So, we have barely finished school – in Australia, the academic and calendar years align – and Christmas is upon us.
After 674 weeks of classes, the kids and I are beyond poopered.
I especially am over people. As a social introvert, I find people both irresistible and exhausting, so having happily chatted my way through all our classes, activities, and appointments, I am now DONE. One more interaction will be the after-dinner mint that explodes me. The boys are the same. Even CraftyFish, who normally swears she’ll DIE if she has to spend two consecutive days at home, is ready for a break.
Add to that, it’s summer: stinking hot and 9000% humidity, which not only defies physics but melts the few neurons I have left and saps my will to live.
What we really don’t need at this time of year is a logistical challenge wrapped in a shit-ton of emotional triggers and tied with a big red social bow.
And yet, here we are. Thanks, Romans!
The thing is, we all love this ridiculous, over-blown, pitfall-strewn gelt-fest, so ignoring it isn’t an option. Having started counting down in September, by December 1 the kids are REVVED. That means a month of silly, loud, playful, hyper-creative. Also, sigh, sensitive, sensory, over-thinky, anxious, argumentative, and sleepless. Such a crucible makes for some big developmental leaps, because WHY NOT? Asynchronous highs and lows are coming prestissimo, faster than mama can mix mojitos.
So we do traditional Christmas with some twists to accommodate both the heat and the over-tired, over-socialised, people who come to the party with fingers on the meltdown button.
December is the month of after-dinner swims, the activity burning off some of that noise while the dark and the cool soothe and settle.
Everyone likes the festive look, though some find the process of decorating too chaotic and noisy. That’s okay. No one has to join in anything. They can find other ways to help, same as any other chore.
We have a rule against music, too, since volume is an issue (hearing-impaired mama, bat-eared children) and none of us like the same tunes. Alone in the car I blast Hooked on Christmas, but the rest of the time we stick to the regular soundtrack of wailing and gnashing teeth.
We do bake, which suggests my brain has already gone as soft as the gingerbread will be by morning. Still, it’s lovely to do with Mum, and then CraftyFish goes nuts with the icing.
I still over-think gifts, having utterly exhausted my ability to put a pin in anything and say “that’ll do”, despite knowing full well there’s no grades for good gift-giving. At least I’ve stopped trying to make stuff for everyone. Baby steps!
I have, however, completely abandoned Christmas dinner, on the grounds that cooking is for people with air-con. Instead we have a picnic: bread and cold meats, lots of veggies, fancy cheese and fruit. Nothing that requires the application of heat.
And then there are the socials: Family, other family, and friends from interstate, who we adore and want to see. Ideally, without tears.
When the kids were younger we crammed it all into one day, which led to a lot of meltdowns. Mostly mine.
Now we spread the load, seeing each group on different days. With slower starts, less stimulation, and less pressure, each day leans a little further from the point where excitement topples into grief. There’s time for reading and building our gifts, time to express all the big emotions, time to decompress on our screens and beds and back in the pool. By spreading Christmas over at least three days, we can refocus from the day itself to the important part: happy time with the people we love.
It wasn’t easy to get to this point. The Skeptic and I both come from places where snow falls, from conservative families who put on the whole Coca-Cola show even when they moved south. Pulling back, a little, so that we could manage genuine smiles for the photographs, took some determination. (And, okay, a few tantrums.) I doubt anyone really gets why we do it this way; they’ve just had to accept it.
The more I read, however, and write, the better I see the reality of who we are and what we need. This is the first year I’ve really embraced the slack approach and the space it gives us, to relax and to enjoy each other. May you find the same peace.