Remember those days, BC (before children), when leaving every bit of shopping, decorating, wrapping to Christmas eve was romantic, atmospheric and gloriously spontaneous, like a scene from The Holiday? Well, game's over. Right now, if your stress levels are not at the point where you don't have enough space in your head to finish a sentence and lists are written again and again on every scrap of available paper, without any actual productivity, then, I'm sorry, we can't be friends.
Christmas with Children. Love and pain in equal measure. We are simultaneously Making Memories whilst trying to avoid Mental Meltdowns ending in divorce, alcoholism and quite possibly a small stroke. Or is that just me? Having survived a few family pantomimes over the years, here are ten quick-fire seasonal strategies I have learnt along the way. You're welcome.
1. Don't start something you can't finish
From that very first Christmas with Child, you seal your fate. You hang the cute advent stocking for baby number one, fill it with daily treats, little challenges, small toys... Come baby number three, it's taking over every waking hour and costing you a small fortune. A few years down the line you suggest maybe moving onto a good old Cadbury's version. And are greeted with faces like you've just told them you've drowned the cat. Sorry mate, there's no going back.
2. Be prepared
You will still cry at Away in a Manger, regardless of whose child is singing. Take tissues everywhere from the week the John Lewis ad comes out, even if you can't stand Elton.
3. Keep your eye on the prize
Come on guys, think! Santa does not hang out in WHS looking for a 3 for the price of 1 wrapping paper deal. He gets his stuff from the North Pole. They have different paper stockists up there. So, one wrap for your presents, another for his, right? Doh #epicfail.
4. Play fair
However many children you have, don't try and compromise, bargain, do a deal or cut the corners. Three kids will, at some point, mean three nativities, three carol services, three concerts, three bake sales, three raffle tickets. Same goes for their gifts. Kids are sharp as knives. Nothing worse than your eldest working out on Amazon that you owe him another £20 because her board game was a bit more spenny than his. You do the maths.
5. Lower your expectations
'Let's drip-feed the gifts over the two days this year, honey? Stretch out the fun, eh?' Forget it. Presents are wrapped to be unwrapped by 9.30am. Give in.
6. That goes for you too
You'll hit the bottle by 9.30am. Nothing is nicer or more decadent (or more deserved) than a glass of bubbles at breakfast. Happy parents, happy kids, remember!
7. Know your audience
Don't rush your Game Strategy. You might be desperate to dust off the Monopoly, crack open the Cluedo, reach out for Risk, but check your team mates before it turns nasty. There's nothing more likely to lead to meltdowns (from you too) when your toddler doesn't get the rules, or can't hold the bank notes (let alone add them up). Small steps. There's always Uno.
8. The Wizard is dead
Remember highlighting the must-see Christmas films in the Radio Times, weeks before the big day? Thanks to our superior networks now, kids can watch whatever, whenever, so the romance of the Christmas Day movie is over. Don't be hurt if they reject your desperate pleas for a bit of Judy or Julie. And as for the Queen? Who even is the Queen?
9. It's not all about you
On that note, enough of trying to recreate your own idyllic childhood Christmas. 'We never opened gifts until we'd all been out for a lovely brisk walk.' No-one cares. After all, isn't it rather smashing to be able to create a new kind of tradition together? And aren't one-size-fits-all-email-thank-you-letters just the best thing ever? #winwin
10. No-one likes sprouts
Happy holidays! #themostwonderfultimeoftheyear.
Sarah, a Guilty Working Mother (GWM) juggles three small people, a daily commute and increasingly saggy eyelids.
#lifelisticles #GWM #lifeinthemiddlelane #alsoslightdollobsession #dontjudge @barbiella_com