By the time you reach your thirties Christmas has typically become a rather routine, if enjoyable time of year. All of the children in the family have long since grown up and the magic that can accompany this time of year can rather be forgotten. This Christmas, however, saw Tilly, now a full-fledged toddler, discover some of the wonder, delight and excitement that will soon be transforming the darkest time of year. Christmas trees, Santa, festive lunches and a quick succession of trips across country to see family and friends and of course presents have all been brand new and getting her imagination racing.
Santa has a sleigh with reindeer. He has a sack full of presents for children. He gets stuck in chimneys and is helped out by Stickman.
Tilly, age 1¾
This is pretty fair summary of what Tilly understands about the bearded man in the red and white suit, influenced as you can see by some of her favourite books. We decided not to push the idea that Santa was coming down our chimney to deliver presents to her unless she enquired about it, as we really weren’t sure what she’d make of it. As it is, the regular appearances of Santa at playgroups, at local events, in books and all over telly have given her ideas about this character but it’s difficult to know whether she thinks he’s real or just in a story. Either way I have no doubt that in another year’s time he’ll be very real and expected. Either way it doesn’t matter as this time next year he’ll be very much real and eagerly expected.
It has been quite nice though to have this one Christmas on our terms. Christmas morning started very much as any other, coming downstairs to toys and having breakfast. Then, however, we moved into the study where a heap of presents were waiting under the tree.
We hadn’t played up Christmas Day, so this was completely unexpected to Tilly and quite a thrilling moment. Tilly was excited by the presents of course but was happy to share the experience, allowing mummy and daddy turns to open our presents along with hers.
From getting up to finishing the presents took a good couple of hours, which is perhaps the longest Christmas morning we’ll have, but we savoured every moment of it.
Wooden toys replace the plastic
This year saw a marked shift in the type of toys Tilly received. As a one-year-old there was no end of noise-making plastic devices. They served their purpose, providing sensory stimulus of various kinds but we’re rather relieved to be moving onto a new stage that supports her growing imagination and abilities. Building blocks, a train set, animal dominoes, a kitchen play set, a dragon hand puppet and a wooden interactive clock all made for a more traditional style of toy. There were more modern presents too, such as an interactive Ninky Nonk from In the Night Garden and an Aquadoodle for drawing creativity without having to set up for mess.
The prospect of snow
Yesterday we saw the first snow since Tilly was born back in the very snowy winter of 2012-3. This got her talking about what she would do if we had snow, involving making a snowman that looked like gingerbread men with a face and buttons and how everything would be white. She told this narrative with the utmost seriousness, while my wife and I beamed at her at the amount of language and storytelling she was communicating. She must have thought us draft. In any case it was not to be on this occasion, as while more northerly places saw plenty of snow the sleety effort Thalia witnessed never amounted to anything more than that. There is still plenty of winter yet to come and should we see snow you can be sure that daddy will be dispatched on snowman building duty as a top priority.
Long journeys down the motorway can be a challenge to restless and tired toddlers but it’s all worth it when they get to spend time with family. As the elder generations age, spending time with family and giving Tilly the time to get to know them feels all the more important. Her long-term memory is now getting good, meaning she can remember family and friends who we only see every few months, which makes the moments even more exciting for Tilly.
It’s all going to go crazy from here
We’re well aware that this is most likely the last Christmas where we have control of what’s going on. This time next year Tilly will almost certainly be fully aware of what is coming up and want to take a role in the presents she believes and, we dread, the early hour she’ll want to rise to see whether Father Christmas has been. Although it be crazy it’ll be accompanied by even more of the Christmas magic that we’d experienced this year, so bring it on!