A Dad's View 17: Creating a special Christmas
The chance to set new family traditions is appealing, but Tom Dunmore finds that it's difficult getting the kids on board
Christmas is coming, and we're making plans. 'So what shall we have for Christmas breakfast?'
'Coco Pops,' says Ava. 'I was thinking something more special – like smoked salmon and scrambled egg or blueberry pancakes,' I explain.
'But we never have Coco Pops!' She has a point,but she hasn't quite caught the festive spirit, and I'm desperately trying to excite the kids about spending the big day at home, rather than with relatives.
'What about Christmas lunch?' I ask. 'I think turkey tastes like papier-mâché chicken. Maybe we could have beef? Or duck?' 'Quack!' says Erik.
It's amazing how far you can get with a vocabulary of 20 words (if you include animal noises). 'Erik wants duck. Ava?'
'Um, beef? No, no – let's have pasta!' 'Pa-pa,' agrees Erik. A family favourite, no doubt, but hardly the feast I was hoping for.
'Maybe the grown-ups should choose the menu,' I say, trying not to sound too huffy.
After a decade of ping-ponging between parents in Bristol and Norway, we've decided to spend Christmas at home and I'm looking forward to starting our own yuletide traditions. But it's made trickier by regional variations: despite living in a land that appears to have been modelled on a Christmas card, Norwegians get a few fundamentals terribly wrong – like opening their presents on Christmas Eve, shunning stockings and pretending that cod jellifi ed in caustic soda counts as a delicacy. (It's called lutefisk – you have been warned.)
Of course, my wife Lise thinks it's us Brits who've got it wrong (except, thankfully, for the lutefisk).
Sensing the tension, my four-year-old spots her chance to lobby hard for a truly spectacular present. Ava wants a cat. The cat isn't a new request. Even Lise wants one.
Previously I've been able to argue that we couldn't possibly bring a cat to someone else's Christmas. This time, here at Christmas zero, I want to start things off well. I want to be a generous Santa, not a mean-spirited Scrooge.
That's an easy task with Erik – at 18 months, he treasures the little things, like discovering a half-infl ated balloon behind the sofa or picking a crushed raisin off the kitchen floor. A day of chewing on discarded wrapping paper and hiding in empty boxes will be a dream Christmas for him.
But Ava is already well-practised in the dark arts of persuasion. She knows it's not enough to simply repeat the 'I want a cat' mantra. So she paints a bleak picture of the Christmas to come: she's not going to see her grandparents and cousins in Bristol; she'll miss the log fires and knee-deep snow of her Norwegian grandparents; she'll have to spend a 'boring' day in her 'too small' home in London. 'I hate London,' she reminds me, with a sigh that visibly deflates her little body.
Then she looks at me with those big blue eyes. 'Please can I have a cat, daddy? Please?'
'Alright,' I say, 'you can have Coco Pops for breakfast. As for the other stuff – we'll just have to write a list and see what Santa thinks. But make sure you give him a lot of options. And remember, you'd better not be on his naughty list.'
Ah, sweet bribery – you simply can't get more traditional than that.