Last year, Rebel Baby had a calm and serene first Christmas. Mummy spent a lovely day on maternity leave in December carefully choosing a tasteful Christmas baby outfit which made RB look festive and adorable in equal measures, and crafting homemade Christmas cards from lovely little baby footprints, as per Pinterest. It really was a smashing and magical time. Rebel Baby, of course, was none the wiser… she had little concept of anything beyond when her next meal or nap was happening, and was oblivious to the myriad gifts which were showered upon her, as the only baby in the family.
This year, it is quite different.
Mummy finishes work – the most manic and stressful week of the school year – and then has precisely 24 hours to accomplish everything to do with Christmas before Big Bro arrives demanding the magic begin, then another 24 hours before the in-laws arrive for Christmas Eve and everything must be ready.
Mummy decides a good way to start the day will be to plug RB into the Bloody-Irritating-Wiggles’ Christmas Special and spend some time hiding in the loo trying to make a list on her phone of all the things she needs to accomplish. Usually, hiding in the loo affords Mummy five minutes of peace and quiet as it is the only place RB can’t get to her to cling to her ankles and clamour for biscuits / books to be read / Mummy to sing along to the Bloody-Irritating-Wiggles and do the Bloody-Irritating-Actions. One does not have to need the loo to utilise the space, reasons Mummy, and considers she may even be able to clean it while she’s in there before the Christmas Special runs out and thereby cross one thing off her list before the day has even begun! Mummy is going to be a time-efficient genius today!!
As luck would have it though, today is the day that RB discovers she can climb onto the first stair, swing round the corner and open the door to the downstairs loo, thus interrupting Mummy’s sacred haven. As if being sprung by a delighted and squealing 1-year-old whilst hiding in the loo isn’t bad enough, Mummy has also discovered that this vantage point allows very direct viewing of the Bloody-Irritating-Wiggles, and feels somehow all the more violated that they have joined her in her sanctuary… singing pirate-camel and all. It is not a good start to the day.
“Right!” announces Mummy to no one in particular, “we will start by tidying up!” Rebel Baby looks blankly at Mummy, confused by her newfound sense of purpose and direction. “Come on darling! It’s Christmas! You can help Mummy tidy the house!”
Rebel Baby totters around after Mummy as Mummy picks up toys, coats, shoes and laundry, piling things onto shelves, hiding them in cupboards and cramming them into already-full drawers. Ah ha! thinks Rebel Baby. We are picking things up and putting them in funny places! This is a game I can play!
It is not long before she has posted five pairs of shoes down the back of the sofa, filled the wine rack with Duplo and donned a pair of Mummy’s glasses she found under the coffee table. Now she is staggering around laughing at herself and bumping into things, like a teeny tiny drunk person on a night out, wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. It strikes Mummy that tidying a house with a one year old still in it is much like shovelling snow while it’s still snowing. But without the magical joy of there being snow.
It is not long before Mummy has resorted to bribing her with biscuits and TV (which before Mummy had children she thought she would never do.) It turns out that right now, Mummy would sell a piece of her soul for The Baby to STAY PUT AND LEAVE THINGS ALONE FOR JUST FIVE MINUTES, so a pile of digestives big enough to last the duration of The Snowman seems a small price to pay, even if Mummy will be scraping soggy lumps of half-chewed biscuit off the sofa in punishment afterwards.
Once the downstairs at least is vaguely ordered (and far enough up the stairs that a visitor might be fooled into believing the whole house is tidy), Mummy decides it will be entirely sensible to keep RB out of the house for the rest of the day, lest she undo all of Mummy’s hard work. Happily, Mummy has a great deal of chores to accomplish out of the house, most of which involve walking for miles in opposite directions carrying large and heavy packages whilst wrestling a small person who doesn’t like coats. Or pushchairs. Or wearing shoes outside.
First stop, Mummy needs to find something for The Baby to wear on Christmas Day. Mummy thought she had already been super-efficient and thrifty in doing this by buying a Christmas outfit in the sales after last Christmas, and had therefore gone merrily about her Christmas safe in the knowledge that this particular chore did not require doing. However, Mummy’s memory served her incorrectly with regard to the quality of her thrifty sale-purchase (Mummy can only assume she was blinded or temporarily stunned by the enormous discount in this respect.) As such, when Mummy got it out of the wardrobe earlier in the week to attend a classy and civilised Christmas party with mulled wine, candles and canapes, she was tempted to leave The Baby at home. Other children attended the party looking like they’d swanned out of a Marks and Spencer’s Christmas advert, clad in delicate sparkles with fluffy, snow-white collars, or velvet dresses with gold buttons. Rebel Baby looked like Santa’s workshop had exploded and someone knitted an outfit from the wreckage…
Mummy pays an extortionate price for a beautiful dress, and makes the mistake of trying on The Baby a posh ribbony hairband, that she had no intention of buying. The Baby immediately sucks one end of the posh hairband, covering the satin ribbon in digestive-biscuit dribble so now Mummy has to buy it. As if this weren’t irritating enough, she also decides it is her MOST FAVOURITE THING IN THE WORLD EVER at that exact moment, screams the shop down when Mummy has to prise it from her sticky little fingers for the nice lady to scan at the till, and then clutches it tightly to her head, whimpering in self-pitying defence, all the way home. As the screams have abated, Mummy cannot face prising it from her a second time in order to remove the shop label, so it looks very much as though RB has shoplifted her new accessory and is flaunting her prize as Mummy pushes her out of the shop, apologising to everyone whose eardrums were shattered during the transaction.
