Jason Henry describes how he celebrates Xmas as a single dad of two.
And so this is Xmas… Or rather a tale of two Christmasses for my kids. This year the kids will spend actual Christmas with their mum who is Argentinian and celebrates with an ‘asado’ and they will be with me for ‘Nordic Christmas’ for the new year. I have invented a special menu– roast chicken, saag aloo and ice cream (i.e. the things I can cook and that are not too expensive).
As my kids get older it becomes difficult to keep the magic of Christmas alive, especially as the rest of my family live far away. I seem more tired than I remember my mother and her family ever seemed to be at this period and even the kids are exhausted following the increasing demands and stresses of the education system.
As a history teacher at a university the contact side of work stops over the Christmas period, although the reading and preparation never do. Still the distractions of Xmas do provide some form of short-term relief from the continuous pretence to be an intellectual heavyweight. Cooking, socialising and organising board games is an attempt to maintain peace between the warring factions in the house, my kids, with all such activities sponsored by Malbec.
At least the pressie shopping is easier than in the past – online mainly – although I still feel that this is somehow cheating and detracts from the real reason of Xmas: Going shopping. The crowds, the prices, the parking-experience. All of which fills you with a hatred for your fellow man, which is only relived after at least two glasses of red. Why do you think the reindeer have red noses?
We live in a smallish town and there’s not much to do, and what there is VERY expensive (the benefits of living in a tourist area). Where we are is very beautiful; nature abounds. It’s perfect for kids. Except mine. My 13 year-old son wants to be a Minecraft bedwars youtube expert (and professional footballer) and my daughter lives for books – especially on magic, mythology and, somewhat troublingly, poisons.
This year more than ever the purse strings have had to be controlled. I have explained this to the kids on several occasions, even using diagrams to my youngest, who claims he fully understands the economic situation…and then asks for a PS5! He will pay Santa back when he signs his contract with Barcelona (this could be a long wait!). In the end Santa decided on a special mouse for the computer for him. It costs 100 pounds and can’t even use a wheel, squeak or provide entertainment for the cat! My daughter lives for books so she’s easy!
The lack of extended family and the relative isolation of the town where I live limit the social whirl – for both me and my kids (probably not a bad thing – for my kids – when I look back at the alcohol-driven Xmases of my youthful existence). The real challenge is making it memorable for them, and survivable for me, in the hope that in the future I’ll be able to join my family for the celebrations.
So how to entertain teenage kids over Xmas in a small town? Music, films and games, of course! As any responsible parent who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I have educated my children in the very best of Christmas songs (Slade and Wizard, yes; Carey and Wham, no! Pogues, especially this year, definitely!). And, of course, Nordic Xmas has to include Big Country! OK, this entertains me more than the kids. My son wants to watch the Fun Night Freddy film – it’s not really what I would call xmassy (it’s about animatronic kids trying to murder other kids); my daughter, clearly the wiser of the two, wants Dr Who. I think we have a winner! We will have food, a film and the traditional Harry Potter Monopoly game (played again and again until my son wins, or rather we let him). It’s not quite a Wonderful Life, but the kids love it and that makes me happy (along with the Malbec). Success. Happy Christmas!