Thursday, 4 October 2012

The C Word

I know, I know it's only just October. But I had several conversations about C-C-C-Christmas recently, where there were conflicting views about shopping/preparations/thoughts so early. Some of us like to prepare early, spread the cost, feel in control, some prefer to leave it all to December and rush round like a loony. (Each to their own, though guess which one is me?!)

Yes, I LOVE Christmas. I'm not remotely religious, but I love the traditions that come at Christmas-time, and I've always seen it as a time for me to create some of my own traditions with my own family.

When I talk Christmas with anyone though, my thoughts naturally turn to how well the children will cope with so much excitement in such a short space of time.

With a child at school (and actually, when he was at nursery too!), it's pretty hard to avoid the run-up to Christmas - they start preparing for the school production weeks in advance, they make things for the seasonal fayre, they go to the church for a service. And of course the tv adverts start, and we've already received catalogues through the door with festive covers on - which Mini has gone through already, and marked the things he'd like on his list!

Mini's behaviour doesn't seem to deteriorate too much around Christmas time, he copes pretty well, especially considering he knows his birthday is just afterwards, in early January. And at the end of January we remember the anniversary of Mini moving in (although a small celebration for us, we know many adopted children are unsettled around anniversaries such as this). He could be forgiven for getting anxious around this festive time of year. Perhaps this is why....

A few years ago, just before Mini turned 4, I heard about 'Elf on the Shelf'. You can search for it online and should find lots of references, but basically a toy elf 'lands' with you on 1st December and stays with you for a month. With the original Elf of the Shelf I think you get a book which describes the elf's story. He keeps an eye on the child and reports back to Father Christmas, suggesting whether the child should be on the naughty or nice list. Whilst he stays he gets up to mischief - decorating the Christmas tree in your child's socks, making 'snow' angels in icing sugar, writing his name in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror etc. He then returns to the North Pole on Christmas Eve - Father Christmas picks him up as he drops off presents. Many forums exist providing ideas for elf mischief, templates for sleigh driving licenses, passports etc, and if you look carefully on Facebook you never know who you might see...

So back then, I decided to adapt this idea for Mini as it was his first Christmas where the focus wouldn't all be on him (having had Dollop earlier in the year), and the main bonus for me was that we could spread some of the build-up to Christmas across the whole month, rather than aiming for just one day.
So in our first year we had one elf (a boy elf that my mother in law made) who got up to all sorts of mischief, left photos of himself around, and he left little gifts - crafts sets etc to help keep Mini occupied throughout December. He arrived with the advent calendar, which he uses to leave notes and gifts for the children. This seemed to work really well, and although the elf (who slept in the shed because we thought Mini might be uncomfortable having him inside) never revealed himself, Mini loved coming downstairs each morning to see what the elf had been upto. The elf wrote a report at the end of the month, picking out all the good things Mini had done and praising him for them. And he left a special gift on Christmas Eve morning (his last day) of new pyjamas and a festive DVD. Our elves have sleigh licenses, passports, facebook pages and several family members and friends are in on the act too, so help to keep the story going and magic alive.

Last year, I made another elf - a girl - who joined our boy elf, and the children were able to see and hold them. Again, they left incriminating evidence of their mischief, photos of themselves out and about, small gifts - craft packs etc, and on one day they'd arranged a North Pole Breakfast too. Mini has really enjoyed doing this, and it really does seem to take the focus off of 25th December. Last Christmas Day Mini looked around for the elves before wanting to open his presents!

And he's already asked if the same elves will be coming back (of course Father Christmas might need to send a different elf this year). He's asked if we can make a special bed for the elves and he knows we'll be away for Christmas, so has checked with nanny (who we'll be staying with) that she has somewhere for them to stay!

To be honest, I'm not sure who enjoys it more - the children, or me as I think up all the trouble the elves can get into! And enjoy planning all the little crafts, gifts and games!
It might sound silly to some, but for me it spreads the stress so is more manageable, it also spreads the joy of Christmas across a whole month, and mostly it's FUN and I get to see my kids faces each day as they realise that there's an elf hanging from a lampshade, sitting on top a Christmas tree, or surrounded by cotton wool snowballs with their other toys! And it keeps my children young - I don't want them growing up too quickly, but I know it won't be too long before Mini's belief in it all starts to disappear...I'm enjoying it while I can!

So today, having already sorted out my list of presents, and checked on the homemade gifts that are brewing, I'm going to start planning what my elves will be doing this December...

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