I love Christmas – always have. But I have to admit, once I became an adult, it kind of lost its magic.
That was until I had kids.
They say the true magic of Christmas is experiencing it through the eyes of a child. Sure, it’s magical watching them open their presents and hearing their theories on how Santa gets in the house when we don’t have a chimney. But man, it’s exhausting!
This is my seventh Christmas as a parent (my fourth as a mum of two) and although I enjoy it, I find it pretty stressful.
Every year I learn lessons on what not to do next year, mainly to stop myself from losing my sh*t.
There’s still some fine-tuning to do, but here are 5 things I’ve learnt from parenting two young girls this Christmas.
1. As soon as December arrives, their emotions hit a new level
The last month has been an emotional rollercoaster – with plenty of tears, tantrums and excitement. There’s such a long build up, especially for a kid. And what with advent calendars, the elf, presents arriving throughout the month, and a whole heap of social events, it’s not surprising emotions can run high in the run up to the big day.
I’ve got no idea how to avoid it. It’s inevitable at this time of year. I’ve just learnt to expect it now and try to manage it accordingly.
2. You can’t please everyone with your Christmas plans
There’s so much going on at this time of year, it’s impossible to do everything. But, of course, what you choose to do might not be to everyone’s liking.
Similarly, we’d love to spend the big day with all our family, but it’s just not possible. This year, my husband and I thought it’d be nice to spend Christmas at home, just the four of us, so neither family felt left out.
Our eldest daughter, however, had other ideas and was adamant she wanted to spend it at my parents’ house, which is where we’ve spent Christmas for the past few years. That’s Christmas to her. So that’s where we spent the day, and it was lovely.
My biggest lesson is that everyone has their idea of the perfect Christmas, and they make their own traditions. There’s no right or wrong answer. My husband, for instance, used to open presents with his family after lunch. Yet my family has always opened presents in the morning. A lot of it is about compromise to keep everyone happy. So this year we opened some presents in the morning and some after lunch.
3. Routine goes out the window
I’ve learnt there’s no point setting any rules about what time the kids can wake up because they’re programmed to wake up super-early on Christmas morning. As a kid, I remember how excruciating it was to wait for everyone else to wake up because it was just so exciting.
All the celebrations this year meant there were some late nights, too. And late nights meant there wasn’t time for a bath.
It’s ok to break the routine sometimes. Especially as all the excitement and late nights meant they gave us a lie in occasionally. Winner!
4. The Christmas Eve preparations are super-stressful
There’s so much to remember to do on Christmas Eve, even when you haven’t got to prep for Christmas dinner.
My eldest reminded me that we had to leave out a mince pie and glass of milk for Father Christmas. And I almost forgot to buy a carrot for Rudolph.
Then there’s all the wrapping. Despite promising myself I’d be more organised this year, inevitably there were a few last-minute presents to wrap.
I’ve made the mistake of buying presents that needed putting together in the past, and have completely underestimated the amount of time it takes to set it up. My husband and I still have nightmares about the time we had to put a play kitchen together and didn't end up going to bed until 3am.
My biggest learning this year was how stressful it was to fill the kids’ stockings. When you have an over-excited 6 year old, it’s like a scene from Mission Impossible.
She woke up just as we were about to go to bed, and it was a waiting game until we thought it was safe to complete the transaction without her twigging and ruining her illusion of Father Christmas. I was frantically trying to think of excuses if she caught me in the act and asked why I was filling her stocking, instead of Santa. Thankfully it didn’t get to that.
5. Kids are honest about what they think of their presents
This year my eldest daughter got a tiger-shaped pencil sharpener in her stocking, and you turn the tail to sharpen the pencil. When she opened it, she was very frank about the fact she didn’t really like pencil sharpeners. Who doesn’t like a novelty pencil sharpener?
My 3 year old, on the other hand, made a cute little gasp every time she opened a present, even if she had no idea what it actually was.
Thankfully there were no embarrassing moments this year, when they opened gifts from family members and couldn’t hide their disappointment. That’s happened in the past and I’ve wanted the ground to swallow me up.
The main issue was the tantrums from my 3 year old and her refusal to share, which is just like every other day, really.
What have you learnt about being a parent at Christmas? I’d love to know.