst of it was, his comment was blurted out in front of his younger sister, who should still have a few years of sublime belief to enjoy.
And he didn’t stop there.
“When Father Christmas gave me a remote control helicopter because he knew I wanted one, you knew I wanted one too, so how come you didn’t give me a helicopter as well? How did you know he was going to give me one?”
Felled by the killer instinct of a child. If he could only apply that laser-sharp logic to his school work, we would surely be parenting a mini-Einstein.
Now another year rolls round and I am wondering whether he has passed the point of questions and moved into a new phase of humouring his parents, going along with their strange festive fantasies, just to make sure at least some of the items on his wish list turn up, from whatever source, on Christmas morning.