Remember when you were little and you first heard the old adage, "It is better to give than to receive"? I do, and I immediately thought, "Well that's a load of crap." Let's be honest — you're not going to find a single child who truly takes more pleasure in giving than getting gifts. Truthfully, I didn't really feel the truth behind those words until I had children and wanted to give them the jolliest Christmas possible. Fact: kids make Christmas better. Can the holiday be fun without them? Of course. However, while I often take a sincerely nuanced and flexible stance on all issues pertaining to kid-friendly vs. kid-free, this is one place where I'm fine stating that I feel kids unequivocally improve the overall experience.
I have never in my life been a "Grinch," but I'd say my overall Christmas experience declined and flat-lined between the ages of 10 to 28. I liked the day off. I liked the presents. I liked the decorations. Other than that? Meh. If I missed Christmas any of those years, I wouldn't have been devastated. It's just a lot, right? Lots of shopping. Lots of travel. Lots of obligations. Lots of stuff. Being the hippie that I am, I couldn't help but think of the holiday as a commercial smorgasbord that could seriously get out of hand.
My first child was born in September of 2011 and even his first Christmas didn't really get me into the spirit. Yeah, babies are kinda fun on Christmas. You can put them in adorable corny sweaters and post a picture of them wearing an over-sized Santa hat or antlers or something, but that's kind of it. Bless their hearts, but they don't really do all that much. We took advantage of our son's obliviousness by not bothering to buy him Christmas gifts; the kid was pretty preoccupied with trying to eat his toes at the time, so I doubt he would have known what to do with a toy even if we'd given him one.
But as the years went on (and he was joined by his sister), his understanding of (and enthusiasm) for Christmas steadily grew, and as it increased it became downright contagious. Around the time he was a 2-year-old toddler, my Christmas cheer levels were higher than they'd been in 20 years. Just as the Whos down in Whoville made the Grinch's heart grow three sizes, so to did my children make my holidays brighter.
You Get To Buy Toys
Sure, buying Christmas gifts can be fun when you're buying for other adults, but when you're buying Christmas toys? There's something so much more exciting about that. Maybe it's knowing that kids will get way more excited about their gifts than adults will about theirs. Maybe it's because we all secretly still want to be children and play with toys. Whatever the reason, the point is that celebrating Christmas with children means you get to indulge those instincts.
Adorable, Pint-Sized Holiday Outfits
OMG! Look at that little one! She's an itty bitty Santa! Oh, and when you can dress them up in tiny snowman, reindeer, or elf costumes? Shut your damn face it's too adorable.
Holiday Specials, Because Duh
Sure, when you don't have kids and you happen to be home you might catch the annual airing of Rudolph the Red Noised Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman, but if you miss it it's not really a big deal. When you have kids, that stuff is on your screen from the day after Thanksgiving to the end of September. Seriously, I think there are may be a few months in the summer when my children aren't watching Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas.
Yes, it might be annoying to have the opening number from A Muppet Christmas Carol stuck in your head for a solid two months, but it's also pretty fun.
Santa Is Real Again...
Sure, some people (for any number of totally valid reasons) decide to forgo Santa, but for those of us who decide to revive the myth for our kids it's a lovely little fantasy we get to indulge for the dark and often dreary month of December. His presence is a warm little spot of jolliness to play around with. What isn't to love about a benevolent grandpa figure who brings you stuff and doesn't require anything in return?
...And You Get To Meet Him
I know in the years between your last visit to Santa and having children of your own, you've heard the siren song of that lovely mall display and wanted to go over before telling yourself, "No. I'm an adult. I can't go sit on Santa's lap." But once you have kids, well, you have to go, don't you?
(You don't. I actually don't — it's not my thing — but I get the appeal. Live your merriest life.)
You Get To Relive Your Holiday Traditions From Childhood And See Them Through Fresh Eyes
Seeing your children basically re-enact your childhood holiday traditions is amazing on several levels. On the first level, you get to see your beloved children having fun. On the second level, you get to remember all the fun you had doing the same thing when you were but a lass. On the third, perhaps best level, those two previous emotions happening together is sort of like having the experience of being a child with your child. It's difficult to describe, but it's powerful and magical and has the ability to slough off decades of jaded adulthood.
You Get To Establish Your Own Traditions
More often than not, being an adult sucks. It's not all bad — we are given liquor and the freedom to choose our own bedtime — but there's also a ton of responsibility, like paying bills and making sure no one chokes on anything. But come Christmas time, your being in charge pays off. You get to decide how your family is going to celebrate the holiday. Want to make it so that everyone decorates the tree on Dec, 1 at exactly 6:04 p.m.? You can make that happen! Do you want to establish a tradition where everyone in the family must wrestle to decide who gets to open presents first? You can make that happen, too! The possibilities are limitless!
You Can Deflect Awkwardness At Family Gatherings With Your Adorable Children
You: Dinner was delicious mom, thanks!
Mom: Thanks honey!
Uncle: It was. You know what else is delicious? The idea that Donald J. Trump will be our president in January. Let me tell you something about the problem with the so-called Syrian refugees...
You: OMG LOOK EVERYONE! THE KIDS ARE PLAYING WITH THEIR TOYS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE! SOMEONE GET THE CAMERA! THIS IS SO ADORABLE!
You Can Be As Over-The-Top In Your Holiday Spirit As You Want Without It Being Weird
Like, if you're the co-worker who shows up in a Santa hat and elf shoes the week before Christmas, people are going to talk about you in the staff lounge. But kids provide lots of party and other social opportunities for you to dial your Yuletide spirit up to 11, and people will just smile and remark upon what a dedicated fun mom you are. (Little did they know this love of Christmas was inside of you all along!)
You're Basically Forced To Be Jolly, And That's Pretty Cool
Even if you're not the Ghost of Christmas Present when left to your own devices, when you have kids you can't be a total humbug. You kind of have to fake it a little bit. The cool thing is that when you do, you sort of start to feel it. It's a pleasant surprise sometimes.
Like, "Oh, I was just pretending to like this holiday sing along for my kids' sake, but I think I'm actually smiling. *touches face* Yeah, I'm smiling. And this coco is delicious. And I think I'm feeling a real connection to my community and is that the spirit of giving I feel stirring inside of me? Weird."
Watching Kids Celebrate Is The Best
Whether they're dancing to "Jingle Bell Rock," baking cookies using your grandma's recipe, or tearing into their presents, watching little kids celebrate Christmas can thaw even the iciest and most cynical heart.