A Christmas Transition

Something has felt weird about this Christmas season.  As usual, the weather has cooled, lights have been strewn across houses, and trees have started showing up in front windows.  All of that is the same as ever. 

Still…there is…something.

I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while.  But then it finally hit me.  It’s my kids.  They’re the reason things seem off this year.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m blaming them for anything.  I’m really not.  It’s just…

Normally I have a bit of a build up to Christmas.  Maybe one night we’ll start putting up the tree (Yes, I use a fake one) and then take the next few days to decorate it.  And then another day we (or I) will be putting up the lights outside. 

This year, though, one kid, the other, both, or all three of us have something scheduled EVERY SINGLE DAY!  I’m not kidding.  This week alone I’ve shuttled kids to and/or from four dance classes, three club meetings, two visits with their mother, and one bus trip!  The tree was thrown up and decorated in one evening before Thanksgiving (US Edition) because I looked at the calendar and realized that was the one night we would have time.  As for the outside lights, well…I see a potential window today.  That’s really it, though.

But what makes this year so different than past ones?  Is it really a change or just an acceleration of things that starting to happen in previous years?  And, either way, what’s causing it?

The answer is obvious: my kids are getting older.  And with age comes more activities.  Sure there’s a bit more happening right now because of the holiday season, but it’s all part of the overall process of my not-so-little-anymore-ones picking up their own interests and finding things to do with their time that don’t necessarily involve dear old dad.

It hit me earlier this year that I no longer have a kid in single digits, but I don’t think I really comprehended what that meant until now.  This Christmas, for the first time since my kids were born, I haven’t set foot in a toy department or store.  When we do go to a store, my daughter immediately heads to the clothes, and my son, if I can get him to come along at all, is only interested in the video games.

I suppose I should be celebrating, but I’m finding it a little sad, actually.  And, if I’m really honest, I liked going to toy stores.  It was fun for me to see the new figures, Lego sets, and so on.  Of course, there’s nothing stopping me from strolling down an aisle or two anyway, it was odd to look through each kid’s Christmas list and realize there was not a single toy to be found.

So what did they ask for?  Outside of the occasional game, it was mostly gift cards.  In that way, they’ve become much like the rest of my family.  My brother and I years ago realized that at Christmas we all just hand gift cards to each other.  I’m going to give you this amount of money to spend at this particular place while you hand the same amount back to me that I can only spend at another particular place.  My mother asks me for a gift card to the same clothing store every single year.  And my father…I’m lucky if I can get an answer out of him even about what store or restaurant he would like a card from.  My mother has tried in vain for years to get him to request an actual present.  This year, after much badgering, he asked for pajama pants, to which my mother responded with something along the lines of “THAT’S NOT A CHRISTMAS PRESENT!”  One previous year, he asked for a belt.  Actually, he asked everyone for a belt.  You can probably guess how that went.

Back to my kids, specifically my daughter, this is also our first year of not believing in Santa.  She hasn’t come out and said that she doesn’t believe anymore.  Knowing her, she’s probably a bit perturbed about being wrong.  It’s more about what she hasn’t said.  Which is anything.  The man in the red suit hasn’t been mentioned at all this year.  It’s been more of an unspoken agreement that we’re done with Santa and moving on.  I’m honestly not sorry to see that one go.  I felt very weird about lying to the kids for all of those years; although, I have to admit that it was fun seeing their faces on Christmas morning after the presents “magically” appeared.

I suppose I sound like I’m not enjoying the holidays this year, like I’m dreading seeing just a few envelopes and tiny wrapped packages under a hurriedly-decorated tree instead of the sea of toys from past years.  I assure you that’s not the case.  I love this time of year, and, while the days of sharing it with young children are over (For now.  There could be grandkids one day FAR in the future.), I’m enjoying the season as much as ever.  It’s busy.  Possibly a bit chaotic.  But it’s still time to be with my family and friends, to step away from the cares of real life for a little bit, and to celebrate being together.

If you want some dread, check in with me next Christmas.  By then, my son will be old enough to drive.

<shudder>

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter