Back in my blogspot days I didn’t have a whole lot of readers. Even fewer people commented on what I wrote (some things never change!). Then, one day, I started getting comments from a lady named Mary P. I quickly learned that Mary’s blog, It’s not all Mary Poppins, chronicled the childcare experiences of the kids at Mary’s in-home daycare business. It quickly became a favorite of mine. Following the exploits of 3 year olds like Harry, George and Darcy is a fun reminder of what being a little kid is all about (apparently it’s often about the word “poo”). I love my daily fix of Mary P. and I hope you’ll stop by and check her out. I’m very grateful she has agreed to share her family traditions with you all. Please welcome Mary P.
My Christmas starts in January, when I begin to buy stocking stuffers. I kid you not. Between us, my partner and I have eight children. Eight of the fearsomely expensive little darlings. Were I to wait till December or even November to begin shopping, they’d each receive a sock. A pair of socks if it had been an especially good year. Thankfully, I LOVE gift shopping, and delight in finding things each month for one person or another. With eight kids, each pile isn’t that big, but each gift was chosen with love. (We each shop primarily for our own children, though we each get the other’s children one gift apiece.)
Furthermore, my eldest child was born on December 7. I promised her before she was born that her birthday would never be submerged by the Christmas going on all round it. My way of doing that was to decide that I would have all the Christmas shopping done by December first. I’ve done so every year since then. She’ll be twenty this year. That decision has been the single best one I’ve ever made regarding Christmas. For me, December is a relaxing month, agreeably punctuated by parties on weekends, but mostly spent cocooning with my family.
Two weeks before Christmas, we get out the creche, carefully chosen so as to be child-friendly. The kids have always been allowed to play with it, and several times a week, we play out the Christmas story with the figures. As the kids have gotten older and smarter, Mary has had some strong words to say about riding that damned donkey those ninety miles or so when moments from giving birth! But it ends happily, as we all know.
The family traditions had to be overhauled about ten-ish years ago, with my divorce. Our tradition before that had been a long wild swoop of the province, bouncing from his family to mine, and a few cousins in between, starting Christmas morning as soon as the gifts were opened. With the divorce, though, that had to change. I was thrilled to be able to make a Christmas happen in my very own home. I’d never liked the driving, and besides, I no longer had a car. I certainly wasn’t welcome at my former in-laws (because goodness knows it must’ve been my fault that their son kept messing around on me) and I couldn’t get to my family, so…
New traditions were called for. Now, given that I get the kids first most years, I could’ve scooped my in-laws on the big turkey extravaganza. This would’ve really bugged them. Ha! I could say. The kids will get their turkey with me first – that’ll teach your boy to mess around on me, oh yeah. Except I really don’t like cooking a whole lot, and a meal cooked for vengeance probably wouldn’t taste all that great, anyway. Not exactly the Christmas spirit, either. More pain than gain in that scenario. So, no. Anyway, because we had always been at someone else’s house for Christmas dinner, I had yet to cook a whole turkey dinner. Ever. I saw no reason to start at the ripe old age of 32.
Sooo… The kids and I sat down and talked turkey about turkey, and came up with our brilliant new Christmas food tradition. Christmas Eve, about four in the afternoon, we begin our preparations for our all-out Christmas Eve feast: we dial out for Chinese. This is a big treat for us. On our budget, Chinese for four – five, now – isn’t cheap!! It’s eaten, with chopsticks, on blankets on the living room floor, in front of a blazing fire. This is Tradition. It continues to be Tradition, even though we now live in a house without a functional fire place. So now we sit on blankets on the floor in front of the foot stool that nestles in the not-for-fires fire place.
Our other traditions are bits and pieces of my childhood traditions changed to accommodate my kids and my own inclinations. As a kid, my brother, sister and I got up early Christmas morning, as all children will do, really early, pre-dawn early – about 3:30, as I recall. We’d haul our stockings from the end of our bed and dragged them to our mother’s room. It’s not surprising that we’d try this out, but what’s truly astonishing that she actually let us wake her at this hour! When we’d opened our stockings, we were sent back to our rooms to play with the contents, so mum could finish her night’s sleep, thank you very much, before we were allowed to open any more gifts.
This is NOT a tradition I have maintained. In our house, Christmas starts no sooner than six in the morning. Last year I was quite astonished when they managed it – at 19, 15, and 11, I expected at least a little sleeping in. Lord knows it’s hard enough to haul their butts out of bed any other day of the year. Then don’t I find out the little wretches set an alarm clock for six! This year there’s a corollary to that rule: six by natural means or not at all.
As kids, we would wait till Mum would finally get out of bed at the unbelievably slack hour of, oh, 6:12 a.m., and we would all wander over to the other side of the semi, where we kids would wake my grandparents. Then we’d have to wait -again!!!- and waitandwaitandwaitandwait,wait, wait, wait, until my grandparents and my mum made themselves a cup of tea, if you can believe it. Where were their PRIORITIES??? When the tea was finally steeped and everyone had been given a cup – sometimes I would take gran and grandad’s tea to them as they settled in on the couch, which was viewed as a very kindly and grownup thing for me to do, when in fact I was only trying to get some speed happenin’ here.
We still do that. Only my kids actually have to eat something nutritious before the grand chocolate-and-peppermint feast to follow. And my eldest makes me my cup of tea – some traditions must be genetic!
After the presents, there are quiet Christmas activities – the annual jigsaw puzzle dominates the dining room for the remainder of the holidays, there are the Christmas books to be read. Later in the day the children go to their dads from whence their annual sweep of the province Christmas driving commences the next day, and my sweetie and I settle in to a couple of blissfully child-free days before his kids descend, and we get Christmas all over again.
With a different set of traditions. But that’s another post.
You can visit Mary P. at http://daycaredaze.blogspot.com