The jump in consciousness from two to three years old is significant. Last year, thankfully, Zi didn’t even register an event called Christmas. Presents, tree and lights were all non-issues. In the way of two year olds, all she wanted was your attention, just as she did every other day. I loved that she was not yet plugged into the matrix, that she was happy no matter what, that expectations had not yet been embedded on her little brain. I felt she was more free and therefore so was I.
Not this year. Between school and her grandmothers, she’s learned all about Christmas trees, decorations, baby Jesus and presents. She’s become one of those kids that points out every house where they ‘light up’, ready to leap into the magic of blinking verandahs were it not for the straps of her carseat. I love her little Trini talk though, how she says ‘light up’ in the way that we also say ‘hug up’, ‘love up’, ‘rumfle up’ and so on.
I’ll admit to being an apathetic bah humbug about the whole thing (except sorrel!). I think consumerism is in overdrive, but haven’t become one of those families I admire who feed homeless on Christmas Day. We secured a tree, but it’s only two feet tall and her dad organized the whole thing with her while I made impressed noises, suppressing the me who thinks lights just waste electricity. She rightfully complained that there were not enough decorations, and now that it apparently and annoyingly matters, her dad had to go get more. I got her presents, but less because it’s Christmas and more because I want to give her well chosen alternatives to the usual sexism that is offered up in kids’ toy aisles every December.
Today, as we wrapped gifts for her cousins, she looked at her tree, with its one gift (from her school) underneath, and wanted to know where her other gifts were. I wanted to know where she got the idea that kids get more than one gift. She looked at me like I was stupid. She wasn’t born yesterday, or for that matter two years ago, and now clearly remembered something about presents in the plural. As the adult, I got to swing the conversation into a parent-wins moment, emphasizing that there would only be more presents if there was no fussing, no tantrums and no saying ‘no’ between now and Christmas Day. The usefulness of perpetrating the Santa fantasy I had avoided thus far suddenly clicked. Pure bribery, greasing the good behaviour wheels for a few weeks, backing up precious negotiating power against potential toddler guerrilla tactics.
Bring on Christmas I cheered, all spirit, no irony. Today, we also worked on hand-eye coordination (hers and mine) as I tried to wrap gifts shaped, I swear, like whole frozen chicken and she learned how to put scotch tape, not just any or everywhere, but in neat lines that actually cover two ends of paper. Feeling all present in the moment (pun not initially intended), and given that serious socialization is being established, I took the time to talk about how Christmas is not just for getting, but for giving. I know this is important because when I asked her what gift she got for mummy, she looked not so much at me as through me. The idea had never occurred to her and, now that it did, had no priority.
As the three year old brings in old traditions and establishes new family rituals, fun times and togetherness are undoubtedly ahead.