Years of flipping through Christmas catalogs and my recent perusals of holiday Pinterest boards have led me to imagine Christmas morning with my children as a series of Rockwell-esque moments set to a soundtrack of Michael Bublé Christmas renditions. I’m sure lots of parents have certain assumptions about how opening gifts with kids on Christmas morning will be something unforgettable. And that’s probably true, just not for the reasons you would imagine. Here is a look at the realities of Christmas morning with children:
Expectation: You will tiptoe into your children’s bedrooms to wake them up with a “Merry Christmas!” and a great big hug, and then throw open the curtains to see the world as a glittery, snowy winter wonderland before donning coordinating bathrobes to go downstairs and open presents.
Reality: You are awakened in the dark by a blur of child who is chanting “Get up, get up! It’s Christmas!” so loudly that the baby wakes up and starts to cry. You look at your clock and see it’s not even 6 in the morning. As you pull an old hoodie over your braless form, you detect an odor in the air that is nothing like cinnamon, pine, or anything else remotely seasonal emanating from your youngest. You throw a mismatched top and pair of pants on her because they are the first clean things you lay your hands on, and let your oldest drag you downstairs.
Expectation: You and your spouse will sit together on the couch with the baby nestled between you. The adults will enjoy a cup of coffee while your oldest nibbles on cinnamon rolls and opens his stocking, delighting over each new treasure he unearths. Once breakfast is over, you will open gifts. Your child will want to play Santa and hand out the gifts to everyone, one at a time so you can all share in each other’s joy in opening presents. You’ll manage to snap some great candids of the kids as they unwrap things.
Reality: Your older child is ravenous and therefore irrational, so he doesn’t want delicious cinnamon rolls, he wants eggs, but he also wants to open his presents “rit nao!” You compromise by allowing him to bring his stocking to the table, and you hand the baby off to your husband to be fed while you make some scrambled eggs. You glance occasionally over your shoulder when your child wants to show you what he just pulled out of his stocking. You present your little elf with his eggs, and after one bite he decides he wants a cinnamon roll instead. Thank god for Entenmann’s.
Once everyone is properly fed and caffeinated, you head into the living room to open gifts. Your child dives headfirst into the pile, which is admittedly mostly for him. You finally see the Christmas snow you were hoping for, only these flurries come from the wrapping paper massacre that’s happening under the tree. When your big kid pauses his frenzy to hand your younger one a gift, you look around for your phone to capture this moment and then realize it’s still on your nightstand. You take a mental picture and wonder if you can get them to reenact this later for Facebook’s sake.
Expectation: Your children will love each gift they receive, and your older child will be especially thrilled when they open the box, clearly marked from you, not Santa, with the toy they have been begging for since Halloween. Once they are no longer seized by joy, they will fling themselves into your arms to say thank you, and you will be overcome with emotions about what a good person they are growing up to be.
Reality: The baby won’t be able to do much more than gnaw on the edge of a box, and when you do manage to help them unwrap something, they have little to no interest in the new toy, though they will take that empty box, thankyouverymuch. You realize you could have wrapped their existing toys to the same effect and saved yourself the money, as they have no idea what is happening. You completely miss seeing your older child open his big gift because you were too busy wrestling some tinsel out of the baby’s fist. When you prompt him about his big gift and ask if he’s excited, he says, “Yeah, sure, thanks,” and acquiesces to your request for a hug while barely looking up from his new prize. You try to temper your disappointment over his reaction by focusing on the fact that he seems happy.
Time to grab a giant trash bag to deal with the paper monster that has eaten your living room, and then break’s over. Back to your regularly scheduled parenting duties — hopefully with a fluffy new robe to wear.