Surviving Christmas

Christmas takes on a whole new dimension when you become a parent. Suddenly, you're not the kid enjoying the special day or the carefree single knocking back Christmas cocktails with friends -- you're RESPONSIBLE for the whole thing. Which can feel a little weighty at times, but it's also kind of great.

This was the first year Nora was old enough to really "get it" -- she could recognize pictures of Santa Claus and she had a great time helping to decorate the tree. She knew on Christmas Eve that she was going to wake up to presents the next morning.

So while we drew the line at elves on shelves and certain other way over-the-top traditions, we did try to make things magical for her. We left cookies out for Santa (sorry, Rudolph, we forgot the carrots) along with a coloring book page Nora decorated for him. He thanked her by leaving her a new coloring book and crayons and asking her to make another masterpiece for him next year (NOTE TO SELF: Don't forget to do this next year, dummy!).

We started Christmas morning off by bringing Nora a wrapped new book before she even got out of bed. It's an idea we got from reading Amy Dickinson's column on the "A Book on Every Bed" project, and it's a tradition we definitely want to uphold. At least until print books go the way of the dodo. Sigh.

But from there, there was no point in trying to keep things organized. We went with the flow -- something we're used to doing, living with a 2 1/2 year old. We ripped open presents, we played with the presents, we took a break when needed. Christmas lasted all day, but that's by no means a complaint. There's no reason for Christmas to be stressful, and it wasn't. It was pure fun.

It was also pure exhaustion. Sure, there's a lot of energy expended on stagecraft -- putting out and assembling gifts on Christmas Eve night, shooing the dog away from Santa's cookies, getting up at a reasonable hour (for this year, anyway) on Christmas morning and scurrying to get breakfast in everyone and pictures taken and maybe even some clean clothes on, eventually. But just watching the kiddo delight in ripping paper and playing with new toys and flipping through new books was exhausting -- in the best possible way.

So it was a very merry Christmas indeed, but to all a good night happened early for the kid as well as the grownups in our house. After all, we may not be responsible for Christmas for another year, but on Dec. 26 (and thereafter) we were still responsible for a toddler. Best to rest up.