26 December 2011


Happy Christmas everyone: a day late.

When you're young, things happen to you. You make decisions, but they are all very carefully controlled. When you get older, you make decisions, but they don't have much consequence, for the most part: there's a lot you can recover from. When you get to the next stage, things start to matter more. I'm at that stage now, where things really start to matter.

Christmas makes these decisions sort of clear, particularly the more aware the kids become. Naomi is old enough to start remembering things and the decisions we make about Christmas are starting to become important. What do I think about Santa? What do I think about how much the kids should get? Are we going to do the American, Japanese, or UK Christmas? What traditions matter, which ones don't? How much do we want to spend on presents, what do we want to teach the kids about getting presents and giving them?

I have answers for none of those questions and like everything else related to my family life, I feel like I am falling into the answers. The kids got simple presents. We spent about £30 on each of them. That seems about right at this stage. All of their grandparents gave them stuff. The doll house is a huge success. Naomi's been wearing the dress-up costume she got for the last two days straight.

We ate a lot, but not a lot of sweets. Yoko told the kids that we were celebrating Jesus' birthday and then set out an apple with a bite taken out of it and a cup of half-drank tea to show the kids that Santa had come. I just watched, more passive than I would like to be, I suppose. I don't have an opinion about it: I don't know if I need one.

I'm much more concerned with the micro things of their behaviour than the macro things of belief. Picking up your coat, saying please and thank you, not climbing on the chairs. Belief is such a heavy thing for a child: I think this is the deepest and more ardent rebellion I have in me about my own upbringing. Let them come to belief on their own--I want to give them safe agnosticism and reason, not belief. And Santa, as silly as it seems, smacks of teaching faith despite reason.

How awful is that. What an awful thing to say.

And still, I did say on at least one occasion, if you don't behave, Santa won't come. How pernicious is that. Still not able to balance belief and action.

My headphones came, which are just about the best gift I could receive (from my parents and famed older brother and sister-in-law). My medicine bag came in the same box, but I kept correcting people: it's not a Christmas gift, I bought it for myself. I don't know why I insisted on saying that. Trying to not present myself as selfish? Trying to emphasise the fact that I had the money to buy it myself? I don't know — anyway, it doesn't matter.

I keep saying to Yoko, I wonder where we'll be next year. This is a Stephen concern, not a Yoko one. I worry about the future, she doesn't. I'm still awake, everyone else is sleeping. I'm taking the week off, I can't work on my PhD. Fuss with the headphones. Think about how to spend the iTunes card that came with them. Back to work in seven days. 2012 is coming: 30 and a PhD and an uncertain future. How can I think about Santa at times like these...