Christmas is, without doubt, the best time of year in a household with 3 boys under 9 and two adults that are just big kids at heart. Magical? Maybe on Christmas morning when watching excited little faces opening presents but certainly not when queuing for an eternity in Tesco like I was yesterday at 8am. Festive? Again, probably when enjoying Christmas day with family, but not when freezing my *fingers* (adapted for a family audience) off putting outdoor lights up on a Sunday afternoon. Glad Tidings? Absolutely, but less so to the people from Sky TV who seem like it will ruin THEIR Christmas if I don’t buy the movie package that I neither want nor would have time to watch and who seem to forget I’ve told them this on at least 4 occasions this week.
See, Christmas is always a bit like that isn’t it ; an up and a down, a ‘yayy’ and a ‘boo’. That’s not to sound all bah! Humbug! about it, it’s just how it is once you realise that Father Christmas being busy, your bank account emptying and the shops being like the opening 15 minutes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ are somehow linked.
For us, as a family, we love Christmas. How could we not.
This year so far has seen our eldest have a place in the choir for his school nativity (vocal ability inherited from his dad), Ethan play a shepherd in what was an Olivier Award Winning performance of his nursery nativity (acting ability inherited from dad), and me dress as an Ugly Sister in panto (dressing as a woman taken after my mum). There’s been parties, nights out, fun and games.
In leading up to Christmas though as Isaac’s dad it has been so bittersweet. Jake commenced his Christmas procurement process with internet research on toys in about October and the fully formed list for Father Christmas was produced about 3 weeks ago, word processed, including clip art images and signed ‘Kind Regards, Jake’ at the foot. If ever a child has inherited the genes from his lawyer mother, he is that child.
Ethan was more spontaneous. Like most of us probably started, he sat with the Argos catalogue pointing at things whilst mum took notes (relegated to a secretarial role) and we duly, ahem, sent the list to Santa. We are now using the tried and tested behaviour control tactic of ‘Father Christmas is watching’ when he’s misbehaving and that has a good 7 days left before it is redundant.
Isaac, well where do you start? What you start to realise when you wander round toys r us or Smyths is that shopping for toys for a 3 year old with little head control (so Isaac cannot sit independently) and who can’t yet reach and grip toys is a polarising process. You wander, feeling a) like you’re letting him down if you can’t find something appropriate b) guilty, that the other boys will get more both materially and in terms of money spent and c) like you’re crap parents. It’s a horrible feeling, which is stronger this year than last. Last year at 2, a lot of Ethan’s toys were Isaac’s toys and vice versa – developmentally Ethan’s physical ability was still within the same parameters as Isaac’s, they both needed big toys that encouraged their fine motor development and ‘toddler’ toys were appropriate for both. This year is different because of one main thing ; independent play.
Ethan can play independently, and god forbid if you get in his way sometimes when he’s laying out farm animals or cars, and he’s developing through creative play. Isaac can’t independently play. Hence, a lot of the ‘aged 3-5’ toys are quite inaccessible for him in their purest form. Yes, you can play with them with him but that takes some of the creative play opportunities from it (for example, I’d imagine that lego is a lot less fun for Isaac than it is for Ethan ; Ethan can conceptualise, build, rebuild whereas Isaac is bound by what decisions I or whoever is playing with him take).
So, you start looking at ‘inclusive toys’ ie ‘expensive toys’! To fit a push button switch to a simple dog toy lifts the cost to nearly £50 from what would be £15-20 in Toys R Us. This isn’t me moaning, it’s not me saying it’s profiteering, it’s me saying its another expense just to ‘square the circle’ for Isaac and help him enjoy things the same way as his twin brother. The range is limited too. Solutions? You become more selective than we would be with the other two boys and therefore one little brother gets a smaller pile of presents on Christmas morning. The phrase ‘it is what it is’ is never far from me and honestly i’m not moaning in what i’m saying.
We have had the conciliatory ‘well…he wont necessarily know how much less he’s got than his brothers’ from some people and it’s meant as a comment to make us feel less guilty but frankly, it doesn’t work. We know. That’s all that matters. We can’t treat Isaac with the absolute equality he deserves and it hurts at a time when as parents you just want to show equality between your children. It’s also insulting to suggest that Isaac understands any less than his brothers.
Weirdly I know, well my brain tells me, that all three boys will have the best Christmas they’ve ever had and hopefully we’ll have done our bit as parents in creating memories that will last (well, maybe apart from Jake needing to forget about seeing his dad in drag). I think it’s just about whether we’re out of our comfort zone in ‘Christmas with Isaac’ and yes we are because it’s only the third one and our experience of 5 previous ones with Jake didn’t include looking for inclusive toys and the next steps of realisation that it brings about Isaac’s situation. We’ll all do everything we do to show Isaac that Christmas is magical, festive, full of glad tidings and love and i’m sure we’ll see lots of the little smiles that drive us on both as a family and a charity.