Santa No More

Maxi finally asked me outright, “Is Santa real?”

The Boss and I agreed long ago, when we created our family Christmas traditions, that if one of the minxes ever asked outright about Santa that we’d not blatantly lie to them: we’d either distract them if they were very young or it was very close to Christmas (“I think I can hear sleigh bells! Shhh!”) or come clean about the Santa myth if they were old enough or very persistent.

Maxi’s 11. It’s October (this wee bombshell hit on 25 Oct 2017). Moving up to High School this summer with a belief in Santa might be even more socially disadvantaging than just being our kid. OK then…

It’s not like it was completely out of the blue, to be fair. Last year, Maxi had asked me whether Santa was real. I’d replied with my usual, “What do you think?”to play for thinking time, then instead answered her second, back-up question: “Do you make the Santa videos?” I’d admitted that one and explained that Santa was too busy to make an individual reply to every child, so yes, the parents helped. And yes, I’d made the videos. I’d waited for her to re-ask the first Big Question, and I was ready to answer honestly, but she hadn’t.

So: I shut down the laptop, took a deep breath, pulled up my Big Responsible Mum pants and went for it. I asked my usual playing for time question (What do you think?) and half-listened while I frantically thought. I walked her into the living-room, closed the door, and steeled myself to crush the innocence of my firstborn.

Melodramatic? Hahaha. Well, only a bit.

(Recall Old Info) I started by asking her why she thought her parents made the Santa videos every year. She flanneled for a bit, playing for time herself, then eventually said that it was to make her and her sisters feel special and loved and in the middle of some wonderful magic.

Oooh, I think she’s helping me out! This might go ok!

(Analogy) Then I reminded her that Jesus probably did exist a few thousand years ago, and was probably a very, very nice man indeed, and that his ideals and stories had grown eventually into Christianity today.

(Relate to New Info) “In the same way”, I said, eyeballing her, “Santa probably lived once upon a time. He was probably a really lovely, giving man. He may or may not have been truly magic. And in the time ever since, the ideas and stories about him have been cherished and kept alive by parents all over the world who want to make Christmastime as special for their children as it once was in Santa’s day.”

Maxi snuggled into my arms and hid her face from me. Oh-oh…

(Re-state New Info) “So although Santa isn’t a real, live man anymore, he really does have millions of Santa’s helpers, all helping to make his magic come true. Except they’re not actually little elves: they’re parents. We all love our children so very much that we make Santa’s magic happen every year. We’re one huge, big team of Santa’s helpers.”

Her little shoulders shook and she cried. This wasn’t going very well.

(Check Understanding) “And now I think we have our newest recruit – you!” She sobbed. Aw, pants. This really wasn’t going well.

We hugged. I asked her how she felt. She admitted that she’d not been surprised, and that she was glad that I’d told her the truth, but she was sorry to know it.

I recalled how I’d found out about Santa when I’d asked my mum outright, on a dark, frosty 2 mile walk to the shops at night with her, aged 10. Unusually we’d been on our own so I grabbed the chance to ask – she’d probably engineered it! – and how I’d felt crushed and relieved and grown-up and trusted and shattered, all in the same moment.

I spent the next half hour bigging up parents’ role as Santa helpers. Maxi was worried that Christmas had lost its magic. I reassured her that although the innocent specialness of believing in Santa’s magic was finished for her, it wasn’t actually gone – it was just changing into a different kind of magic. I nearly wittered on about the Magic of Giving, but I reigned that whole crock o’ nonsense right in. I explained that she’d still wake up on Christmas morning and not know what she’d been given for Christmas. She’d still get a video from Santa that would make her feel loved. She would still feel excited on the whole run-up to the big day.

She thought for a while. “So do you do the elves?” she asked, smiling mischievously now.

“God, yeah!” I snorted, as her eyes widened. “That’s sooooo much fun! One of the best bits about Christmas”. I told her that she’d also still get to wake up every morning of December and rush out of bed to discover what they’d been up to because no, she absolutely wasn’t a helper on that team.

“Mum, how can you do all that to your house every night?!” she gasped in horror. Hahahahahaha! I didn’t tell her about all the alcohol involved…

We had a long talk about how she should handle her younger sisters asking her whether Santa was real or not  – they know I’m a Master of Distraction, and that Maxi never lies. Ever. Mini can imitate the ‘Lying Face’ her family and friends each make when they’re telling porkies, but she stated that Maxi doesn’t have one because she never lies. And she’s right!

