4pm last Saturday and I’m in total meltdown. My toddler’s smashed a bauble, stood on it and got glass in her foot. My six year old’s screaming because she doesn’t want to see the miniscule dribble of blood on the bottom of her sister’s foot. My whole body is burning from a hilariously ironic allergic reaction to the Christmas tree. And my husband isn’t speaking to me, after a heated disagreement about how to fit said Christmas tree into the car.
It’s fair to say, it wasn’t the image of idyllic perfection I imagined. But, on reflection, that’s Christmas with kids. And the sooner you realise all those staged photos on the front of Christmas cards are just that – staged – you’re in for a much happier time. And you know what? Here’s the really delicious bit that will open up a whole new world of freedom for you this Christmas: the perfection of Christmas with kids lies in the imperfections.
Take my six year old, for example. In her six year old head she was just as excited as I was about putting up the tree. She didn’t care if we bought it from the cut-your-own-tree farm I’d read about online or from the local garden centre. The exciting thing for her was simply to choose the tree, decorate the tree and then dance around the tree talking about all the presents she might eventually find underneath it. Ask her today if Saturday’s Treegate situation ruined the whole experience for her and she’ll say “no”. She got to stay up late, put the star on top of the tree and eat chocolates off it the next day. Perfect? Perfect.
I’m as guilty as the next magazine-reading, Instagram-addicted, Pinterest-fiend mum of getting carried away by the idea of Christmas. I’ll subconsciously keep an eye out for a good photo opportunity, get hung up on purchasing exactly the right presents and fret I’ve forgotten a vital ingredient in the Christmas dinner. But if Saturday taught me anything about Christmas with kids, it’s that there really is no such thing as “perfect”, not where kids are concerned. And just cracking on and rolling with the parental punches, lowering your standards and embracing the mayhem might well be the secret to really enjoying Christmas this year. That’s my plan anyway.
Two days on and we’re all in agreement that this year’s Christmas Tree Day was the best yet. The comedy of Christmas tree errors will go down in our family’s history as one of our favourite Christmas anecdotes so far. By 9pm I’d had enough gin to find the ridiculousness of it all funny and I had the perspective to realise that my expectations of the day had gone a far way to ruining it for myself. Unlike me, the kids had no expectations other than fun, which is what they got (minus the bauble glitch).
I think that’s the key to obliterating half the stress around Christmas as a whole, actually. The shiny stuff around the edges isn’t what makes the day so fun for kids. They want the mayhem, the glitter, the loud laughter and the relaxed parents way more than the Pintastically wrapped colour co-ordinated presents and artfully tasteful wooden toys. They’re not bothered by how pretty the table is when it’s decorated and if the crackers match the decorations on the tree. All they care about is how plentiful the chocolate supply is and what piece of plastic tat awaits them in their cracker.
This is the first year I’ve not bothered about choosing matching Christmas Eve PJs for the girls, thinking at the back of my mind what a pretty festive photo they’d make. Instead, I’ve gone with two pairs of gaudy, clashing, cartoony numbers that will simultaneously set my teeth on edge but make my Peppa Pig loving toddler and My Little Pony adoring six year old far happier than any Insta-friendly pair would. And this is sort of my philosophy for the whole of Christmas this year. Lower my standards, embrace the clashing madness and, well, relax.
Oh, and keep the fridge stocked with wine.
If you’re interested in seeing how our Christmas tree day went then there’s a vlog of it all – you can watch it below…