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Parent-paced holiday celebrations

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| December 26, 2020 1:00 AM

Big families need more than one Christmas.

I don’t know how other families cram so much into a single day. Even when our four kids wake up at the crack of dawn, the holiday festivities stretch well into the night. First we have Santa discoveries, then cinnamon rolls must be consumed. Then presents from the parents. Then the spoiled little goons get to open their gifts from the grandparents and other extended family members.

Then the ham. Then the pie. Then the games. Somewhere in there we turn on some middle scenes from “A Christmas Story” (so it feels like we turned it on randomly during the annual TV marathon).

It’s just too much, but if there’s one good thing to come out of this pandemic, it’s the excuse to spread out the holiday cheer. Though this article runs the day after Christmas, our family won’t even be halfway done this year.

We’re scheduling different days for “Zoom” Christmas with the different grandparents. They’ll open their presents from them, one at a time, later this week. That way everyone gets special time and the kids won’t be constantly quoting Jed Bartlett, asking “What’s next?”

(That’s a 20-year-old call-back to “The West Wing,” folks. I like to keep my pop culture references fresh.)

Even the most generous and well-adjusted kids go crazy about opening presents. It doesn’t matter if they’ve already opened their No. 1, most favorite thing in the world (the thing they begged for the entire season), the prospect of what’s inside an unknown gift always takes top priority. Even if they know it’s full of socks and underwear, nothing matters until every gift is properly ravaged and identified. Look, there might be a Hot Wheels car stuffed into one of those socks, okay?

We don’t fret about the big “Christmas feast” either. Inexplicably, our kids don’t like mashed potatoes or green bean casserole (MONSTERS!), so my wife and I don’t make more than enough for ourselves. We bought microwavable mashed potatoes this year - it’s like three bucks and takes four minutes to cook.

We asked our kids what they wanted as their fancy Christmas side to go alongside their ham dinner this year. They said macaroni and cheese. To make it fancy, we got the organic white cheddar shell macaroni… from a box. Grade A elegance.

Virus or not, New Year’s Eve is always a parent-paced holiday in our house. We don’t let our kids stay up past normal bedtime. We’ll turn on one of those Netflix countdown/ball drops and send them to their rooms. Happy New Year, kids! Dad’s busting out the wine as soon as your head hits the pillow!

In recent years, however, my wife and I rarely celebrate beyond 11 p.m. When our kids were babies, no turning of the calendar was going to dictate when we should be awake. If the baby goes to sleep, you better go to sleep. Because that baby will probably be up in 20 minutes. I spent one New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop on TV while I changed a poopy diaper. It’s actually a nice New Year’s memory.

I never much liked the New Year’s holiday before I had kids. When I was young, New Year’s just meant the end of Christmas break from school. And as I got older, I found the holiday to be somewhat depressing. Another year gone by means another year closer to inescapable death.

Kids helped me lighten my gloomy perspective, and the end of this year, the dumpster fire of 2020, deserves to be celebrated. The first part of 2021 won’t be much better, but at least there’s a solid bet we’ll be back to normal by next Christmas. Even then, I plan on keeping the pace slow and spread the gifting out a bit. Unless one gift is a vacation away from the kids, in which case I’ll happily cram everything into Dec. 25. Have fun with your grandparents in-person, kids! I’ll be sure to Zoom call you from Hawaii.

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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 twilson@cdapress.com.