Seasons Greetings

It is late in the evening of Christmas Day, and I’m finally finding time to sit quietly and record a few thoughts and memories of the last 48 hours, so my children may one day read these words, and realise the true levels of idiocy that went on without their knowledge.

After the Star Wars and Frozen adventure in London on Thursday, I fell into full “panic Christmas Shopping” mode yesterday, and got on an early bus out of town in the morning to hit the shops as soon as they opened. The bus was strangely empty, causing me to second-guess myself, and check the date on my phone. I don’t have a wrist-watch at the moment, since the battery packed up in my half-decent watch, and the strap snapped on the cheap Casio digital watch I started using as a replacement.

Reassured that it really was Saturday 24th December, I wandered into an even more strangely deserted shopping centre, and pulled the secret-squirrel list of “last things to get” from my pocket. The “last things to get list” has come into being over the last couple of years – caused by a very late night session of “finding all the presents for all the children hidden all over the house, and getting it all out to make sure the piles of presents are balanced and fair”.

The children probably think a great deal of thought goes into their presents, but at Christmas we never get them anything huge and expensive (lets forget the laptops a few years ago then) – we much prefer to get them a collection of smaller things. The great thing about smaller things is that you can swap them between children to an extent – to try and balance things out – and when you can’t, you go shopping on Christmas Eve. Just to make it more fun, you go to a house party the night before.

Paracetamol is a wonderful thing.

I kind of took it upon myself this year to really push board games, and card games – games to be played with each other, rather than video games. It has been immediately borne out today, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Lets just say I got the final shop done, got home, and then immediately went grocery shopping for a second list of “last things to get”. Once home, I took my shoes off and was about to sit down for the first time all day when my other half threw the dice once more, and the shoes went back on. Only to the corner shop, thankfully.

Once the younger children were supposedly asleep, the wrapping began in earnest – pulling presents from all over the house, and unfurling endless rolls of paper, ribbon, sticky-tape, and labels. The production line – including my other half, our eldest, and myself – sat until 11pm wrapping each item, and sliding it under the tree. I wrapped our eldest’s presents behind her back, and then informed her what I had just done. She didn’t see the funny side for a few moments.

Somehow – and I’m not entirely sure how – the children slept through until nearly 8am this morning. We woke at 7 (the school routine has etched it into our subconscious), and listened for their voices while drifting into and out of sleep, and not quite believing that we were getting a lie-in on Christmas Day.

Twenty minutes later we were all downstairs, rubbing sleep from our eyes, and smiling as the children sorted the presents into piles for each person before beginning the mayhem. We have never stage-managed Christmas. In my mind there is nothing so much fun as letting them go at it on Christmas morning – finding the packages with their name, and tearing them open as fast as their fingers will let them.

Of course it was all over within minutes. And the “helping me with this”, and “helping me with that” began.

The day was broken up by the arrival of my in-laws, who took us out to a nearby pub for lunch. We went out on Christmas Day last year for the first time as a family, and realised we should have done it years ago. Yes, it’s expensive, but when you factor in the cost of food, and the time you lose cooking and washing up, you realise it might actually be worth it because everybody can enjoy the day, rather than a few people running themselves ragged to please everybody else.

Choosing to go the board-game route with the children, rather than the electronic gadget route proved itself this evening. From the moment we said goodbye to my in-laws, until the moment the girls went to bed, we all sat at the dining table, and played some of the games they received for Christmas together. My sides haven’t hurt from laughing so much in ages.

Who knew that “King of Tokyo” would be such a good family game? And who knew that a quiz game – coincidentally called “The Family Game” – would cause such hysterics? I guess it helped that we had a 12 year old playing that couldn’t keep her mouth shut, and kept blurting out wrong answers to questions, rather than hear all of the possible answers. For example – who knew that the average horse stands 3 kilometres tall ?

The children are fast asleep in bed now. Christmas Day is over for another year. It went wonderfully – aided and abetted of course by parents that work their socks off to make sure things go wonderfully as far as they possibly can. This realisation began to dawn on Miss 16 this morning, when she realised that even the smallest of her presents were things she had shown an interest in months ago.

“You remembered?!”

“We remember everything.”

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