Navigating the Holidays

The first time Santa Claus knocked on our door Ashton grabbed Santa’s hand and showed him inside; so much for “stranger danger” at the Shout household. The next year the novelty had worn off and he shut the door in his face. Each year is a surprise.


For Amy and I, the holidays are the time of year when we notice how much those around us care about our well-being. Whether it’s family who understand our limitations and make sure that Christmas is always at our house, or the boys’ uncles who let the boys climb all over them because they are enamoured with bald heads and long beards. Everybody has learned to go with the flow and the phrase comfortable being uncomfortable goes away for a few hours. 


The first few years were probably the hardest for my wife. She spent hours trying to make Christmas how she and I spent it. Dozens of presents wrapped under the tree, Christmas baking in large quantities, and as many decorations as we could put around the house. This was about us trying to show them our world, and that was the first mistake. 


It was hard seeing the boys not understand what was going on and, in many facets, not care about the time and effort she had put in. This was probably the hardest to watch for me as Christmas was changing for her and it was disheartening. However, we have now learned to enjoy things differently.


Santa Claus does not come down the chimney at our place, he knocks on the front door. And Mall Santa, well that is a story for another day. We are lucky because we have our own personal Santa that makes an appearance at our house every year (thank you, Brian and Sharon, our Mr. and Mrs. Clause for a night!). The torture he endures for that hour is something truly magical to watch. Whether it is Trystan stealing his hat or pulling his beard off numerous times, or Ashton taking his bells and then disappearing to the basement to play by himself, Santa takes it like a champ. I am not sure if the boys have gotten the correlation between the man in red and Christmas, but for now, Amy and I will believe they do.


Decorations were also another adventure. After replacing the Christmas balls on the tree for the hundredth time, we finally realized that the dollar store had “good enough” decorations for our household. Who knew that if you push hard enough with your thumb they make a loud cracking sound – now that’s a fun game! 


Secondly, expensive, or breakable decorations for Christmas are quickly placed higher than reachable or not put out at all, we learned that lesson a few too many times in the early years. In the end, the lights are the one thing I will always remember about the early years with the boys. I still remember Trystan just sitting on the floor of the living room enamoured with the Christmas tree lights, and just staring off into space for 30 seconds (trust me that is hours in our household).


Christmas morning also looks a little different for us. Amy started the early years by taking hours to wrap every present and the night before we would put them under the tree all nice and neat and it would make “us” happy. We have now learned that the goal was to make them happy because Christmas is more about them than it ever was just for us. We have learned that wrapping paper does not have a meaning for us and it is much cheaper to avoid. 


So, on Christmas Eve we spend the time putting batteries into toys and placing them strategically under the tree. Then we place a blanket over all the presents under the tree and go to bed, because who knows what time somebody may stir. No need to waste time with beautiful wrapping, they are more excited by pulling back the sheet and seeing their toys in all their glory. Gift bags worked as well, but the novelty of tissue paper versus the cost was not in our favour.


I like to think that they both have come to realize what Christmas is and that they look forward to it once we put the tree up, but I can never really be sure. I know they get excited the day after Remembrance Day when we start the decorations and are still overjoyed driving around looking at lights (although in the enchanted forest it may be the fact that one of them sits on my lap and gets to steer the vehicle). 


They have now warmed up to the jolly man in red every year, and although we go through dozens of decorations they still play with the tree as much as ever. Singing animals are still a hit although I won’t lie, I do take the batteries out after the hundredth time hitting the button. We have learned to enjoy Christmas, just in a different way, like many other aspects of our lives.


We get to enjoy Christmas for what I believe it was always intended to be about, family. 


The kids rarely care about the presents (novelty lasts for only a few minutes), the food is of interest but again not really a concern, and they don’t care how much time my wife or I spend to make it “magical”. What they do care about is the afternoon of sledding with their aunts, uncles, and cousins, or spending the day at my parent’s house wrecking somebody else’s place for a few hours. 


They care about hot tubs with their grandfather, or tickles on the couch. I believe that once we understood what our Christmas would look like, we got to see the real thing. And for this, thank you to our families, you are the magic of Christmas.