It's official: I have the strangest kids, ever.
When I was a kid, I used to hear stories from friends at school about their various families' Christmas morning traditions. I heard about no one in the house getting up until 8am, gathering for a leisurely breakfast with Christmas music playing in the background, and after the conversation and dishes were finished, calmly moving on to gather together by the tree to distribute and open gifts.
But such consideration and etiquette had no place in our home. At 4:00am each year, my brother and I awoke, rushed out to check the tree, then shouted at the top of lungs in the general direction of my mom's room and tore through wrapping paper and packaging just as quickly and loudly as we possibly could. My poor mom, who worked full-time and had to get up at about 5:30 every morning, never got to enjoy her day off by sleeping in. This was awfully inconsiderate of us and it went on well past the ages where we should have been able to recognize that this was awfully inconsiderate of us.
But like Bill Cosby warned in an old stand-up routine of his, you never really get away with such behavior--the consequences of your actions are merely delayed until you have kids of your own and they do the same crappy things to you. Generally speaking, this curse works, though John and I have yet to be awakened by excited children at an unearthly hour on Christmas morning. But I expected that this could be the year for payback to begin.
Grandma came over on Christmas eve and spent the afternoon and evening with us and stayed for a "Grandma sleepover!" as the girls like to say. We set out cookies and carrots by the fireplace and the girls all made notes and cards and drawings for Santa and left those nearby too. We watched "A Christmas Story" on TV. "I hope those reindeer don't make too much noise on the roof," Grandma said, "I don't want to be awakened in the middle of the night!" The girls enjoyed their very last of the advent calendar chocolates and went to bed at their usual time. In the morning I woke up on my own at my usual time, 6:30, and listened. No noise. At nearly 7:00 I heard one of the girls bedroom doors open, then the bathroom door close, then the bathroom door open and a bedroom door close, and the same thing over again a couple of more times. Still, I listened and didn't hear any voices or wrapping paper or anyone in the hallways.
Another 20 or so minutes later and I couldn't stand it any longer, so I got up and saw Erin sitting at the playroom table, all of about 10 feet away from the Christmas tree and the all the presents, just writing and drawing quietly. "Where are your sisters?" I asked. "In their room playing," she answered. I looked toward the tree and was amazed to see that nothing was disturbed.
John came into the playroom and asked, "Um, did anything happen last night? Did anyone come here last night?"
John: "Did anyone ELSE come here?"
Erin (blank stare)
John: "Anyone...with a white.............beard?"
Erin (blank stare)
John: "...and a red...........suit?"
Then she looked toward the fireplace. "Where did my stocking go?"
Me (pointing to her stocking about 2 feet from her) "It's right there, on the chair."
Erin: "Is there anything in it? There is! I gotta tell my sisters!"
And she rushed off to get them.
It's moments like these which are the reason I merely smile when my patients look at the photos of my kids in my office and comment at how cute they are, and how surely bright they must be. It's also moments like these which make me wonder if the money we set aside for them for college would be better spent elsewhere, bringing my favorite line from "Caddyshack" to mind: "The world needs ditch diggers too."
John and I stood there, bewildered, and then Grandma joined us. "I was expecting to hear all sorts of commotion this morning, but...nothing. Who needs new presents? Everyone was just playing quietly with their old things." Then all the girls returned and surveyed the scene and started in with their stockings. It soon became the expected tornado of boxes and paper and ribbon and gifts.
Allison and Kate asked Santa for a "zoo set". And Santa delivered a fine assortment of playmobil kits, featuring a zoo, a dolphin aquarium/amphitheater, a penguin island, and a crocodile enclosure. John spent the better part of the entire morning assembling these different zoo components, because large playmobil sets, I now know, have exactly 1 billion pieces each, and a good portion of them are merely pea-sized.
Erin received the first Harry Potter book and Santa brought her something she BEGGED me to get for her on two separate occasions when I bought them for two friend's birthday parties this past fall: snap circuits. This is an electronic kit for kids where they can make everything from their own radio, to a lightswitch, to a burglar alarm or any other number of projects. She begged, begged, begged me to buy this for her when I was buying it for others.
"Santa brought me snap circuits. I wonder why," she commented. "Maybe because you asked for them. Several times. Remember?" "Nope," she answered.
When most everything was opened I started making breakfast, then cleaning up breakfast and making pies and doing other prep work for dinner. John's cousin's family joined us in the afternoon and we had a nice (huge) dinner together and a fun evening.
Even if all three of my kids did, completely unimaginably, for the first time in the history of the known universe, like totally forget that it was Christmas.