Thursday, 1 December 2011

Should Christmas Just Be For The Kids?

I have terrific memories of Christmas as a child. We were always at home for that wonderful day in the middle of the steaming Australian summer. I didn’t have any living grandparents whilst I was growing up from about age 5. I remember the smell of our old Christmas tree and the way the lights lit up the tinsel When I’d lie in my favourite spot, with my head under the tree looking up through the branches. I’d feel completely lost inside the heady glittering world of Christmas. We would wake at the crack of dawn, or before, and eagerly open our huge haul of presents and play with them all day. Except for an enforced break to eat our Christmas prawns for lunch (a once-a year treat) and a lovingly prepared but roast Pork for Christmas dinner.

These memories are some of the most happy and special of my childhood. When I became a mother I really wanted to give the same joy and memories to my children. Even when they were very small I went overboard in the present department. We have enough ‘little people’ and ‘Barbies’ to populate an entire city and enough plush toys to comfort all the kids at the local hospital’s children’s ward. I think even the children were a little overwhelmed!

We live far from our extended families and most years we have travelled interstate for Christmas (still with an absolute boot load of toys…to rival Santa’s sleigh itself!). Christmas’s spent at my mothers house were just like my own. Full of presents and joy! For me though, Christmas at GrumpyDaddy’s parents house was not quite the same.

On Christmas morning, the kids woke at the crack of dawn only to discover they were not allowed to open their presents until 11am…sheer torture for them (and me!!!). Half-way through opening the gifts they were then told to stop. They were required to wait until more guests arrived for Christmas dinner before they were able to unwrap the remaining presents!

I admit that I wasn’t full of Christmas spirit that year! In my self-centred churlishness, I had neglected to notice all the work that had gone into preparing a traditional Christmas dinner, complete with home made mince pies, Yorkshire puddings, flaming Christmas pudding and brandy butter (English love their puddings!). I didn’t even notice the beautiful, antique decorations that had been admired by previous generations of the family. I didn’t really appreciate the joy that the other ‘grown-ups’ has just being together, laughing, talking and sharing the celebration. For me, it was all about the kids. By my decision, we have not been back to GrumpyDaddy’s parents house for Christmas since this experience.

Then something happened this year that has abruptly caused me to change my perspective. Something that has shown me that Christmas really does mean more that opening loads of presents and having things your own way. GrumpyDaddy’s Father, the children’s only Grandfather, passed away. The fact that the Christmas that I have taken for granted (and, at the time, didn’t really like) will never occur again, has really hit home.

Grandpa, the influencial Nuclear Chemist plays rockets with his Grandson

This year GrumpyDaddy’s mother, GrandmaM will be alone. I’m bit of a control freak, so I’d like to spend Christmas in my own home, my own way, with my own food and traditions. But, I have decided we will be going to GrandmaM’s house.

Whilst putting up our Christmas tree, my daughter Muscles (7) said that she wanted to stay home for Christmas this year so Santa could put presents under her tree. But I told her that if we do not go, than GrandmaM will be all by herself,  without Grandpa for the first time and that might make her very sad. I told her that Christmas wasn’t really about opening presents, and playing with them all day. Christmas is really sharing the celebration with the people that you love and that care about you. Although I have told the kids many a time that Christmas isn’t just about presents, this time I really, really meant it!

I now believe that my children are extremely lucky to have two wonderful grandmothers that care for them so deeply. The celebration of Christmas will show my children the family traditions from the people that have come before them and give them a sense of grounding and belonging to a family and a culture. This is important to me too, because I admit that I spent a lot of time focusing on my children and their sport. One day my kids may even be able to share these stories of their childhood Christmas’s with their own children or grandchildren.

This year I will most probably spend too much money buying gifts and will delight in watching them open them on Christmas morning. However, I will also grasp at  the opportunity to enjoy time with other members of my family, to take in the new sights and smells. I will Enjoy the food and the decorations and appreciate the effort it took to get them there. I will also make a point of explaining these things to my children. I still want them to believe that they are special. But I want them to understand that they are also part of something much bigger.

One day, we may well end-up spending Christmas in our little house. But sadly, the reason for this may be that we no longer have grandparents to visit……… I will be appreciating and I will be thankful for my entire my family this Christmas.

R.I.P Grandpa, and thank you

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