What is the most difficult / heart breaking question a parent can be asked at this time of year….? While I’m not a parenting guru, I do happen to have 14 years experience (more than some people have in their careers and they call themselves experts?!) so let me shed some light on this tricky topic….
In trying to keep my promise to Child No1 about not banging on about how much I dislike aspects of this time of year, I’m currently searching for my festive Mojo! Yesterday I started the Christmas cards, having completed a therapeutic culling of the list a few days ago! And I even started buying a few little gifts on my weekly shops. I also found this cute little shop on my occasional foray into Summertown, when I’m up in Oxford – a new shop, run by a delightful couple selling trinkets and gifts which would be fab for Christmas – I’ll spend some money there next week, for sure. I know the Mojo is there, despite my finest efforts at sounding like Ebeneezer Scrooge… and the reason I know it’s there is that I can hear the bell… you know the little tinkling in the dead of night when everyone else is asleep. The sleigh bells that tell me HE is picking up lists and checking on the naughty and nice kids. The reason? Because I still BELIEVE….. if you haven’t seen The Polar Express, you’ll have no idea what I’m on about – stay with me…
… and that’s where, as a parent the trouble starts!
You see, with 2 fast growing children, keeping the magic of Christmas alive is part of the job description – it is, in my view NOT AN OPTION. You hear all the jokes about teaching your children not to tell tales on each other and not to lie and what do we do… we apparently tell them the biggest lies of all about the guy in the big red coat! [Now let me state here and now this isn’t a post that invites debate on the religious context of our festive season – that’s a different discussion and not one for this kind of post.]
Christmas Magic is a term we refer to a lot in our house these days…. it started when Child No1 was about 8 or 9 and she comes home from school and tells me that some grotty kid in her class has been spouting on about the fact the Big FC isn’t real and that it’s really her parents and she knows that because she set up a camera and caught them leaving his stocking at the end of her bed. My answer to her at that time was something like:
” Yeah, right… like xxx knows how to set up a video and leave it running overnight without her parents knowing… and what are you doing talking about Christmas now for… it’s June!” Nice side step onto another topic and there we parked it for another year. If I remember, Child No1 would occasionally say something like “Mummy, I WANT to believe, but other kids tell me I shouldn’t… the trouble is, I’m scared if I don’t believe, he won’t come.” Smart girl and so there started the mutual understanding that exists to this day (she’s 15 next birthday!), where she never actually forced me to say those dreaded words…..
Child No2 however… well, he’s a different story and for those who’ve read previous posts (and know him) you’ll totally get this. So the initial approach was similar… child in class tries to shatter the illusion again nicely sidestepped by mum on a car journey home from the childminders one day! But then nothing… not a word… not a discussion, debate or question until last November. In the car, coming home and me captive with nowhere to hide…
No2: (Sitting in the front seat. Turns the car radio down and looks straight at me as we sit in a queue before a roundabout) – “Right mum…. no messing this time. Just be honest because I really need to know. Like REALLY need to know…. Father Christmas – it’s dad and you, isn’t it?”
Me: “Ooookayyy……” (pauses)
No2: “Look… I know what you’re going to say…. but I want to hear it from you…”
Me: “OK – this is how it is…”
….. it’s people who create Christmas, the people who matter and the people you want to be with and want to be with you. And we don’t forget the people we can’t be with – for whatever reasons. Christmas is a time for creating magic; everything is special, including the music, the decorations, the films we watch…. the atmosphere – everything – sometimes even the weather. It’s called Christmas Magic and it takes a lot of effort to keep the magic alive. What does it matter WHO creates it, so long as the magic is there? And that magic… it means different things to different people.
No2: “But what about Father Christmas… he’s not real… is he?”
And my answer was as honest as it could be….
“You know what… I still love coming down the stairs on Christmas morning and seeing the presents piled high under the tree. I still like to think that in the night someone special came and put them there, just for us, because we deserved them and because we are loved. In my mind that person looks a lot like Father Christmas . When I was a kid and I realised other people were responsible for keeping the magic alive, that was fine by me. My parents ensured there was a stocking for me and my sister until we left home and today I try to carry on with some of the family traditions that we had as children, to help keep Christmas Magic.”
I left the conversation hanging in the air for the rest of the drive home. Nothing more said, just a little bit o thinking time. As Christmas approached I made sure we sat down as a family to watch one of my all time favourite Christmas films – The Polar Express. A film which beautifully answers that most dreaded of questions. Child No2 never brought the subject up again, except to say, “You know, if I had that bell, I’d still hear it ringing.” My job here is done!
I know who parents who’ve just came out and said it – there.. done – that’s life kid… move on. I know others who have let their children go as long as possible and risked ridicule when they go to secondary school, for being the only one that still believes. I also know people who think I’m just a little bit mad. But you know… this year, the presents will still get put away out of sight, there’ll be very little under our tree until just before midnight on December 24th. We’ll still leave out a drink and something for Rudolf. I’ll still insist the children are washed, dressed and breakfasted before they can inspect the pile under the tree. And with any luck, when they become parents, they’ll do the best they can to create a little Christmas Magic for their own families.
A few years ago, staying in an old barn conversion near Betws-y-Coed, we noticed scratching in the roof on Christmas Eve, as we lie in bed. On Christmas morning, when the cottage owners came by with Port for us and gifts for the children, I mentioned our suspected rodent visitors. “Don’t be daft!”, they exclamied. “We don’t have mice…. that must have been Father Christmas on the roof!” Brilliant!
Last year, we spent Christmas In North Wales, in a lovely cottage with friends. We watched the ISS fly over and waved as it went – the youngest of the group certain she could hear Santa’s sleigh bells as it passed overhead!
So as you go about the next few weeks, take a moment to think about what you are doing to create a little bit of Christmas Magic. I’d love to hear about it!
Bye for now,
For more information on Christmas Believe Bells visit: www.enchantedkeepsakes.co.uk