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Family guy: This year we're taking Christmas back

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Families can get stressed at Christmas

Families can get stressed at Christmas

Families can get stressed at Christmas

DECEMBER hasn't just crept up on me this year, it has clobbered me and dragged me hooded into a basement, where I'm to be chained to a radiator and tortured by Slade music until the ransom is paid.

I could swear it hasn't been a year since the last one and am sure this must have something to do with those particle accelerator experiments at Cern, that there are now at least two Decembers every year.

Seems like, no sooner had we belched and pulled a Christmas cracker, it was February, then someone mentioned St Patrick's Day, the sun shot across the sky like a comet, everyone stripped to their togs, got burnt, drunk, then soaked; the kids were back in school, someone produced a pumpkin and the carols began again.

Terrifying truth of it is, Christmas now comes so often, they're stacking up, like Homer Simpson clones in that Treehouse of Horror episode. Soon we'll need helicopters armed with napalm to rid ourselves of the legions of nodding, dead-eyed animatronic santas, ho-ho-ho-ing at us at every turn.

"You're muttering to yourself again," says my wife, handing me a towel.

"It's just," I huff, "it sort of feels like I'm on a treadmill sometimes."

"Very funny," she says, as I punch the 'off' button on the treadmill and it slows to a stop.

Our forays to the gym - 'foray' making it sound as if we skip all the way there and have an altogether jolly time of it, which is anything but the case - have at least continued successfully past the first fortnight of membership, which I feel is quite the achievement.

"How was your class?" I ask. She does classes while I play with the programmable machines.

"Exhausting," she says, as I wipe myself down. "How did you get on?"

"Five Ks at Level 11," I babble, jabbing my elbows in the air behind me and wincing, as if this actually proved something.

"None of that means anything to me," she says, clearly unimpressed.

We limp stiffly down the stairs, 'we' meaning me - I'm not sure quite how my wife manages it, as I'm in too much pain to notice.

"It's just us and the boys for dinner," she says, jabbing the car zapper and making the lights bleep. "I think my arms are getting stronger," she adds.

"And I'm getting abs of steel," I tell her, "only they're hidden behind a cushion of jelly. So, what is 'her highness' up to?" I grunt, heaving each leg separately in to the seat of the car. "Isn't it a school night?"

"Sleepover," she says, gunning the car, "then ice skating tomorrow at the mall. Teachers' strike. Far as she's concerned, all her Christmases have come at once."

I flash her a look from the corner of my eye at the last bit. "That's not even funny," I mutter.

Christmas, however, is now irrecoverably on the agenda and, as we sit down to dinner, the subject of gifts comes up, the mention of which makes the credit card in my pocket wilt and shrivel, figuratively speaking that is, since I realise I don't have a credit card any more. It got the snip some months ago.

Waste

"It would be nice if you'd tell us something you'd actually like this year," my wife tells the boys, "so we don't waste money on something anything you don't want at all."

"Sure," mumbles one.

"Okay," deadpans the other.

"So," she says, eyebrows waiting, "any ideas?"

"Dunno," they mumble.

"I have an idea," I chime in.

"Here we go," says my wife into her shoulder.

"Seriously," I tell them. "You know those Christmas cards you can buy with the little certificate inside that tells the lucky recipient something like, 'Instead of a gift this year, a donation has been made to help purchase a goat for a village in Africa', or whatever. . .

"Well, in keeping with the spirit of giving," I continue, noticing I have every ones attention now, "we could do something similar ourselves, only each card you get could say something different, like- "

"Like," my wife pipes in enthusiastically, "like - 'you've bought a new exhaust system for a 14-year-old Seat Alhambra'."

"I was thinking more like a romantic weekend away for two in a hotel, with champagne," I mutter.

"Don't be silly," says my wife.

"You're right," I tell her. "Sparkling wine would be fine."

"How would you feel," says my wife, settling onto her elbows and squinting at the boys with mock seriousness, "about a card that tells you the money for your gift has been donated toward de-worming the dogs?"

"It's the gift that keeps on giving," I add.

"I don't care," says the older middle teen.

"If it would make you both shut up and go away," says his younger brother.

"Deal," I announce, slapping my hands together and turning to my wife. "This could be the best Christmas we've had all year."

"Truly heart-warming," she agrees, to which one of the boys simply heaves a single, deep, exasperated, world-weary sigh.

"Seriously," says his brother. "Can we go now?"


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