I stressed that every parent weaves their own family Santa myth to best fit their children, to make their children’s Christmas as perfect and magical as they possibly could, but how those might vary. We discussed how, as a helper in Santa’s Grotto at the school fair next month, she could start being a Santa helper by being very sensitive to the slightly different family traditions and not give the game away.

Finally, Maxi asked who ate the mince-pie left out on Christmas Eve. She was quite crest-fallen when I told her that it wouldn’t be her; she was only a brand new Santa Helper and that this year, if she showed great promise, she might be allowed to nibble the carrot. Me and The Boss hate that part, so wahey, that’s the silver lining in this child’s milestone cloud!

And the title of this post? Well, fast-forward to minute 3:04 of the Proclaimers’ video and listen to the end. That was my earworm as I sat and told The Boss later what I’d just done, and that it was his job next time!

The 2013 Arrival of Edward and Edwinn Elf

Edwinn: butter wouldn't melt...

Edwinn: butter wouldn’t melt…

I’ve spent the last few months distracting the kids from last year’s visit of Edward the Elf by: writing a letter to Santa asking him not to send us an elf this year; bad-mouthing how naughty he’d been all month; and exclaiming, “Oh, I hope he doesn’t come back!” In reality I’ve been crocheting another elf to visit this year alongside Edward, and getting just as excited as the minxes.

The day before the elves arrived, the whole family Trout plus in-laws were out walking in some local woods. One of the trees has a brilliant hollow that looks just like a fairy door. I spun a quick tale about it being the treehouse of a cousin of Edward’s – Edwinn –

Fairy Door?

Fairy Door?

and that the minxes would have to keep quiet in case Edward happened to be visiting and heard them, and decided to follow us home. As I’d hoped, the minxes yacked loudly and excitedly instead.

December 1st came. My in-laws gave the girls an advent calendar each, and gamely helped them unpack and hang up all the Christmas decorations. While they did that, I furtively plonked the 2 elves, a chocolate orange and box of bittermints in a plant-pot, alongside a letter from Santa introducing Edwinn: elf shelf letter 2013 2. Our house has lots of really old bells that link to the outside bell, so it was easy to nip upstairs and ring the bell for the girls to answer without giving the game away. Three overjoyed little minxes jumped up and down excitedly when they found the elves, whilst I successfully feigned frustration and grumpiness.

Mwahahahaha, let the fun commence!

Last Day of Term Chaos

Friday 21 December

It was the last day of school and my first 2 babies were dressed up to the nines to go to their school party.  But they’re too young to wear pretty dresses and sparkly shoes!  They’re only… oh. Six and 4.  Already!  I think they were ready to leave faster, with less fuss, and with less nagging from me than I’ve ever experienced.  If only every day were Party Day…  The Boss got up early, despite still feeling very duff*, and made us all sausages for breakfast.  I think his cunning plan was to fill them up with a decent breakfast so that the mid-morning sugar onslaught of the party would have something to sit on.

*He took a day off work sick with a sore throat, joint aches, sweats, fever, and spent it in bed or on the sofa, exhausted.  Then he was sent home from work, and the GP told him to take a week off.  The poor man was sleeping 10 hrs at night, and dozing for 8-10 hrs during the day.  Glandular fever was the suspicion, but his blood test didn’t really confirm or deny.  He’s still not 100%, 3 weeks later, but at least he can form a coherent thought and join it to another one, now.

Rainbow halo around Midi

Rainbow halo around Midi

I made the girls’ hair as fancy as I could (Midi Minx is currently loving the rainbow bobbles in a halo look and Maxi is happy so long as there are sparkles in there somewhere), then checked the weather.  Stormy.  Pants!  So by the time I’d found the girls’ waterproof trousers and dragged out the big old buggy and fought with the plastic raincover that’s as big as a king-size duvet, we’re all running late.  And I’m not sure I’ll manage to ship 3 wee girls and 5 boxes of cupcakes to school, vaguely in one piece, and hopefully dry (ish).  I got ridiculously stressed leaving little Mini in the buggy outside the school, while I spent maybe 6 minutes wrestling her sisters out of wellies, rustling trousers, and enormous parkas, cramming them into sparkly shoes and stacking cupcake boxes onto little arms, kissing 2 shiny little faces, and going back for a second hug and kiss (how can I resist…?)  I do feel torn, needing to be with my toddler yet wanting to take my time unhurriedly sorting out my elder little girls.