By the time Mummy has run all of the errands and is heading home, it is approximately 3 minutes until Daddy and Big Bro are due to arrive. Mummy looks at her list anxiously… it is approximately two months behind schedule. No matter, thinks Mummy, for Daddy and Big Bro are fully functioning and relatively grown up human beings who can contribute to the tasks at hand! In fact, so positive and optimistic is Mummy’s Christmas spirit that by the time she has unpacked the pushchair, she has nigh on convinced herself that the men will get straight to work and complete everything that needs doing, and Mummy will have her feet up with a glass of Baileys on the sofa by 7:00pm. But Mummy had forgotten two things…
Firstly, Daddy’s annual insistence that the single most important Christmas job is buggering off to get his car cleaned. This is an annual ritual that used to drive Mummy up the wall, as she found herself drowning in a sea of housework and cooking, or present wrapping, or suitcase packing, or whatever that year’s arrangements required. “First things first!” would announce Daddy, “I am off to get the car cleaned!” and thus would he disappear for a good chunk of time to sip instant coffees and browse Facebook in a waiting room, while Mummy swore under her breath and contemplated strangling him with the tinsel. Several years in, however, Mummy has realised there is no point fighting it and has come to accept that Christmas cannot begin until Daddy’s precious car has had it’s Christmas treat. Best just to get it over with, Mummy now reasons. But it will greatly impact Daddy’s useful contribution to proceedings.
Secondly, Mummy must have been hallucinating when she imagined that Big Bro would be of any use whatsoever in completing general household chores. Whilst, after years of training, Mummy has just about managed to get him to operate the handheld Hoover for the stairs (and only because its battery-life is as short-lived as his attention span), this is a very small and disproportionate pay-off for the pile of coats, bags and shoes which are deposited exactly where they happen to fall as he casts them off on entry, the constant flow of Lego strewn about the house as he moves from room to room, and the general assumption that Mummy is there to provide for his every need and clear up after his every whim… most of which seem to involve copious quantities of Pritt Stick and Sellotape. And if all of this were not bad enough, Mummy has overlooked the simple fact that, to Rebel Baby, Big Bro is The Absolute Best Person In The Entire World. His very presence will whip her up into a squealing frenzy as he races into the living room and bundles her to the ground. Mummy twitches slightly as it happens, foreseeing the imminent destruction of her tidy house, and momentarily regretting lighting the festive scented candles already.
The twenty fours hours until the in-laws arrive are run like a military operation and, for once, Daddy is surprisingly and uncomplainingly compliant (perhaps because Mummy was not so ranty about the car-cleaning this year, but who knows?) Many things are brought down from the loft, carried to the garage or peeled, these being his main areas of expertise. Past experience has taught Mummy that Daddy cannot be entrusted with anything that involves buying, wrapping, decorating, arranging, organising or timing. Anything, that is, with the exception of putting the roast dinner in the oven, which Daddy will insist on doing tomorrow to give the illusion of having done all the work.
By the time the family arrive, at least 50% of the jobs have been accomplished, which is an improvement on previous years. Mummy did eventually give in and concede that finish painting the hall, stairs and landing was a little ambitious at this late stage in the game, but it didn’t stop her sulking as Daddy carried the toolbox and paintbrushes out to the garage so she couldn’t make a sneaky attempt to start on the cutting in. Mummy has even made the bastarding Scotch Eggs, which Daddy insists are an essential part of Christmas and must be made from scratch and eaten hot on Christmas Eve, despite them being the single most labour-intensive food Mummy has ever encountered, and A SUMMER PICNIC FOOD, as Mummy wails in despair every year as she sweats over the deep fat fryer.
Everyone arrives and Daddy makes (heats up) mulled wine, which calms Mummy down very slightly. The in-laws declare mulled wine to be the most foul thing they have ever encountered, so Mummy decides she will have to drink it all and immediately begins to feel more Christmassy. Miraculously, the children go to bed without complaint… such is the magic of the promise of a truckload of presents. It doesn’t stop Mummy reminding them that Father Christmas only comes to children who brush their teeth properly, go to sleep immediately, don’t get up forty seven times to ask what time it is / for a glass of water / to read a book / the light on / the light off / the window opened / the window closed / the door opened / the door closed / where their favourite toy is / where their other pyjamas are / what that weird shadow is / what that weird noise was / what we’re doing tomorrow / the day after tomorrow / a week next Tuesday… and that Father Christmas absolutely categorically one hundred percent doesn’t come to anyone who gets up at 3:00 am to go to the loo, leaves all the lights and the the bathroom fan on, cranks the flush just enough to wake the whole house up but doesn’t actually flush anything away, and then slams their door on the way back to bed. He just doesn’t. Ever.
