A Dad's View 10: I want a selfish Christmas
Bold new traditions and silly dancing are top of the list for Tom Dunmore as he looks forward to a family Christmas
The rain is falling, the fire is roaring, and I'm desperately trying to co-ordinate my dance moves in time with a silhouette on the TV screen, while frantically waggling a PlayStation controller in the air. As the music subsides, I'm awarded a generous three-star rating – while my three-year-old's score stays resolutely fixed at zero.
The game then does me the honour of replaying the video highlights of our dance-off: me swishing and gurning in a rhythmically challenged imitation of a dance, while Ava watches with a look of embarrassed disdain that makes her look like a teenager – my own little Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.
I can see what our family Christmas at home is going to be like this year, and it seems uncomfortably close to my memories of Christmas past: six years old, abandoned by my teenage brothers, I fiddle with our new Binatone TV Master system while trying – and failing – to control both bats in a game of Pong. I end up sobbing into a tin of Quality Street.
Don't get me wrong – I loved Christmas as a kid, but I could never shake the feeling that all the real fun had happened before I arrived. By the time I was old enough to get really excited by the dazzling lights and gaudy baubles, my brothers were more interested in listening to Led Zeppelin than Christmas Carols.
This time round, I refuse to be beaten.
'You need to dance, my love!' I say, trying to encourage my daughter. 'Shall we play again?'
'No, Daddy,' she replies. 'I want to play with my balloon.' All this energy, all this technology, is worth less than a helium- filled tin foil bag?
'You can choose the song this time,' I say. 'No Daddy, you're not my best friend and I don't like the TrainStation.' I have to think for a moment before I realise she means the PlayStation. 'I only like my balloon,' she says, folding her arms, scowling and adding a dismissive 'Huh!' for emphasis.
'But this is our family present, my love.'
'No Daddy, it's your present!' says Ava, and storms out of the room to find her inflatable unicorn. And she's right – Christmas has come early to our house this year, but only for me. The awful truth is that I'm terribly selfish when it comes to Christmas. When giving presents, my imagination fails to go further than 'what would I like?' And I'm even worse at receiving - mainly because I'm far too eager to indulge myself with the latest trinkets on the slightest whim.
Last year, in a desperate attempt to give something meaningful, my wife bought me an 'experience' – a voucher for a wet shave and head massage at a top London barber. Even there, in the shade of the Christmas tree, I couldn't stop myself from pointing out that I hate people touching my head. The voucher went unredeemed. Merry Christmas and all that. But this is my chance to turn things around.
This year, rather than bouncing between grandparents in Norway and Bristol, we've decided to begin our own family traditions. Number one: no dry, tasteless turkey. Number two: mum buys the presents (apparently it's not appropriate for me to buy a Scalextric or Subbuteo for my nine-month-old son). Number three: dad receives only the presents he needs – socks and jumpers.
And finally, tradition number four: dad gets to choose the post-dinner entertainment. So you'd better step up, little girl, the dance battle is on...