cupcakesCupcakes…  I just don’t do presents to school-teachers because I struggle to do Christmas presents even to my entire large family, never mind friends.  But Maxi and Midi’s teachers are absolutely exceptional.  My girls love them, and are clearly loved in return.  The 2 classroom assistants are pretty wonderful too.  One in particular has cleaned and plastered Maxi’s skinned knees more often than I have, I think.  So last night me and The Boss stayed up baking and wrapping and boxing.  I didn’t take photos of the finished product, which is a shame, because I was really proud of how they looked: I did a batch each of Nigella Lawson’s espresso and cappuccino cupcakes, added a wee thank you note, and The Boss made little cardboard boxes to hold them, wrapped in paper covered with children dressed as Nativity characters.  Twee?  Yeah.  Tasty?  Gosh, yes!  There were 2 cupcakes left that me, The Boss and Mini shared the next day – droooool!  I hope they liked them and didn’t think, “Oh God, not more food and chocolate… ”

DSCF5973I legged it back up the hill in the driving rain with Mini then whizzed round tidying up before it was time to walk back down again (still raining and windy) to watch Santa giving out presents to 3 school-years of hyperactive, very excited, very noisy children.

On the looooong walk back up again, against the rain I let Mini have a bit of fun in the puddles.  Well, why not?  This time we had 2 hours before we had to be back walking down that bloody hill again (still in the rain.  But with a wee bit of sleet, just for variety’s sake), so it didn’t matter if she got wet.

I think I must have gotten hypothermia and it addled my brain.  After lunch I thought, well, Midi’s school-made card made me cry (little angel with her hand-prints as wings, her best 4 year old handwriting inside wishing her family a happy Christmas, and an “I love you” that made me bubble), so why don’t I let Mini make one?  A completely out-of-character, trilling, sepia-toned, Oh I’m Such A Good Mummy moment.  One day I’ll learn.  We got out the paints…

I sploshed some bright green paint in a big plate and found some card.  I held Mini’s hands in the paint and giggled about the squelching and the oozing, then pressed them on the card.  Cool – good antlers!  Then I discovered that it’s generally a good idea to have plenty of wipes and paper towels waiting *before* you begin – you turn your back on a painted 2 year old at your peril.  I practised shrugging off the mess (I was going to paint that wall green anyway next year.  Just maybe not quite such a bright, radioactive shade…).  I added some red onto the now-slopped-over plate and made a good brown to do a reindeer face.  Squealing with delight, Mini stamped on it. Then on the card.  Then on the floor.  And me.  Caught the edge of the plate (splot).  And kicked the cat.  Yep, the white cat…  With the pristine, thick, white fur.  While Killer Cat drew us evils, I dead-armed Mini upstairs to the bath and got busy with some soap.

Soap must have fumes that killed my remaining brain-cells – when I got down I thought how amazing the antlers might look with glitter on them.  Aye, glitter!  You know me and my Hate-Hate relationship with glitter…  I thought, “Och, it’ll be fine.  I’m a grown-up.  I have manual dexterity.  I’ll just shake a tiny bit over the wet paint.  Tap-tap.  Oh, a wee bit more.  Tappity-tap.  Just a… HOLY CRAP the lid’s flown off!!”  And the whoosh of blue glitter enveloped me and Mini like the gases from an erupting volcano.  Mini sniggered.  The cat tutted and rolled her eyes.  Sod it!  I’ll just let the cat outside to fester in peace, shut the kitchen door, and leave the mess for a few hours.  And a few coffees and glasses of wine later.  And so I did 🙂

Christmas Lights

see poll

We live in a large village.  We’ve been here now for almost 18 months, but I feel like a proper newbie because I spent the first year pretty much stuck indoors, so I barely know anyone yet.  Anyway, we’ve just shambled down the hill to watch the Christmas lights being switched on.  I just happened to spot a note in the local newsagents when I swung past this morning to get my annual hair cut.

