By Indie Dad

The story so far:

After their mum moved out, my two sons, Alex and Danny, decided we needed some house rules. They were aged nine and seven at the time, and felt a powerful need to impose some order on the world. I had expected them to come up with five or six rules but they returned with a lengthy list, consisting of 32 rules…

Christmas Day was one of those times when Rule 17

‘We let people have lie-ins’ – certainly didn’t apply. This was partly due to the ongoing influence of the boys’ mum who, for the last Christmas when she was still living with us, had decided that the boys should be allowed to get up whenever they wanted. This led to a frenzy of present opening at 3am, after which she retreated back to bed and I was left to face a day which stretched out endlessly before me. 4am – assemble the Bat Cave; 5am – start assembling Lego Starfighters; 6am – try to make sense of a series of electronic toys that the boys couldn’t get to work. By mid-morning everyone was snappy and fractious, not least because the only breakfast we’d managed to fit in was chocolate Santas.

I was determined to do things differently from this, but a precedent had been set. There were weeks of intensive negotiations over what time Alex and Danny should be allowed to get up on Christmas Day, before we reached an agreement that it must not be before 6am. I also agreed they should hang up stockings in their room, which Santa would fill with small presents which they could open when they first woke up. In reality these kept them occupied for about five minutes, before they crashed into my bedroom to drag me out to open the main presents downstairs.

Although they were nine and seven at the time Alex and Danny still claimed to believe in Santa, despite many of their peers in school telling them that he didn’t exist. In Alex’s case I think this was connected with his Asperger’s – it didn’t occur to him that his parents might lie to him, certainly not about something as important as the existence of Santa. For Danny I suspect it was more opportunistic – Santa brought the presents, so if he stopped believing the presents might not come.

Danny loved Christmas, and took charge of decorating the house. Home-made paper chains hung from all the walls, and he made a star to sit on top of the tree. I didn’t have any Christmas music, but Mojo magazine had a free ‘Festive Fifteen’ CD, which became our seasonal soundtrack. This left the boys believing that ‘Ain’t No Chimneys in the Project’ by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and ‘It was the Worst Christmas Ever!’ by Sufjan Stevens, were just as much Christmas classics as ‘Run Run Rudolph’ by Chuck Berry. As an indie-dad, I felt quite proud of this.

On New Year’s Day the boys decided to reinstate rule 17 and let me have a lie-in. Unfortunately Danny set off the smoke alarm, while trying to make himself some ‘super-crunchy’ toast. When they opened the back door to let the smoke out of the kitchen they found a huge dead rat on the doorstep, which our cat hadn’t quite managed to drag in through the cat flap. I arrived downstairs to scenes of hysteria and mayhem, but appreciated their attempts to get breakfast for themselves and let me sleep in. After dealing with the rat I sorted some tea and toast and we settled down with breakfast in front of the telly, just a few hours of the festive season still to go.

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