Christmas: Let’s do this thing!

Christmas observations and tips from Big Brother, Buster, and Big Man for the enjoyment of boys and girls everywhere.

Daddy didn’t run away from home on Christmas this year either. He threatened to do it two or three times like always, but we’ve been around this block before. He always acts like he’s headed for the door, but we all know he loves how exciting and noisy we make Christmas for him. Besides, he’s not going anywhere when there’s still a ham in the oven. And after dinner, he’s too fat and slow to escape.

We brothers do our best to keep Daddy engaged on Christmas. He’s says he needs a minute of peace, but we know he’s just saying that so he won’t put us to any trouble. But it’s really no trouble for us to keep things lively for him. And since he’s almost a hundred years old, it’s important to keep his mind in the game.

Keep you candy handy. You'll need all your strength to rip open these packages.

Keep your candy handy. You’ll need all your strength to rip open these packages.

Daddy gets out his camera on Christmas morning when we’re getting ready to open presents. This is kind of like his little challenge to us. If he has time to take more than five pictures before the unwrapping swirls out of control, we haven’t done our jobs. That’s why we’ve all just got to pitch in and start unwrapping stuff. Daddy tries to keep us taking turns or something, but Santa didn’t put all these present under this tree so we could sit around and talk about them. It’s every man for himself.

The best thing to do on Christmas is open up all the boxes with your new toys in them and dump everything out on the floor.  Toys come with a lot of pieces nowadays and it’s important to get all the pieces together in one big pile. That way, when you and your brothers start hounding Daddy to assemble all your play sets, he’ll have all the pieces for any of them he needs in one central location.

If you have anything that needs batteries (and you do – lots of things), make sure you bring that to your parents attention right away. It takes about 538 batteries to get through the holiday. Your parents will never learn this and will only have stocked up about 400 batteries, so you need to get as many as you can before your brothers hog them all up. Otherwise, you’ll be staring into a drawer with nothing left but those useless, rectangle batteries they used about a million years ago and Mommy and Daddy keep around for nostalgia.

This is going to need batteries - lots of batteries.

This is going to need batteries – lots of batteries.

Here’s a fun fact about Christmas dinner: it’s a complete waste of your time. Wouldn’t you rather be playing? Even if you secretly like ham, pretend it’s one of the 9 billion foods you don’t. You’ve already loaded up on candy from your stocking, and if you get a little peckish later, you’ve still got a candy cane full of ROLOs and two caramel Santas in reserve.  You don’t have time for a sit-down meal; protest it.

Christmas is a time to stay wound up as long as you can. After all, you want to make special holiday memories for Mommy and Daddy.

 

The increase in bumps and bruises indicates we have entered the Christmas Season

Children can smell Christmas a month away. The first sniff of it smells like Thanksgiving turkey. There’s something about that turkey, or maybe it’s Parade Santa driving down whatever avenue Macy’s is on, telling all the kids to rev up their engines for presents.

Our three boys can be found roughhousing at pretty much any given time between New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve, but there’s a special, over-the-top season of horseplay between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s something in the air that shoots right to their little, immature synapses and makes them start snapping in hyper drive.

Big Brother, Yuletide veteran, knows how many days until Christmas. He lives in anticipation of that day. He knows exactly why he’s excited, but when it comes to controlling his frenzy like a civilized third grade citizen, he’s as helpless as a two-year-old. Fortunately, there’s a two-year-old nearby to emulate.

Buster knows Christmas is coming, in a general kind of way. It could be in a few months or it could be tomorrow. It’s probably not tomorrow because there’s no Christmas tree yet. But Big Brother has been asking about putting up the tree, and he only does that within three or four months of Christmas, so it must be time to get amped up. It’s not enough to say, “I want that!” to every toy commercial on TV, you’ve got to shout it at this time of year, so people know you’re serious.

Big Man exhibits a vague sense of impending joy. He’s been seeing more lights, trees, and red suits lately, and that can only be a good thing. I doubt Big Man remembers last Christmas as a specific event, so he has the advantage of having it be the first time all over again. The disadvantage is that he doesn’t know the reason he’s feeling so hyper these days, but if his big brothers are running around like maniacs, there must be a good reason for it.

And running around like maniacs they are, literally. Their race course is a narrow path starting in the entrance hallway, with a sharp left in the kitchen, a hairpin turn in the dining room, then between the sofa and an unforgiving book case back to the start. The days since Thanksgiving have been littered with stubbed toes, banged knees, and bumped heads as they chase each other around this treacherous course at warp speed.

It always follows the same pattern: the sound of running feet is punctuated by a thud; all the running noise stops, replaced by one siren wail; the pitch of the wail slides down into the steady notes of crying; perhaps this is accompanied by the sound of a little person hopping on one foot as he stumbles toward expected parental sympathy.

Actual parental sympathy sounds much like, “That’s what happens when you run in the house.”

Who needs parental sympathy when you’ve got the Christmas Spirit? Those overstimulated baby synapses will wash away the tears and get a boy back in the race in no time.

I’ll ask Santa if he’ll come back next year

Despite my many warnings to the boys about the borderline quality of their behavior leading up to Christmas, Santa came anyway. Nobody can be counted on to give 102nd chances like Santa.

