Father Christmas

Maybe it’s a little shameful to admit, and maybe it’s as obvious as the lyrics of a Mariah Carey song, but I miss being a kid at Christmas.

I don’t necessarily mean the whole Santicipation angle where you lie awake at night listening for sleigh bells and the stamping of hooves on roof tiles, too young to understand the home invasion angle and the kind of damage that abuse would do to shingles. I don’t even mean the part where you open gifts. I actually mean the Christmas afterglow of an afternoon spent in the company of new, freshly unpackaged joy.

I get that as a father the real gift of Christmas is seeing the holiday through the eyes of my kids. I've read that touchy-feely bunk enough to embrace that as the diplomatic cork that isolates my pouty, selfish inner-child, but sometimes in my heart of hearts I know that’s just what I tell myself so that I don’t sulk around in a rut knowing that what I really need for the season is a nice dress shirt and a good roadside emergency kit. Besides, peek into any ordinary middle-class home at two in the afternoon this weekend, and what you will find is grown men playing with their kids toys, ostensibly for the purpose of “making sure they work properly.”

That’s people just like me trying to get back to that long forgotten corner of the child-brain that sips deep from the Holiday cup of innocence and unapologetic selfishness. It is an enchanting elixir indeed, the part of myself that had the unmitigated temerity to once ask why they had a father's day and mother's day but no kid's day.

Time just works differently on a day of gift giving, and it is to the benefit of children. While adults shamble in and out of a half-slumber on the couch, there was, for me at least, an entire day to be had of play. Maybe it’s different in other houses, certainly for people who don’t practice the convenient faux-Christianity that describes my traditions, but for me Christmas was a gigantic opening climax followed by a day long denouement.

By the end of the day it was always pretty clear which gifts were on the fast-track to a special place in the toybox, and which had been given their brief, semi-appropriate due to ensure that they were, in fact, infused with exactly as much suck as had been first suspected.

And, the great thing is, it’s not always the big video game that have been the defacto winner in my history. I recall with great enthusiasm an electric race track, a particularly epic pack of Legos and a small army of Transformers from various years of my childhood. Certainly all of those were better Christmases than that one time I got E.T. for the 2600.

As a now grown up, I feel far too much like the man behind the green curtain to ramp up for the holidays in the same way. The illusion is burst, and if I hear someone kicking around my roof tomorrow night, I’m going to grab a flashlight and a nine-iron long before I get some milk and cookies. So, Saturday morning you know where to find me -- clicking together these Legos I just bought my seven year-old, you know, just to make sure all the pieces are in there like they’re supposed to be.

Comments

I don't own a kid, but I understand what you're feeling. I sometimes play with my brother or sisters kids toys just after they open them. "Oh, it's tied into the box with plastic wire? Here, let me get that out and play with it for a while." I'm 25 and my mom still gets me videogames for Christmas. Other people might find that childish, but it brings back some semblance of those feelings I used to get as a kid opening games.

Good article, Elysium.

I'm looking forward to experiencing my first Christmas with my son. I look forward to playing with his new toys with him (and sometimes by myself). He's 8, so a lot of his toys are ones that I can get into right along with him.

I just hope we haven't gone overboard with gift such that none of them get their due attention.

I notice I sleep alot more as an adult on Christmas. I'm kinda like, hey, finally a time I can take a nap and nobody will bother me.

You actually got E.T. for the 2600 for Christmas?! Oh you poor bastard... I don't have kids yet myself, but so far I've managed to console myself with the fact that I just buy the games I want outside of Christmas so I don't have to wait. That's the advantage of being an adult.

Scruss wrote:

I don't own a kid,

-snip-

...made me chuckle.

Sean "Elysium" Sands wrote:

...and what you will find is grown men playing with their kids toys, ostensibly for the purpose of “making sure they work properly."

I have no idea what you're talking about! /deny
(but we totally did get my 7yo son a wicked cool toy (AT-AT Walker) that I will... um... make sure is... uh... working properly... damn. Oh, and some Lego that I will have to "help him assemble", yeah... that's it.)

It's OK, he doesn't read the site , so, no spoilers

Once again Elysium has proved to be the more eloquent and well written version of myself.

It's impossible to recapture that rapture of youth as a responsible adult, but, I'm happy to disillusion myself as much as possible. I will spend Christmas day playing with my son's, nieces' and nephews' toys. Running with them outside as they try their new tricycles, bicycles, and scooters, building great improbable towers out of whatever building materials have been gifted, and staging amazing acts of heroism with the selection of action figures and vehicles that are available. Then, I'll happily put them to bed in the early evening after a long day of play, and settle in for more adult pursuits.