Mummy momentarily worries that she may have been a bit of a Grinch and ruined Christmas, but all is forgotten the next morning, because… PRESENTS!! Obviously Mummy has spent weeks and weeks instilling in the children that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, family and sharing, appreciating what we already have, and giving unto others, and peace and love and joy… but all of this is forgotten because THERE ARE PRESENTS!!! Mummy doesn’t know why she bothers. And Mummy can’t even complain because she bought the presents. It is a confusing message.
Big Bro makes it very clear that he knows Father Christmas doesn’t exist, but will not say so out loud, lest Mummy should retract the presents. “When my friend at school stopped believing in Father Christmas, he got a computer,” he remarks casually, and Mummy pretends not to hear him. It does, however, explain the rather optimistic list totalling approximately two grand that Big Bro left out for Santa last night, with instructions to “leave a sack on the floor if it won’t fit in my stocking.”
The Grinch that is Mummy insists that the big presents are saved until after lunch, and that everyone goes to church to remember that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and that even opinionated agnostics like Daddy will benefit from distancing themselves from the Christmas nibbles for an hour, maybe even singing a carol because it’s Christmas and that’s what we do.
Rebel Baby LOVES church. She hasn’t a clue about the Christmas story or why everyone is sitting in uncomfortable rows listening to a man in a Christmas jumper talk about donkeys, but there are loooooong empty aisles she can cruise up and down, waving and shouting “Eh!” to everyone she passes. Moreover, she can wriggle up and down the pews, dipping in and out of people’s handbags looking for snacks and toys, and hiding in small spaces Mummy can’t get into. By the end of the first hymn, she has happened upon a kindly old gentleman who she browbeats into lifting her onto his lap to read her a book, and proceeds to shout at him when he doesn’t do it exactly according to her liking. Mummy – the only one who actually wanted to come to church – spends the service scuttling around apologising to people, trying to tempt RB back to safety with biscuits and raisins. She gazes wistfully at Other People’s children sitting calmly on their parents’ laps or colouring quietly in their pews, and wonders where she has gone wrong. Meanwhile, RB is having the time of her life! At one point, the vicar invites the children up to the altar to sing Away in a Manger, and RB is delighted to be offered centre stage. Up she races, faster than Mummy can follow without looking like a madwoman possessed, and makes a beeline for the twenty-foot Christmas tree at the front. Mummy dies a little inside and resorts to wrestling the small one back to Daddy, declaring it “his turn,” as she hides in shame behind a hymn book.
By 11:30 am, the three days of biscuit-bribery have caught up with RB’s immature digestive system and the expensive Christmas dress is soaking in Napisan after just two hours of wear. RB could not care less… by the afternoon, her Christmas food-baby belly is far more comfy in a stretchy baby grow, and she has discovered a new pair of bright green wellies and matching sunglasses under the tree which have brought more delight and excitement than a million dresses. Mummy realises, with a heavy heart, that some people just aren’t born to wear pretty dresses. RB is rocking her own Christmas style and loving it…
The excitement of new wellies and sunglasses is almost more than a small person can handle so Mummy opens the rest of RB’s presents (half of which she had just wrapped up the night before) while RB strides around the living room showing her boots off proudly to anyone who cares. She has been spoiled rotten with other toys and delights, but for now is completely absorbed in mastering her new funny walk with green feet. Mummy unwraps a tea set, lovely bath toys, a musical elephant, musical instruments, a jigsaw puzzle… lovely things which The Baby will love to play with… but none of which can immediately compete with the excitement of your first pair of wellies.
Before long, it is all a bit much, and Rebel Baby resorts to burying herself in a pile of wrapping paper, wellies and all. Mummy is buried beneath a mountain of plastic and boxes, frantically trying to remember what was from who. As the chaos reaches its peak and Mummy suspects RB may be moments from Totally Losing It, she realises that Aunty Pinterest, the seasoned and sensible mother of the exemplary children, had the good sense to send a nice calm sitting down present, which diffuses potential catastrophe. It is big and exciting enough to entice RB out from the pile of wrapping paper, though she emerges sans wellies and trousers, much to Mummy’s confusion.
RB’s spends the rest of Christmas and the days that follow destroying all of Mummy’s hard work by getting every single toy out, every single day. She shows them ALL to Mummy first thing every morning, still not sure where they all came from, but delighted to discover they are still here. The general state of bemused wonderment and the excitement of having the whole family visit over the Christmas period has overridden the biscuit-hangover, though the beautiful expensive dress has not recovered, and probably never will. RB doesn’t care… she didn’t like it much anyway. And Christmas was worth it.
Slightly worse for wear after last night’s fireworks, a tired little Christmas Rebel Baby wishes everyone a Happy New Year!