I have no idea how other small communities do it, but we gathered by a Christmas tree on the main street that had a mobile PA system rigged out the back of a car.  Everyone sang ‘Hark The Herald Angels’ (or mimed or shuffled their feet in embarrassment), then the minister said a few words over the PA.  Two little kids pressed the button that lit the lights on the Christmas tree, then Santa Claus came marching down the street, ringing a schoolbell, with the kind of swinging swagger that  belongs to a confident kilt-wearer.  He was instantly mobbed by clamouring kids and teenagers, all wanting some of the sweeties he was handing out.  I understand now why he was sporting bare arms under his cloak, and why those arms were gnarly and strong: it gets a tad hot holding up the combined weight of 200 kids who’re pressing on you!  (ok I exaggerate: 50, tops).

Minx 1 and 2 sat on their Daddy’s shoulders till Santa saw them and gave them a sweet.  Whilst P took it all in her sophisticated 4 year old stride, Middle Minx’s little face at seeing Santa swing down the street was a picture of disbelief.  Minx 3 was still reeling from being up close to my dinosaur-like carol singing, so snored her head off in the sling throughout Santa’s visit.  One very nice neighbour was almost apologetic about the lights not being particularly great.  I don’t think it matters whether they’re extravagant or not, it’s just nice for a community to come together to mark an occasion like that.  The excitement from the assembled children was palpable, and they get excited about innocent things like that for such a short time (said the cynic).

With our kids being so young, we’re still sorting out what our family Christmas traditions will be.  I suspect that attending the Christmas lights switch on will become one of them.

Typical Morning in the House of Chaos

It’s 0938hrs and the minxes have been fed, watered and reasonably well de-gunged (4 pongy nappy changes since 0700hrs and counting).  Minx 2 had 4 showers and baths on Tuesday, so I hope we can stay below that today.  They’re all agog at Mr Tumble on CBeebies’ ‘Something Special’, so I’ve got 15 minutes to myself.  Well, the elder 2 are studying Mr Tumble; the minx-in-training is studying them closely.

Like over breakfast.  Baby Minx didn’t take her eyes off Biggest Sister once, imitating her chewing and crunching of her porridge (crunching?  Didn’t I tell you I wasn’t a great cook?!) and pursing her lips in a baby imitation of a whistle.  Breakfast is normally like a chimps’ tea party in our house but this morning everyone was pretending to be something else: Minx 1 had dressed herself so was wearing her pink thermals, a pink tee-shirt, her pink fairy dress, pink fairy wings and pink fairy headband; Minx 3 was in a zebra babygrow; I’m in ‘sporting apparel’, and Minx 2 is pretending to be a good girl.  Minx 2 was singing “Agadoo” to herself in between forkfuls (!) of porridge: “Agadoo-doo-doo, poo a pineapple up a tree”

Minx 1 fondly looks at her little sister and exclaims, “You’re so cute, L”.

“No I not!”, the songstress hotly denied, “I naughty!”

Well, there we have it.  By her own admission.  Do I have any hope of maintaining control?!  The Boss has promised me a whip for Christmas, though I don’t know if he means the lion-taming one that I need and want, or not…

Talking of Christmas, I’m so excited that my favourite site is almost ready for action:  You upload a photo of your child, answer some questions about them, then you’re emailed a link to a personalised video of Santa checking if your child has been naughty or nice and promising to bring specific presents on their Christmas list.  The girls loved it last year, but Little Miss Empathy (eldest) burst into tears when we played Daddy’s video: he was rebuked by Santa for leaving his underwear on the floor, and warned that if he didn’t spend less time on the internet that he’d not get any presents.  I laughed like a walrus, but I guess that kind of humour is generally lost on 3 year olds…

Well, my Cuppa Sleep is almost over, so time to go steel myself for a morning of Santa List compiling and painting with the whirlwinds.  Before I go, I probably need to explain the 2 drinks I consume most often: Cuppa Sleep and Cuppa Wet.  Both are so-called because naming them ‘coffee’ is totally inadequate.  The former is strong enough to replace about 2 hours of sleep; the latter is instant decaf, so isn’t worthy of the descriptor ‘coffee’.  I consume both in stupendous quantities.  I find the resulting halitosis adds a special ambience to my snarling grumpy old trout-ness.

Oh pants, I can hear the irritatingly cheery “I Can Cook” – time to remove the TV plug fuse (my clever little blighters can work the TV and freeview zappers).  It’s not the fake I-love-lil-kids-honest-look-at-me-fondly-smiling of the programme that I dislike – it’s the chirpy guitar song at the end.  For some reason it makes me want to strangle myself.  Must be the subliminal messages.