Until I moved out of my parents’ home to California at age 22, I’d never celebrated Christmas morning anywhere but the house I grew up in. Actually, that’s not even true, as I flew back to Salt Lake for Christmas and celebrated there every year until, I think, Wombat was born (and Christmas that year–with an eleven-day-old infant–remains the only one I’ve celebrated in this house since we moved here in 2007). So that’s, what…twenty-nine Christmases in Utah, plus last year and the year before (Simon’s mom was with his sister in England), plus the year before, when we spent Christmas morning with my parents and then flew to Orange County to spend Christmas night with Simon’s mom, sister, and 9-month-old niece, and…holy crap. I’ve only spent ONE Christmas in my entire life anywhere other than at home with my mom and dad.
Hello! No wonder I’m feeling a bit angsty about not going home for Christmas this year! Missing family and friends, seeing snow, time-honored traditions, blah blah blah…obviously the real issue is that not only am I used to doing Christmas a Certain Way, I’ve actually always done it that way. I’m an old dog and you want me to do what now? A triple backward flip with my eyes closed?
We’re spending this Christmas in Southern California with Simon’s mom, her boyfriend, my sister-in-law, her husband, and their two daughters, ages five and two. It will be a full house and you will therefore find me hiding in a closet with my book and a headlamp at some point, but it will also be awesome because every one of those people is lovely and wonderful, and I’m especially looking forward to Wombat spending time with his only cousins, whom he’s seen…once? That can’t be right. But nope, ONCE. (They came for our wedding.) Plus, we’re going to Disneyland! (I hope they have closets and books there too.)
I’m trying to be zen about the chaos that will surely rein during this foray into Exxxxxtreme Family Togetherness, and so far the only path I know that leads to zen (or at least in the neighborhood of zen) is imagining in painful detail every possible thing that could go wrong. I’ll spare you the individual scenarios and accompanying Munch face and instead ask for your words of advice/encouragement/warning about one specific thing: How To Do Santa Someone Else’s Way When You’ve Only Ever Done Santa Your Way [Which Is Obviously the Best Way].
Santa never wrapped our gifts. Santa always wrapped Simon’s gifts. Santa alone packed our stockings full of goodies and left each near the pile of loot for that same person so when you entered the living room on Christmas morning you were greeted with a bright and shining smorgasbord of everything you’ve ever wanted. Meanwhile, at Simon’s house *sad music*, stockings were hung on the doorknob of each kid’s room, as a way of tiding them over before the great unwrapping commenced. (BUT THEN HOW CAN YOU CAPTURE THE MAGICAL STOCKING MOMENTS ON VIDEO, I ASK?) At our house, everyone got a stocking–kids, adults, even cats. This year, we’re all contributing to the kids’ stockings and that’s it. This last change I’m mostly happy about because, trust me, I don’t need my own stocking full of candy I won’t eat, but on the other hand, I’m worried Wombat will be suspicious if the adults get nothing at all from Santa. The Santa I know is not an ageist bum. Santa wants mama to have a new pair of slippers.
Last week I messaged my SIL to make sure they were even doing Santa (they are; phew) and, if so, how much Santa stuff their girls would get considering they’d have to fly back to England with it. (I didn’t want Wombat to get five things plus some gifts for the whole family while the cousins got only one or two.) Turns out, we’re both going the route of having a few toys for the kids show up at Gramma’s house and then some extra things waiting when we all get home, which I think is swell. And although I’m still mourning the grand display of unwrapped gifts, I’m mostly just hoping Wombat doesn’t catch on that Santa has more than one way of doing things and those ways are directly dependent on where he visits you and/or with whom you’re sharing the company of Christmas Day. Santa has his reasons! Do not question the magical methods of the man in the red suit!
So, people who have had more experience doing Christmas with more than one family: How do you do it?
Additional question because I always find people’s answers to this one fascinating: Who gives your kid(s) the Big Gift(s)? Do you get to be the hero and swoop in with that Thing Most Desired, or does Santa get all the credit? Personally, I like to let Santa be the champion here, as it adds to the magic and also reinforces the idea that parents are not just People Who Give You Whatever You Ask For. Growing up, I loved that Santa would sometimes bring me stuff I knew would never fly with my parents, and only once was I disappointed: the year I wanted a Cocker Spaniel named Sandy. Similarly, for me, Santa is the leeway that will allow Wombat and Fox to have things I don’t really want to spend my money on (like the stuffed reindeer Wombat neeeeeeeeds even though he already has 312 stuffed animals).
Oh, and one more question: It’s okay to give Fox a few things I’ve pulled out of storage that used to be Wombat’s, right? Santa’s totally down with recycling!
And a bonus question (the baby’s taking a long nap and I can’t staaaaahhhhhp!): Elf on the Shelf, Y or N? Wombat would be ALL OVER THAT SHIZ, and I worry that when he gets a bit older and hears about other kids’ elves he’ll wonder why we don’t have one, but boo hoo, too bad for him because je refuse the elf on two basic principals: (1) we don’t believe in getting good behavior out of children because they fear a consequence; you act good because that’s what you do as a decent human being, not because you don’t want the elf to snitch on you to Santa (see also: one reason religion has no wings here; can of worms! can of worms!), and (2) the elf is designed to look all old-timey and charmingly retro, and he’s billed as a time-honored tradition that has lasted throughout the ages (the full name is, in fact, “Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition”), but THAT’S FUCKING MARKETING. Had anyone heard of the elf before about 2005, and probably even later than that? NO. So, yes, I’m boycotting the elf out of spite. Bah humbug, etc.