I realize my oldest turned 5, but in many ways this seems to be my first Christmas playing the mother role. We’ve celebrated each year, but in effort not to set expectations too high from the start – coupled with a consistent lack of money and generous grandparents – we’ve kept our Christmas morning family celebrations on the simple side. We’ve wrapped a few presents, filled stockings and rallied excitement, but generally I was able to complete “Christmas shopping” for the kids in one fell swoop. 

The day after Thanksgiving, it became apparent that a key change happened with the 5th birthday, leaving me to change my tune. When JJ told the kids we were going to pick out the Christmas tree, H boy bubbled over in excitement. At one point I heard him exclaim, “I love Christmas! All the lights! All the presents!” 
Not only did I marry Clark Griswald, but I’ve produced his offspring.

Christmas tree selection. We’re not allowed to find it in the first row. 

While it’s not his “first Christmas” this is the first one that the boy can really remember the last one. The years prior he expressed a lot of excitement in the moment, but this was the first time he began to recollect his favorite elements: the train around the bottom of the tree, the lights, and leaving a treat for Santa. Before he did this because we told him to. Now he’s excited by his own volition. 
Now we’re not going through the Christmas motions to set the tone. It’s opening night. Suddenly I’m figuring out exactly how many gifts each kid should have and – as my sister pointed out – including the baby or Santa will look like a jerk. I’m not able to toss a few stocking stuffers in the cart while the kids are along because they have memories like elephants and there would be no stashing it away.

This marks my first year playing Santa for real. In the past we’ve let the extended family gatherings suffice for gifts but now we’re building our own traditions. We’re living as our own unit in a new way because now the kids are remembering “this is what we do at Christmas.” Which brings along its own set of stresses and considerations because I want to do it right – I want to emphasize the real reason for the season and encourage the giving aspect, not just the getting.

So, here’s to it. What an adventure. 

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