Christmas: Magical memories or messy madness?

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter, who has contracted Peppermint Madness and needs to be physically restrained.

The holidays are in full swing! The time of year when we fill our homes with precariously positioned glass baubles, mountains of chocolate and sugar candy, all manner of booze and buckets of highly allergenic tree nuts. Then we drink cocktails for a month, put on 20 pounds, go into hock buying our kids whatever they want and get together with family so all the little children can open a thousand dollars worth of gifts in five minutes, punch their cousins in the face and fall asleep crying in the car. A few days later we send the kids to Grandma’s so we can spend one overpriced night celebrating how much we hated the past year by getting extra sauced while wearing cufflinks. Finally, we all crawl back to work and school in three feet of snow, forgetting everything we were working on and everything that was learned in the fall and spend the next three months on the precipice of depressive oblivion.

Somehow this is considered the most magical season in a child’s life.

Folks, Christmas is crazy. We’ve made it crazy, it makes us crazy and then we make our kids crazy about it, and … they go crazy. Crazy, right? It’s Dec. 7 and we are already seven decorations down – one broken ornament or centrepiece for each day of the month. Glass and ceramic decorations have been fumbled, punted or tossed by Viva (who is still developing her motor skills) or by Mommy or Daddy (who are developing some sort of exhaustion-based ataxia). Viva is a gentle child, but it’s easy to fumble glass decorations when you’re rocked on the candy canes you swiped from the tree or the caramels, chocolate covered espresso beans and gingerbread people basking in the twinkle lights on every end table in the house. So far I have been the only person in our home to have bled significantly from touching smashed yuletide fandangles, but the month is young, and I’m sure we can all end up in urgent care with lacerations before you can say “five golden rings.”  That’s assuming the rapidly drying, electrically festooned dead tree in the front of the house doesn’t incinerate us all by then.

You wouldn’t know it from the constant drumbeat of drink recipes and pairings I post on this blog (and, if you missed it, check out my appearance on Windy City LIVE last week for “Drink Pairings for Parenting Moments”), but I don’t drink all that much … except in December, when there are more specialty drinks and more parties than in the rest of the year put together, and when many people eschew wine and beer for mixed drinks whose recipes might as well include ingredients like, “two parts poor decisions making.” Adult beverage accoutrements begin to clutter the counter, and your child gets their first chance to begin a lifelong fetishization of that most enticing of shapes, the martini glass. Welcome to cocktail culture, kids – the spirit of Christmas seems to be … spirits.

When they aren’t consuming mass quantities, knocking over candles or watching you set out wine stem charms, your child spends December enjoying some of the great opiates of the masses: religion, holiday music and materialism. (It is, of course, up to the individual to decide which is most damaging.) Many parents make it a point to have a sit down with their child between doorbuster sales and explain why Baby Jesus is more important than Baby Mammon. I personally take time each week to tell Viva why there is no need to for Michael Bublé albums in this world when all the American standards and holiday songs have already been arranged and recorded better for/by Sinatra, Martin, Bennett, Torme, Connick, et al. It’s important to have things to believe in. Then we all continue our death march through the cranberry-scented pandemonium of the shopping center.

If you thought fistfights over Cabbage Patch Dolls were ugly back in the days of our youth, they were nothing compared to the grotesquery of 21st-century gift card culture – in which we all trade our earnings for a modern-day variation on “Company Scrip” and exchange cards in joyless obligatory transactions beneath the mistletoe. These transactions are made profitable for retailers by the fact that 65 percent of the cards are accidentally thrown out with the torn wrapping paper. A smart shopper would wait until boxing day, then dig through garbage cans in the alley, collecting the tens of thousands of dollars of Lowe’s and Outback Steakhouse vouchers people accidentally pitched along with their discarded “Force Awakens” pajama packaging.

Gluttony, materialism, profligacy, danger, Bublé – this holiday is a mess!  I’m sure from my ranting it seems like I don’t like Christmas but that couldn’t be further from the truth – I’m wild about it! I fully share our cultural obsession with dressing up evergreens like burlesque dancers and giving all our money to Jeff Bezos. I just don’t know if I should be indoctrinating my daughter into the same mania. Too late now, though – she is fully on board with America’s December fever dream, and, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pull her off the top of the tree, where she is shouting her wish list into the air through a mouthful of cordial cherries; a strangled shelf elf in one hand. Merry Christmas, everybody!

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