Jackson wants a transformer car.
I suggested to him that perhaps Santa could bring him one for Christmas, and he readily agreed, with one stipulation.
“You ask him, Mummy.”
He adores Santa, but the guy is somewhat of a new concept to him, and he still has his reservations. So I have been tasked with the all-important job of putting in the request to the jolly red man before Christmas.
We went to the shops and happened to spot Santa while we were there. We didn’t have time to stop, but I pointed him out to my son. He looked up at me, his long-lashed eyes wide and timid, and whispered, “Ask him, Mummy.”
And in that one sweet moment, his pure, innocent belief in Christmas magic brought me to my knees.
My heart bursting, I thought to myself “This is what Christmas feels like as a parent.”
Recently, we spent time with my in-laws to participate in their annual tree-decorating event. We do it every year; gather as a family, hang the decorations, have dinner together, and admire the twinkling lights before finally saying goodbye for the night. It’s a wonderful tradition that runs deep. A chance to get together as a family one last time before Christmas.
And in the last few years, this festive tradition has become that little bit more magical. Because grandbabies. As well as our boisterous three-year-old Jackson, we have a newborn little girl. Everley. Suddenly we have little people to create magic for.
So there we were; I was sat on the couch feeding the baby, watching Jackson’s delight over the battery-operated steam train running circles under the tree. My father-in-law sat beside him, teaching him about coupling rods and coal, and the way that steam is created to power the train. Chris and his Mum bantered in the kitchen as they prepared sugar cookie dough. Christmas music wafted through from the dining room.
And in the midst of the festivities, I stared down at my 6-week-old baby girl adoringly, and murmured, “I can’t wait until next Christmas, when she can start to understand what’s going on.”
“These next few Christmases are going to be the best ones.”
My father-in-law piped up as he loaded the toy train back onto the tracks for the umpteenth time, before Jackson could even protest its dismount.
And for the first time, I was hit with the realization that we are fast approaching the peak of Christmas magic in our family.
See, I had always worked on the assumption that as long as our kids were still kids, Christmases would all hold the same level of enchantment that they hold now.
But the truth is, as kids grow older, they lose that awe-struck wonder for things. Even things as magical as Christmas time.
Jackson won’t always have faith that a chubby guy in a red suit will deliver him the one thing his heart desires most.
Everley won’t always be mesmerized by the twinkling lights on the tree as I rock her in my arms.
And the steam training running its course under the tree will become less exciting one day. The decorating of sugar cookies will become less about sneaking chubby fistfuls of M&Ms and guzzling rainbow-dyed sugar, and more about fiercely competing to create a better cookie than a sibling or cousin. The carefully thought-out requests to Santa will turn into lists handed to Mum and Dad. The longed-for transformer car under the tree will make way for electronic devices that haven’t been invented yet and trendy sneakers and iTunes gift cards. That magic of little kids at Christmas time will slowly drop off.
But the thing that won’t lose its magic?
The love. The bond we share as a family. The real Christmas story, about a certain baby who was born in a stable and is the reason we get to celebrate a Christmas at all. The fact that year after year, no matter what has happened, good or bad, Christmas is something you can count on.
So this Christmas I’m going to enjoy my little ones. And the Christmas after that. And the Christmas after that. I’m going to treasure every moment and relish the delicious feeling of experiencing that magic through their eyes.
But more than that, I plan to make sure our “reasons for the season” are in their rightful places – front and centre. I will use Christmas as another opportunity to affirm my love for my kids and their dad. I will focus on creating memories as a family, imperfect or otherwise, so that in years to come we can reminisce on Christmases past. I will make sure to share the Christmas story with them, so they understand why Christmas is such an important celebration. And I will do everything I can to make sure that our Christmases are good, even if they arrive in the wake of an otherwise crappy chapter in our lives.
I will one day miss these magical few Christmases in which my kids are really little.
I will mourn them sorely when they’re behind us. But I won’t let our Christmases become any less special. Because Christmas should be meaningful and wonderful – and even a little bit magical – no matter what age you are. And those are the kinds of Christmases I want to celebrate with my little family for many years to come.