But once a year

Christmas comes but once a year, as the old saying goes. This Christmas was our first as a family of four – Isaac was three earlier this month, Toby will be one in January – and it was one of the most satisfying I can remember. Not because I gave or received anything inspirational in terms of presents – although I was very pleased with my own personal haul, which included a new MotorMouse mouse (see left), as featured on Dragons’ Den last year. The reason it was so satisfying came from watching the way the boys responded to Christmas.

In particular, this was the first year in which Zac fully embraced the idea of Christmas. Last year he got quite excited by the decorations, he understood the principle of receiving presents and he could even say “thank you”, but the difference between Christmas as a two-year old versus as a three-year old was immense. This year, once his birthday had passed, he became excited by the whole build-up to the holidays. I took him to the garden centre to let him pick out a small tree for his bedroom and some decorations to put on it. We taught him all about Father Christmas and how he only delivers presents to good boys and girls – which, for a couple of weeks at least, became a very useful lever for encouraging him to be obedient. And he generally embraced and talked endlessly about the whole concept of Christmas with the kind of innocent, enthusiastic excitement which only lasts for a handful of years, so we are enjoying it while we can.

I’m a little less sure about his predilection for wearing Christmas decorations as earrings, but maybe that’s just me being an old fuddy-duddy.

You can probably imagine his excitement on Christmas morning when he woke up at 5am, discovered the CD I had left wrapped under his tree and opened it frenetically, realising it was his first Christmas present. That alone was enough to keep him in his bedroom until the rest of the household – Heather, Toby, Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Pete – dragged themselves out of bed at a marginally less unsociable time an hour or so later.

Once we had made it downstairs, however, there was no stopping him. Do you remember the Tasmanian Devil, the whirling dervish which used to appear in Bugs Bunny and various other Warner Bros cartoons? Well, Zac made him look positively sedate by comparison. Within 20 minutes, the very large mountain of presents around the tree disappeared in a whirlwind of ripped wrapping paper, discarded boxes and new goodies. Thanks were quickly dispensed in the momentary pause between one present and the next, batteries were inserted into toys, and cups of tea were made for already exhausted adults as our three-year old bundle of endless energy raced from one thing to the next.

In one sense, it is a bit depressing to see your son move from one present to the next, spending a decreasing amount of time with each new toy as he tears into the next one. But on the other hand it is all worth it to see the joy on his face and the heartfelt appreciation he showed upon discovering that one box contained a remote-controlled Mini (his favourite car), or that Santa had left a new bike for him just inside the front door. He spent much of the rest of the day either playing with his new toys or talking about them. I think it’s fair to say he was pleased.

At 11 months, Toby’s reaction was somewhat more muted. He has been fascinated by decorations – he has spent the last two weeks plucking whatever he can grab off the lower reaches of the tree – and in particular stars. (In fact, “star” is officially his first word.) But he generally entered into the spirit of things as much as a not-quite-one-year old can. He loved his shape-sorter bus and his little digger, and spent much of the day crawling about happily while Zac danced merry rings around him.

In short, Christmas Day was a good day. We ate far too much, there was some post-lunch napping, and we watched Christmas specials on TV. Everything a family Christmas should be, basically.

And then the day after Boxing Day (Monday) we went and did it all over again with Nana and Gramps, albeit on a smaller scale. It’s all one big orgy of gaudily-wrapped presents when you’re a toddler or baby, isn’t it?

Anyhow, here are a few photos from our first Christmas as a foursome. It was fantastic, and hopefully next year will be even better still.

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