I know it's a little early but I thought I'd better get in there quick before you go to the shopping centre, stumble into a brightly decorated fir tree which wasn't there last week and Santa sets his elves on you. Also, since Squiggly still hasn't shown up, you might want to rush out and buy all your gifts now while you have the chance. The first three months of having two children will disappear in the blink of an eye and a mountain of laundry. Or, in other words, if Squiggly is born today, you'll wake up tomorrow to find it's the day after Boxing Day.
Sam will be annoyed you forgot to get him anything.
What are your plans for this Christmas, by the way? Now Sam's three, he'll have much more of a clue what's going on. You'll be able to get him properly wound up with anticipation and excitement. You'll also have to decide what you're doing about the fat, cheery bloke in the red suit.
The one advantage of Marie not having got a place at nursery yet is that, at least this year, we won't be the deviant parents who 'don't do Santa'. Oddly, not wanting to lie to our children about flying reindeer and chimney-based parcel delivery systems, tends to mark us out as dangerously eccentric. Santa is apparently part of the 'magic' of Christmas and, as it happens, a very useful mind control device. ('Be good, children... or Santa won't bring you any presents. Remember, he's watching you all the time. His elves are everywhere... Yes, even there...')
Quite what the parents from different cultural and religious heritages make of it all, I've no idea. Though I presume they get away much more easily with not joining in. It's a strange quirk of the multi-cultural society. Everyone's worried about contradicting Muslims and Hindus but I'm pretty sure they'd be quite up for some spirited religious debate on the nature of God. We could totally disagree and no one would take offense. After all, only by discussion, can any of us get closer to the truth.
If, however, I were to loudly say, 'But Santa doesn't exist,' as the kids were coming out, I'd get stoned by all the agnostics. (Well, glared at, anyway).
It's a shame that the real Christmas story has become so devoid of awe and wonder that the whole Santa thing has had to be built up to add 'magic' to the day. It's not even like the kids are that fussed - a stack of presents is a stack of presents and they're full of anticipation no matter how it's due to appear.
We'd rather not bother with all the Santa subterfuge, thank you very much, but it's an uphill struggle some of the time. When Lewis was three and a half, nursery went into Santa in such a big way, he simply would not believe that the whole thing was just pretend. We tried being subtle about it so he wouldn't go blurting out the truth to all his friends and make us plenty of enemies but, in the end, we had to tell him point-blank over and over and he still wasn't having any of it:
I was woken at quarter past two on Christmas morning by the sound of crying. Although we don't go in for the whole charade, we do still leave out stockings for the kids. Lewis had got up and opened his. Except he'd totally failed to see the stocking at the end of his own bed and had taken the one from beside the cot on the other side of the room. He was sitting on the stairs, bawling his eyes out. As I approached, he held up a pair of pink baby slippers and wailed, 'Santa brought me the wrong presents!' He was heart-broken until I pointed out that it just might be possible he'd opened Marie's stocking by mistake. Somehow, the thought had never crossed his mind. (Perhaps the fact that it was quarter past two in the morning had something to do with it...) I calmed him down and watched him open his actual stocking and then we both went back to bed. It was the start of a very long day.
(This was, in fact, only the second worst Christmas stocking disaster I've ever had. When I was nineteen, home for the holidays and fairly certain I shouldn't expect sleigh-bells, Santa tried to kill me. He lay a stocking directly across the threshold of my bedroom door. I went to the toilet in the middle of the night, tripped over the flipping thing and nearly went head-first down the stairs. I was not impressed. I was even less impressed when, on further investigation, I discovered the stocking contained a tangerine, a bag of nuts and a car cleaning kit. I didn't even have a car. Though, now I think about it, my parents had a car that I borrowed a lot. Hmmm...)
Yeah, it's impossible to avoid Santa entirely but Sarah and I want the kids to trust us. Lying through our teeth about rotund pensioners sneaking into the house in the dead of night to put satsumas in their socks doesn't really seem to be the way to go about that. Call us eccentric, but there you go.
Just something to think about. Then again, your eyes probably glazed over at the first mention of Christmas. I know it's months to go yet but spare a thought for all the shop assistants who'll be subjected to a looped CD of festive hits from now until New Year. Be gentle with them.
Oh, and another sign Christmas is fast approaching? The auditions for nativity plays are already in full swing. I'm pushing for our church to put on something slightly different this year but I'm told it doesn't have enough cute angels in it. (We have the costumes, you see). Ho, well.
Now go tell Squiggly to hurry up.
Yours in a winter wonderland,
PS Microsoft returned my Xbox 360 the other day. Well, actually, they sent me a brand new one - which was a bonus. Unfortunately, I've had to dismantle my safe place again because the tradesmen reckoned it was possible they might turn up to fix the water damage this week.
I now have two 360s but nowhere to play them. Irritating.