Two words: Stocking stuffers.
As you sip your mulled wine, take in the heady pine scent from your Christmas tree and cozy up with a luxurious blanket, I'm sure you think: ahhhh, glorious, glorius holidays. Then, out of nowhere, your half-clothed kids rush in chasing each other, hit the tree, knock your wine from your hand and spill it all over your brand-new fleece pajamas. Isn't t just delightful how quickly the Christmas spirit can fizzle out when kids are involved? Don't get me wrong - the holidays are pure magic because of my children's innocence and wonderment and I wouldn't have it any other way - but at the same time, the holidays kind of suck now that I'm a parent. Here's what I mean:
Who invented this torturous occasion? Nothing takes as much work as the yearly Christmas school fair. If it isn't bringing in a bottle for the raffle stand (the lucky winner takes home wine, the unlucky gets a bottle of ketchup), it's making the costume for the nativity (since when did the birth of Jesus include a spider?) or offering to face paint (have you ever tried to draw a unicorn on a five-year-old's cheek that ends up looking like a transvestite?) THE WORK NEVER ENDS. Every day there's a "gift" to decorate, make or donate and the actual fair consists of nothing more than kids hyped-up on sugar, with sticky candy cane hands, begging for more money to spend. FalalalalalaNO.
The concept of stocking stuffers seems relatively simple, right? But in reality, those tiny tchotchkes always end up costing as much as a present and end up in the trash days later. Plastic crap is the work of the devil, I tell you.
Remember the days of winter sans kids, just throwing on a thick scarf and wooly hat and walking out the door? HA. These days, I'm a screaming fishwife, hunting for hats, searching through an endless sea of mismatched gloves, and spending a solid thirty minutes removing yellow snow from my kid's boots. Relaxing wintry mornings sipping coffee? Nothing but a memory now...
Prior to kids, my husband and I wrote lists of stuff we liked and then let the other choose what to buy. I loved all the goodies he bought for me (usually perfume, fancy face products, or "sexy" underwear.) Now, we grunt "Merry Christmas" to each other and exchange something small and relatively meaningless. Why? Because all our money goes to the kids. (And before you guilt me, yes I know this season is all about giving. It's just that sometimes I wish it wasn't.)
How many times can a children's choir murder "O Little Town of Bethlehem"? And don't get me started on Handel's Messiah; that's the song (read: saga) that never, ever, ever ends. Then there's the annual nativity performance, which takes place in a stuffy gymnasium where the heating is turned to MAX and unless you turn up at 7:15 am, you're stuck in the nosebleed seats and might as well bring binoculars to see your little angel mumble her way through one line.
In my previous life, this used to be prime sofa-lounging/chocolate-eating/movie-watching time. Now it feels like a week of never-ending Sundays where I've been appointed Christmas cruise director to keep my kids entertained at all hours. And in London, where I live, all it does is rain. So scrap wintery walks. Instead, imagine the festive nature of indoor, overpriced play areas, filled with screaming, germy kids. All you wanted for Christmas was a lice diagnosis? You ask, you shall receive!
Instead of winding down in anticipation of Christmas Day, I'm left frantically wrapping odd-shaped stocking stuffers - they're always odd-shaped, aren't they? - and making last-minute trips to Target after realizing I completely blanked on my mother-in-law's gift. Thank GOD for gift bags.
In a matter of minutes, my once-immaculate house resembles Armageddon, if Armageddon spewed cardboard, candy wrappers, plastic bows, and torn wrapping paper from the sky. And of course, immediately following the wrapping paper rapture, the kids want to start 'building' all their toys, which leads to an hour hunting for batteries and the right screwdriver, another hour of putting the damn thing together, replete with bleeding fingers and ruined manicure, only for your kid to grow bored of it within minutes and sit in front of the TV. A merry Christmas, indeed!