When our two children were little—back when Christmas morning was a frenetic mess of wrapping paper and noise—I installed a family rule that we couldn’t dig into Santa’s bounty until the first rays of sunlight hit the house. Dad of the Year, I know. Naturally, kids being kids, this rule got tested almost every year, with wishful, impatient eyes peeking into our bedroom at o’dark thirty, hoping that I would grant a waiver just once.
But I never did, and the kids always had to shuffle off back to bed for what must have been the longest hour or two of their lives. I, on the other hand, usually smiled, rolled over and went back to sleep. After all, becoming everything you used to hate is one of the unpaid bonuses you get with parenting. (Keep that in mind when meeting the young men who date your daughter.)
When sun finally appeared, we kicked off a routine where my wife and I went downstairs—she to put on a pot of coffee, I to check on the pile of gifts Santa left behind. At the top of the steps, our children waited like frenzied horses in a starting gate until we told them they could bolt down the stairs and start opening presents. But it wasn’t complete madness; we would often make them stagger the opening of the gifts, at least the bigger ones, so we could take pictures of both of their wide-eyed faces when they saw their gifts. In hindsight, this was almost as cruel as the sunlight rule, but becoming everything you used to hate … you get the idea.
As the kids got older, the wake-up call got later and later. And while Christmas morning never completely lost its thrill, it never regained that unadulterated elation and flurry that took place in the sweet spot years from about ages 5 to 12, either. Finally, along came the year when the morning of Dec. 25 began with the sunlight waking me and I wondered, Where are the kids? They were sleeping because they knew that getting presents sooner doesn’t make them better.
I have a close relative who shall remain nameless (cough, my sister Karen, cough) who has embraced this new station of life. She is not, how you say, a morning person and loves her sleep. In fact, if sleeping were an Olympic sport, she would be Michael Phelps. So, for Karen, I mean my unnamed relative, having no kids to bug you early on Christmas morning is better than getting free stuff from Oprah.
I, on the other hand, miss the old days. We have many friends with little kids and can’t help but feel a little bit jealous that they get to go through that kind of fun, however early in the day it may be. Like most things in life, you don’t appreciate it until it is gone. So for all you bleary-eyed moms and dads out there, reaching for your second cup of coffee at 7 a.m. on Christmas morning, enjoy it while you can … unless you are like Karen. In that case, help is on the way in a few years.
Have a safe and happy holiday season.