Ahhh, Christmas with teenagers. You’d think, would you not, that the pressure would have eased a bit. That after years of performative shenanigans involving forensically accurate boot prints, scattered mince pie crumbs, stockings, and presents and dragging ridiculous trees from the car, then battling to get them upright indoors, that you could put your feet up. Relax a bit, let the whole thing wash over you without having to get too involved. You’d be wrong. It’s business as usual — at least from you, the Christmas machine.
They, the feckless ingrates, will retain the agenda of busy teens about town, and the expectations of sugar-addled toddlers in Santa’s grotto. They will want to have their festive cake and eat it — but not to bake it, or clear up after it. Oh no.
After they each state their intentions for Christmas Day afternoon — spending it with boyfriends, girlfriends, mates, anyone except their inhouse service provider — I am initially thrilled. Maybe this means we can legitimately ignore Christmas, other than a token sprig of holly, strategically placed in the window to keep up appearances.
So, I venture. If you’re not going to be here on Christmas Day, will we give it a miss this year? Maybe not bother with the whole shebang? The howls of outrage reverberate down the street, echoing off the walls of all the twinkly houses whose stupid trees have been up since November. I am threatened with being carted off to the Hague for crimes against Christmas. Accused of being the anti-Christmas. I am not going to get away with it. Oh, I say.
So you WANT presents and Christmas dinner and a tree and fairy lights and all the trimmings, even though you’re both going out? Of COURSE we do, they shout in unison. They seem genuinely aggrieved.
But you won’t be here, I persist. They instruct me not to be so bloody stupid, that OBVIOUSLY they will be here long enough to open all their presents and scoff all the food, and then, when it gets boring — ten seconds after the last cracker has been pulled — they will be off, leaving me with the dog and the washing up.
As I draw breath to protest at this double standard — kind of like your partner wanting an open relationship that only applies to them, not you — I am handed lists of what to get. Call of Duty Modern Warfare. Driving lessons. Booze. Dead animal carcasses.
As a non-violent teetotal vegan with a full clean driving licence, none of this resonates, but it’s what is expected so I suck it up like a good Irish mammy. At least when they were little, there was the magic of toyshops and glitter and letters to Santa. Now it’s downloading online codes and worriedly keeping the receipts. Still. It’s all about making memories. My memories are of an empty beach in India, where I intend to spend all future Christmases, forever, until I die.