We had a typical Christmas for us. It began with a mega-dose of childish excitement and glee. Then it slowly spiraled into the danger zone known as Too Much Christmas, when three boys, overstimulated and full of adrenalin, can’t process all the new things to play with and turn into Tasmanian Devils.

When Christmas is still fresh and new - before the abundance of toys overloads any synapses.

When Christmas is still fresh and new – before the abundance of toys overloads any synapses.

Just think how fun it will be out of the box!

Just think how fun it will be out of the box!

A small cooling off period sets things right again, or as near as they can be on this day of frenzy. Then it’s the battle to make them sit down long enough to eat some dinner. Fortunately, Big Brother has inherited his father’s unconditional love of the ham. He’d eat it in a box with a fox, or even during the excitement of Christmas Day. It’s only the little ones who can’t see the majesty of the glazed shank beyond the shine of new toys.

About mid-afternoon begins the parental strategizing about how to wear them down so they’ll go to bed at a decent hour, in spite of all the fun stuff calling them to wakefulness from the living room.

The day ends with a drink of Daddy’s new scotch, conveniently delivered by the UPS man on Christmas Eve. If there is a Santa, I’m now convinced his suit is brown rather than red.

And what a scotch it was. This new one is potent. It tried to put hair on my chest. It didn’t realize that my chest is a difficult place put hair. The most difficult place is my head, which retired from hair farming some years ago. At my age, that scotch would have been far more successful seeking fertile ground on my back, but liquor attempts only what it’s trained to do.

In the days following Christmas, things have settled down some. Some. We still have fights between Buster and Big Brother over the best use of certain toys. Big Man keeps everybody on their toes with his penchant for disassembling LEGO creations whenever one is left unattended and within his reach.  This causes much gnashing of teeth, yet never causes anyone to learn to keep their LEGOs up high.

There used to be a lazer turret here. But after Big Man tore that off, Jar Jar makes a good substitute.

There used to be a laser turret here. But after Big Man tore that off, Jar Jar makes a good substitute.

Pieces are broken or lost. This is the natural order of things. Instinctively, they are making room for the next Christmas.

On the third night after Christmas, Buster considered his built, then unbuilt, then half-built again LEGO toy. “Daddy, “ he said.

“Yes?”

“I want more Christmas.”

There’s a little Buster in me that always wants more Christmas too. But when the Daddy in me reflected upon the dizzying roller coaster that is Christmas with three boys, even my inner child shook his head. There’s not enough scotch in the world for that.

“Maybe we’ll have another one next year. I’ll ask Santa how he feels about it.”

All the daddies do it

It’s that time of year again. It’s the height of the season when parents use Santa Claus leverage to pry good behavior from their children. But I would never hijack a beloved icon to extort good behavior from my kids.

Like hell I wouldn’t. I clobber them over the heads with Santa.

“Santa won’t want to come here if these toys aren’t picked up.”

“Santa looks unfavorably upon little boys who won’t be quiet when Daddy’s watching the game.”

“Santa this; Santa that.” It’s all Santa, all the time. Sometimes it even works. Sort of.

the empty chimney of sub-par behavior

A watched pot never boils, especially when the watcher made noise all through Monday Night Football.

Santa’s pulled a lot of weight around our house when it comes to keeping kids in line, even without the help of that creepy Elf on the Shelf, who has yet to prove he’s officially sanctioned by Santa.

Eventually, Santa will abandon us, and then I don’t know where we’ll be. I can only hope he will have done well enough raising our children that we can take over without a large drop off in behavior or, more importantly, convenience.

But Santa is not the only force of manipulation in our house. Lately, Buster has discovered a new force he’s sure should persuade me to do what he asks.

If I tell him I won’t give him a bowl of gummy bears for breakfast, he looks up at me with big, sincere eyes and tells me. “All the daddies do it.”

I say, “No. Daddies don’t give their children gummy bears for breakfast.”

He gives me a what-rock-have-you-been-living-under? look and insists, “Yes they do. All the daddies.”

The motion is passed. The Council of Daddies decrees that, henceforth, all daddies will do it.

The motion is passed. The Council of Daddies decrees that, henceforth, all the daddies will do it.

I’m not sure where he learned about peer pressure, or how he found out what all the daddies are doing these days, but it worked out for him that they are all doing just the sorts of things he would appreciate. Sadly, the only daddy who is out of step with the times is his own. What a rotten luck of the draw.

Lest you think parental peer pressure is reserved for daddies, I have overheard him play the all-the-mommies card as well. Apparently, all the mommies have joined all the daddies in opening up a world of limitless sugar and playing ball in the house to little boys.

It frustrates him that his parents have not joined, or even been invited to, the revolution. But we are older than most parents of three-year-olds, and not very hip. We’re stuck in the old ways. We think he should get his morning dose of sugar from someone we trust, like Cap’n Crunch, not from a fly-by-night mob of nameless bears.

This doesn’t stop him from using the new thinking of all the daddies and mommies to try to influence our parenting. Likewise, a reminder that Santa is watching only keeps him on the straight and narrow for about a minute, but that doesn’t stop me from going to the Santa well at every opportunity.

In either case, you’ve got to do the best you can with the tools you have.