Thursday, April 25, 2024

The stay-at-home dad: It’s Christmastime, kids! Please lower your expectations

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| December 12, 2020 1:00 AM

My kids love our family’s early Christmas-season traditions. I’m less enthused.

These “traditions” hinge on me engaging in undesired physical labor:

Dad digs out all the Christmas boxes from the garage.

Dad puts the tree together.

Dad strings lights all over the house.

The kids hang ornaments on the tree, and then Dad rearranges them all so there aren’t 40 glass ornaments hanging on a single branch.

If these things don’t happen bright and early on the day after Thanksgiving, the kids nag and harass me until I submit to their demands. Look, the day after Thanksgiving is not an ideal day for home decorating. It’s a day to sit on the couch and groan away that lingering, pumpkin pie-induced stomach ache.

Decorating a tree and hanging some lights may not seem like much work, but you should know a couple things about me. 1. I have four kids and still get very little sleep. 2. I’m very physically lazy. The Christmas decorations stay up through January because I never want to lug the boxes back in from the garage.

My wife is hardworking and generous, and she always seems to put the needs of me and the kids ahead of her own. I would never say a negative thing about her in this column space. BUT she does seem to find something else to do when the time comes to decorate the house. All I’m saying is a weekend in late November seems like an odd moment to “look at the taxes.”

And before she responds to this, let me just say to her, “No, I don’t know how to do the taxes, and I don’t know for sure if November isn’t when other people look at them. I’m sorry for doubting you.”

I have successfully resisted one labor-intensive Christmas demand. I won’t put holiday lights on the outside of our house. I’ve got several good excuses on this topic:

I’m afraid of heights. For real. The kids know I don’t like airplanes, cliffs, canyons, ladders, dark pits, multi-story buildings, step-stools, pictures of tall things, etc.

The roof is slippery. I don’t want to be in the hospital on Christmas.

Energy costs keep going up. So you’ve got to make a choice, kids: Christmas lights or heat?

We live inside the house. You’ll rarely even see these lights. Just look at the neighbor’s display!

Outside of present-wrapping, the physical labor aspect of Christmas at least subsides for most of December. The mental exhaustion, however, only intensifies.

The assembly of the Christmas tree coincides with the arrival of Molly, our Elf on the Shelf. Molly’s presence sparks a litany of questions and speculative conversation. I keep telling the kids I don’t know how Elf on the Shelf works beyond what gets described in the book. She moves around at night while we all sleep. Don’t touch her. Be nice or she’ll narc on you to Santa Claus.

And yet, the kids keep asking me questions:

“How does she stand so still all day long?”

“Do you think she goes back to the North Pole every night?”

“Does she eat our food?”

“Is she married?”

“Is she immune to the virus? Should she be wearing a mask?”

“Where is she pooping?”

I don’t know! She’s magic!

So then the kids write letters to Molly, or ask Molly to deliver letters to Santa. But Molly seems to be as lazy as I am, because she responds to those letters very infrequently.

In truth, I’m tuckered out with Christmas before the kids even reach their school break. And while I do tend to rediscover the festive spirit by Christmas Eve, I think I may need a non-Christmas project to fill these early December days going forward. Maybe next year I’ll figure out how to “look at the taxes.”

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Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad to four kids, ages 3-9. He is tired. He can be reached at