The magic of Christmas has left our house for good. DS1 is no longer a believer.
A few months before the big day, I had had my suspicions that he’d worked out Santa wasn’t real, when – on the way home from school one day – he had been discussing with his two best friends the possibility that the Big Man was fake.
On this occasion, happily, they reached the conclusion that the Santas you find in garden centres and the like definitely weren’t real, but the Father Christmas who lived in Lapland must be.
DS1 had been the main advocate that the opportunistic St Nicks popping up all over town couldn’t possibly be the real one. After all, never let fiction (or actual fact) get in the way of a DS1 fact.
Henry was more guarded – still wanting to believe that these Santas were the genuine article. Larry was more non-committal – agnostic rather than atheist, if you like.
In the end, I think, they hedged their bets and decided that Santa was real just in case that meant no presents.
But on the morning of 1 December when the Elf on the Shelf put in his annual appearance, DS1 was particularly scathing.
“What’s Ted [for that is the name he gave our elf several years ago] doing here?”
“Well, it’s 1 December, so he’s here to check you are being a good boy for Santa,” I explained.
“He’s a toy.”
“No, he’s not.”
“Yes, he is,” he said, picking up.
“Don’t touch him! He’ll lose his magic power and won’t be able to fly home to Santa tonight.”
He gave me a look that said, ‘you complete numbskull’.
“Funny isn’t it, how when you know he’s been touched he doesn’t move and we have to get the magic dust, or should I say glitter, out, but when you don’t know he still moves?” he pointed out with glee.
Dangling said elf by his label, he asked: “Does it say Born in Lapland? Oh no.” Then, reading the label, he informed us: “Made in China. Toy made from plastic pellets.”
“That’s just part of the magic,” we tried.
He wasn’t having it.
That night after DS1 had gone to bed, we moved Ted to a new vantage point and left a note with him, proclaiming to be from Santa and re-iterating that Ted was very much real and a special envoy for the red-coated fatty. And he certainly wasn’t a toy.
When I came down in the morning, I found Ted where we’d left him, but the note had been altered.
It now read: “I am a toy from China.”
So the magical elf was no more, but what about believing in Santa?
“That’s you,” he pointed at me, with an accusatory look on his face.
Despite my denial and the wife’s explanation that if you don’t believe he won’t come, the game was well and truly up.
“I’ve known for two years,” he claimed, in a tone that suggested we were deluded.
The element of unsurprise
While he may no longer believe in Santa, he was still fully appreciative that this time of year meant gifts coming his way. As for presents going in the other direction, that concept still seemed to be passing him by.
He showed no interest in helping me choose gifts for his mum and grandparents.
“Why would I want to?” he told me, disinterestedly.
‘Because it’s a nice thing to do’ held no sway. Nor did, ‘If you don’t give anyone presents they aren’t going to want to give you any’.
“Yes, they will,” he replied confidently.
Tempting as it was to not get him anything to see how he liked them apples, I persisted with gaining some input.
Finally resorting to finding some options on that Amazon and showing them to him, saying, for example: “Shall we get this for mum?”
I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then.
I did get him to help with wrapping them, though. Albeit with a resigned sigh.
As for what he wanted, I at least managed to get him to expand his list beyond 100 packs of Match Attax to give the rest of the family some options.
Although getting presents is very much welcomed, not knowing what they are before he rips the paper off can cause high anxiety. The art of surprise doesn’t sit well with DS1.
There is a genuine worry about opening a present when he doesn’t know what it is. Otherwise, how does he know how to react?
We’ve learnt from past experience that he is not averse to tossing an unwanted gift aside with disdain. So a little bit of pre-opening coaching was required.
If he was prepared for what lay inside, he knew how to react accordingly. And, if it was something he may not necessarily really want, we could practice saying ‘thank you’, or his butchered equivalent, without being (too) rude.
The tactic worked like a dream.
No one was offended in the exchanging of presents and even those gifts he hadn’t been sure about initially were excitedly received because he had had time to appreciate that they might well be useful.
The nightmare of Christmas
In my Christmas Day morning dreams I could hear an annoying cough. What was this all about, my addled brain demanded?
As I gradually became semi-conscious, I realised that the cough was increasing in intensity and seemed to be coming from downstairs.
It was also sounding very fake.
Realising that this irritating noise wasn’t going to desist, I stumbled downstairs to find the phantom cougher sitting on the sofa.
“How long have you been there?” I asked.
“Since 4.51am.” It was now past 7.
It was going to be a long day.
“Did Santa come?” I asked.
“Daaaad,” he chastised. “You mean you.”
To be fair to him, and again this took a good deal of coaching, he kept the magic alive for his younger cousin. Not letting slip, as we had feared, that Father Christmas was really her father.
This was a big deal. After all, the fact Santa was not real, is, well, fact. And that means it should not be kept secret.
But careful explanation, and a huge amount of finger crossing, meant he kept this secret, well, secret.
I’m sure he was itching to impart his superior knowledge, but he could see what it meant to Dorothy. Maybe a part of him remembered how excited he’d been when the bearded stranger wandered into his bedroom unchallenged in the dead of night to leave the contents of his sack.
Either that, or it was our constant reminding not to say something – despite his repeated “Why?” responses.
A Bridge too far
The intensity of interaction with family that is Christmas Day was handled really well. He took himself off when he needed to, played with his cousin brilliantly and board games went smoothly. He even stayed at the table to eat.
There was just one altercation over the Horrible Histories game, when he insisted that it could not be played with just two participants – despite the instructions saying ‘For 2-4 players’.
He was also slightly intolerant of people that didn’t know the answer to questions that he did.
“How can you possibly not know that?” he uttered incredulously at regular intervals.
Maybe because your Grannie hasn’t watched all seven series on repeat for the best part of two years, perhaps?
A trip to Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day served two purposes. It got DS1 away from the intense nature of lots of people in one room and it also meant I could go to the football without being glared at for leaving a family gathering early.
Despite the miserable defeat, DS1 appeared to enjoy himself (although you can never be 100% sure). He certainly enjoyed pointing out Frank Lampard’s bald spot from our vantage point just behind his technical area.
I’d secured tickets in the family section – his area of choice, because it means no one stands up in front of him. But he still remained mute and regularly slapped me on my arm should I deign to applaud or shout something out.
I guess it’s because there were people around him and they might overhear him. Certainly he whispered in my ear if he did have anything to impart.
A fact that became even more apparent at the FA Cup game I took him to the following week (but more of that another time).
Returning to our house after the match, we flopped onto the sofa, drained from it all.
“Take down the tree, then,” he ordered. “Christmas is over.”