We lay there staring at the ceiling. Something was off. It was quiet. No squeals. No patter of excited feet running down the hall to our bedroom. Just dark and quiet.
Every year on Christmas morning, my husband and I were forbidden to get out of bed. An unspoken law of sorts. The way it was supposed to go was that the children were to burst in and jump on the bed and wake us.
“It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas!” they’d say.
Christmas With Older Kids
But this year we lay there, eyes wide open. We’d periodically allow our phones to illuminate for a moment, so we could double-check the time, but not for long enough that a child might catch us awake.
No. That wouldn’t be good. “Aw, you’re awake?” they’d say, and we’d know that we had ruined Christmas. So, there we lay.
While visions of sugar plums apparently still danced in their heads, visions of coffee danced in ours. And also dreams of a quick jaunt to the bathroom.
“This is ridiculous,” my husband whispered as the room began to lighten with the dawn.
“What do we do?” I answered.
A Quiet Christmas
That’s when my husband unlocked his phone screen and texted the teenager. Can we please commence the Christmas morning wake-up routine?
They were older. We understood that. The gift requests alone would clue you in to that fact. Puzzles were 500-piece, not 24, and stockings were stuffed with gift cards, not Matchbox cars. (Though, at ages 15 and 11, the kids still appreciated the chocolate.)
Christmas traditions should be changing as they grew, but who were we to say when?
Each year, the eldest played along with the Christmas morning ritual because she enjoyed the magic of Santa and wanted her younger sister to hold on to the fun.
I remember when the youngest first questioned us about Santa. She walked into a room of gifts to be wrapped at a relative’s house and saw that on some of the gift tags someone had written, “From Santa.”
Christmas without Santa
I was prepared for a conversation about the Christmas Spirit and how it lives in all of us—I always enjoyed the giving side of the holiday and hoped she would, too.
I knew the questions would happen sooner or later. But it was not time yet. Her sister stepped in to rekindle the magic, and I wouldn’t have that talk with the youngest until the following year.
Once Santa’s cover was blown, a few more years of surprises under the tree kept the excitement alive. The girls still wanted to burst through our bedroom door to get the much-anticipated show on the road.
Eventually, a quiet Christmas morning was bound to happen, and here we were. My husband and I lay in bed bored and waiting while our adolescents slept through the dark winter morning, knowing their gifts would wait. My husband’s text message to the eldest said “delivered” but it had not been read. Even the dogs still contentedly snored.
You’d think they might have told us, “Mom. Dad. Wake us up when the cheesy potatoes are done. We’re sleeping in this year,” and not left us lying around, wondering if this was the year Christmas would change.
Christmas With Teens
I glanced at my husband and tried to determine whether he was annoyed with the delay or shared my pang of sadness at this end of a parenting era.
I got out of bed, put on my housecoat, and shuffled to the kitchen to make coffee. This roused one of the dogs, and I smiled at the appropriate jingle the tags on her collar made.
As I drank my cup of coffee and the oven warmed for our traditional Christmas breakfast, I warmed to the idea of a quiet Christmas morning. I could enjoy a moment of peace and remembrance next to the lit tree. Soon, my husband joined me.
Then, one by one, the kids made their way down the hall sleepily, yawning and rubbing their eyes.
I gave each a squeeze. “Good morning. Merry Christmas.”