The good Egg Nogg (heavily spiked with brandy and rum) will come out of hiding and every adult will finally take a big sigh of relief as they settle down and relax. We'll put on my favorite Christmas movie of all time (Die Hard), and then on to video games for my nightcap after all the other family members are in bed. It may not be Santa and new, long sought after toys, but as an adult, it's about as much as I can hope for.

Have a Satisfactory Non-Denominational Capitalist Wintertime Gift-Giving Season Everyone!

PyromanFO wrote:

I notice I sleep alot more as an adult on Christmas. I'm kinda like, hey, finally a time I can take a nap and nobody will bother me.

Yeah. This is the ticket. My wife and I are DINKs. Childfree and not budging. So at Christmas we either travel to fun locales (Manhattan, New Orleans) for the holidays or we just rest. This Christmas is all rest. Lots of movies will be watched at the local movie house.

ThatGuy42 wrote:

We'll put on my favorite Christmas movie of all time (Die Hard),

Hell yes. Me too!

Mr. Sands, it comforts me to know you are in that small group of us who received E.T. for the 2600 for Christmas! It brought a big smile to my face.
Merry Christmas!

Man, I'm stuck in those middle doldrums, between the easy excitement of Christmas as a kid, but without any children to use as an excuse for getting a Prince of Persia LEGO set.

Remember, you spent your whole kid life waiting to be a grown-up so you could buy a cool LEGO set any damn time you wanted. Now you're there, and if you don't buy that set you are totally letting little kid you down.

Well, it's Christmas in a mer hour and a half (here at least). Hope you all have a great Christmas, be it in the role of parent, child, or confused Buddhist foreigner.

El-Taco-the-Rogue wrote:

Man, I'm stuck in those middle doldrums, between the easy excitement of Christmas as a kid, but without any children to use as an excuse for getting a Prince of Persia LEGO set.

When you're old enough to not be a kid, you're old enough to enjoy filling the day with naps and noms.

If that doesn't work, visit a homeless shelter or retirement home today.

Did you mean a special place in the toybox?

Great story as always

Elysium wrote:

I actually mean the Christmas afterglow of an afternoon spent in the company of new, freshly unpackaged joy.

This - definitely this. I liked getting presents as much as any kid, but it was always the happiness that I liked best. Other people's anticipation and joy (as well as my own) and knowing that for at least two days it was a free pass to just do stuff because it made me happy (and if it was a quiet activity, it made my parents happy too).

I noticed that some people posted that they don't have kids. I don't know why I'm compelled to rush to the defense of kids everywhere on this one, unless it's because I'm a Dad, but lets remember a couple of things:

I can buy myself a toy, in whatever form that takes, at any time; and often do. And when I do, I don't have to count down a 25 day advent calendar before I can enjoy it. Kids can't (not really, or at least not ones a young as mine). That makes Christmas a pretty damn special time.

I still have my toys. I still get some on Christmas, and I sure as hell take a little play time away from everybody else to mess around with my new toy. There's always at least one.

Now, I hear you on the difficulty of dealing with the stigma attached to a grown man playing with toys. I doubt that this is lifting anytime soon. It will. I see a lot more toys on desks in offices these days though. Maybe there will be commercial soon that builds on the "things have changed" one.

I was sitting watching cartoons with my sons and my In-Laws (very CTO types) were abashed at the foolishness of the show. I pointed out that it had a redeeming message, and it was no more foolish than a dog blowing up a bird with dynamite, and it was, in fact, less violent. But still we're subject to the belief that once we're grown up, toys, cartoons, role play, are all childish and not becoming of an adult. I feel ashamed when I play with my sons, and I have to take on a silly voice for an action figure.... unless there's nobody around to judge me.

Maybe the problem isn't that Christmas is for kids, maybe it's that we forgot or deny, we're all just really big kids and we still don't know when it's appropriate to be business like and "grown up" and when it's time to play.

I might be getting myself a Frank Lloyd Wright, Falling Waters Lego set for my office with my Christmas money.

I'm with Ghostship here. I'm grown up enough that I don't care what the hell anyone says about my maturity. If I think I'm going to get good mileage out of a LEGO set, I'm buying it and I'm playing with it, period. That's no bluff. Thus far, I've bought, assembled, and played with no less than 15+ expensive sets of LEGOs that my kids aren't allowed to touch until they're double digit ages.

For me, Christmas is not about getting something I want, because I can do that everyday. Apart from the spiritual aspect of appreciating God's great gift, it's an opportunity for me to spoil my kids rotten without worrying about discipline or how they'll turn out. For this one day, out of all the year, I can buy them whatever toy I want to however expensive it is, in the guise of Santa, and everyone will okay the purchase.

I don't particularly like dollhouses, but the joy my girl enjoyed when she opened a dollhouse bigger than herself last year made my whole holiday season. And, no, that's not from me, so no one can tell me I'm being a bad Dad.

