Family planning

It’s an interesting thing, different people’s perception of the same thing.  A few weeks ago (too early to tell you about it then), Weeza and I were talking about childhood Christmases.  I recalled my careful time plan that scheduled in several stops during the morning, so that I could spend time with her and her brothers, so we could open presents, play with new games and they wouldn’t be left, as I was as a child, with my mother in the kitchen working all morning and becoming very harassed while the rest of us hung around disconsolately out of her way, not allowed to open any parcels because that was a whole-family activity and when, after the meal, she spent the rest of the day in the kitchen again while we had to be quiet because of all the elderly people who were invited to spend the day, sometimes several days, with us, who didn’t want to be bothered by excited children.

I was convinced that I hadn’t made this mistake.  I kept everything simple.  Everything possible was done in advance and I had my schedule to be sure that everything would be perfectly cooked at the same time.  Even so, there was a lot to do, but I always thought that I was relaxed and gave the children my full attention for half an hour at a time, until noon when, our other guests having arrived (always my mum and stepfather, normally my sister and her husband when she had one, sometimes another person), I brought in champagne and we sat down for an hour, chatted and opened presents together, and then I went and did the rest of the cooking.

The thing is, I’d always found Christmas Day a slight let-down.  Eagerly looked forward to, of course, but I really wanted my mother there.  I didn’t care about the vast meal, the huge turkey with two stuffings and a dry breast, the whole ham, loads of vegetables and then a massive Christmas pudding that no one liked which was later fed to the birds.  Looking back, I’m not sure what took all the time.  She always decorated and laid the table several days in advance, so we couldn’t use the dining room, the meat took hours of being largely left to its own devices – yet she was always busy.  Actually, to tell the truth, she was terribly hard-working, but I’ve wondered since just how efficient she was.  I’m very lazy, so have to use my time cannily to have plenty left to do sod-all, but I suspect she was the opposite.

My reasoning was – that the family would miss me if I wasn’t with them much of the time.  That I didn’t want to miss out on the fun.  That it was a good idea to open a few presents at a time, because of the feeding frenzy that children can’t resist, left to themselves, so there’s ten excited minutes while paper is ripped off, then the flatness of being surrounded by a whole load of stuff, no more parcels and a mother getting cross because they didn’t take any notice of who gave what, which makes thank-you letters awkward.  I thought I’d got a pretty good compromise, and it took care and planning, giving them my full attention when there were things to be done.

Weeza’s recollection is different.  She remembers the frustration of only being allowed to open one thing at a time and then having to wait until the next break in my time plan.  Her friends did the feeding frenzy and that was what she’d have preferred too.


18 comments on “Family planning

  1. martina

    Big family get together was always Christmas Eve at Aunt’s house. Dinner-presents-desserts was the schedule.One year we did that one present at a time thing-everyone hated it. We preferred the paper flying, quick thank yous chaos.

  2. Roses

    At least it meant you could have a relatively stress-free time and could enjoy time with your kids as they opened presents.

    It just goes to show, whatever you try and do, they just don’t get it, so you might as well do what you like and have fun doing it.

  3. Z

    Well, they had their stockings, they were allowed a couple of presents during the morning, which was more than I was, and then they dived in to everything at noon and ripped the paper off. Otherwise, the children would have just done it all by themselves, and I really wasn’t having that.

    I’ll be interested to see what Weeza does with her daughter. Al’s children have always opened their presents by the time we arrive.

    Dave, we weren’t the only people to give them presents. That was the reason I had to be on hand to make sure the givers’ names were written down. I suspect that you will be an indulgent grandfather and have a whole pile of gifts for Noah already wrapped.

  4. Z

    Well, that was the idea, Roses. Mind you, at least Weeza was able to tell me. If I’d ever told my mother what I thought of Christmas day as a child, I’d have had a tirade about how hard she worked and how she had no fun either.

  5. allotmentqueen

    When my daughter was about three, she came down at two in the morning and unwrapped all her presents. I was so cross with her I made her wrap them all up again!

    Mine used to have stockings at whatever time they woke up, and then once tea and biscuits were safely served to their parents, they grabbed their presents from under the tree (for which they each had a sack – won’t be needing that these days) and opened them sitting on our bed.

    Then we’d tidy up and go off to the MIL’s for lunch. That could be interesting this year, as she has Alzheimer’s. Eldest son (who’s a chef) is cooking the turkey, but she’s supposed to remember to do the veg. Better take some stuff with us, I guess.

  6. Anonymous

    When I was young we went to church – a three hour affair from 9-12…then once back at home had to wait for my Mom to do most of the food stuff in the kitchen before we could have our presents. (We didn’t have stockings.)

    There were 5 of us kids, plus we usually had relatives staying with us, with young children too, so there was always a HUGE mound of pressies under the tree and my Dad would be Father Christmas and hand them out – it took well over an hour as we all got lots of little things aside from our main gift. Great fun – I loved the wait as it made it all last longer. It was very festive. We did this until I was about 18 or 19, I think.

    My boys have to wait until we are awake and have a cup of coffee within reach before they can attack their stockings. Presents under the tree are opened mid-morning once we are dressed.


  7. Z

    I took it in my stride. Weeza didn’t mean or expect to upset me.

    My mum and I took it in turn to host Christmas Day for a long time, so I suppose we opened presents before we went to her house on those years. I don’t really remember. ‘My’ years stick in my mind because of all the planning!

    Last year, I played the clarinet and organ for our carol service on Christmas Eve. the organ for the Midnight service at a neighbouring church and the organ again at 10 o’clock on Christmas Day. It still didn’t add up to three hours though. Sheesh. Simon, I’d agree with your opinion of religion around Christmas by the end of all that. And thank you, dear heart.

  8. Z

    We gave both Squiffany and Puglsey train sets for their first birthdays. So I agree with you. This Christmas, Zerlina is getting a bicycle from us, so one present for her too.

  9. Dave

    That’s given me an idea. I shall publish a photo of his (hand-made) present on Boxing Day (can’t do it earlier, so as not to spoil the surprise for him [I’m sure he reads my blog {or looks at the pictures, anyway}]).

  10. luckyzmom

    Rip and tear is fun as long as you have something to rip and tear. I just try to make the gift to person ratio the same so no one is just watching.

    When I was young we went to the landlords house next door on Christmas eve, where there was always over the top everything. The tree was fat, flocked,had lots of lights and decorations and then was thickly covered decorated in Angel hair. Presents were piled high in every direction around the tree. Presents mostly for the landlords grandkids. There was lots of drinks for the grownups and sidetables groaned with all manner of delectable food. People were everywhere. After eating we’d all gather around the tree for the opening of the presents. Paper flew everywhere. I usually got to open one. I don’t know what the actuality was, but to me the grandkids were priviledged beyond reason with so many, many gifts. After the party there, my brother and I would go next door and were allowed to select and open one gift from under our scrawny tree. There would still be a meager pile left to open Christmas morning. Consequently, I made my childrens Christmas way over the top so they never had to experience what I had.

    I think it is amazing to hear about other peoples Christmas traditions.


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