It's on Christmas day that I sometimes wonder whether the fiction of Santa is really for the kids.

Scruss wrote:

I don't own a kid, but I understand what you're feeling. I sometimes play with my brother or sisters kids toys just after they open them. "Oh, it's tied into the box with plastic wire? Here, let me get that out and play with it for a while." I'm 25 and my mom still gets me videogames for Christmas. Other people might find that childish, but it brings back some semblance of those feelings I used to get as a kid opening games.

I totally agree, but you don't own kids; kids own you. I have 4, by the way

Anyway, I'm with the 'screw maturity' folks. I still love video games. I love playing them with my kids even more. I've spent many hours watching Phineas and Pherb with them, and even got them hooked on Miyazaki films through Howl's Moving Castle.

Christmas is a wonderful and magnificent time of the year, where everyone, from little children to old people can slough off their age and loose their inner child. Santa may have a basis in reality, but the spirit of that great individual is one that no one should be afraid to shine forth. There's no fiction to the wonderful spirit that is giving to others, or for others, especially during this season.

And by the way, my parents *still* enforce the rule of "Disbelief = No Presents". Like all things, it's taken me a few years to truly appreciate them for that, but I love them for it more than ever now.

Besides, peek into any ordinary middle-class home at two in the afternoon this weekend, and what you will find is grown men playing with their kids toys, ostensibly for the purpose of “making sure they work properly.”

I have a perfect excuse: my two year old is actually too small to assemble that two-story garage he got from Santa. So there! (*I had so much fun building it!*)

Nice article. I openly play with kid's toys and my wife bought me a few Lego set's to keep me entertained through out the day. I look forward to the day when I can watch my kids open toys and then get to play with them in the name of quality control.

[off topic]
I may have terrible spelling at times, but I still cringe when I see Legos... I once looked at the Lego website and they even had a paragraph telling people to not add the s to the end. Apparently they also dislike people calling the toy's legos.

I had the best Christmas that I have had since I was a kid, thanks to my children. My litle girl is 2 and 10 months, so this is the first time that she had really been aware of what is going on. My little boy was enjoying his first Christmas at the age of 10 weeks. Hope was so enthusiastic and exited about everything that I couldn't help but be infected by it.

Scruss wrote:

I don't own a kid....

this made me laugh!

I also do not have children, but I have nieces and nephews that I can spoil to no end. This holiday, between bouts of my best friend and I trash talking at "Sports Champion", I got to be Optimus Tiny (Optimus Prime Halloween mask) who was either teamed up with or fighting a half Iron Man, half pajamaed little guy. I can not explain how jealous I am of that Iron Man helmet and replusor hands, those things are freaking sweet. But my head is to bulbous to fit it and this is not really the point. The happiest I was yesterday was when I saw my niece and nephew playing with my present, the PS3 Move and Eyepet. This is something I never really got to enjoy as a kid, giving that perfect gift, the one they did not know they wanted until they opened it. I now spend the holiday using my girth to impersonate jolly saint nick and my free time to figure put what to get my loved ones. I loved Christmas as a kid, and I still love it as an adult, it is just a different kind of love.

This is by no means to betray a sense of maturity, because when I return to my office on Tuesday, I will be accompanied by the fastest firing nerf gun available, thanks to Santa (aka my new girlfriend).

I hope you all have a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a carefree Kwanzaa, a bodacious Boxing day and a safe and wonderful New Year.

I'm just selfish to the core. I buy my kids toys I want, then I play with them.

The upside of that, in all seriousness, is that I play with my kids more. I buy my kids books and music and games that I want too. No, I don't do this to a fault, and yes, I have bought American Girl dolls for my daughter.

But I damned well bought her the NERDY American girl doll.

This christmas, I finished the foot-wide TIE Fighter I got for christmas last year. It's awesome.

There, there, rabbit. There's no shame in wanting to play with dolls. There's also no shame in wanting to play dolls with little girls. I would, however, recommend that you restrict that activity to little girls who are also your relatives.

Might also want to make sure that there's another grown-up in the room. When you get caught playing dolls alone with little girls, some people get the wrong idea.

rabbit wrote:

I'm just selfish to the core. I buy my kids toys I want, then I play with them.

The upside of that, in all seriousness, is that I play with my kids more. I buy my kids books and music and games that I want too. No, I don't do this to a fault, and yes, I have bought American Girl dolls for my daughter.

But I damned well bought her the NERDY American girl doll.

This christmas, I finished the foot-wide TIE Fighter I got for christmas last year. It's awesome.

This pretty much sums up my buying habits for my first Christmas with my son. He didn't ask for Laser Tag, but he got it, and we were having a blast shooting each other around the house.