1. Denial: 11:00 p.m.
When you are still trying to tell yourself the following: Those seven Amazon boxes are really just full of stuffed animals. Is it already 11:00 p.m.? Thank God this won't take long. I see us asleep by midnight. Maybe most of them come assembled. I got this. Fifteen years ago I was German club president and breezed through shop class. Nothing needs batteries. I bought all the batteries we will need. I bought all the right size batteries. Of course I know where the drill is. The cordless drill is fully charged. Yes, I remember where the eyeglass sized screwdriver is. Yes, it comes with an allen wrench. All the pre-drilled holes are actually pre-drilled. This year we won't need the 9 inch Santoku knife, needle nose pliers, jaws of life, and a blow torch. I promise. We got this.
2. Blame: 1:00 a.m.
Here comes the smart ass comments from the parent that did absolutely NONE of the toy shopping, and was asked to start putting the toys together three weeks ago. Here also comes the smart ass comments from the "so over Christmas" parent, who has been toy bargain hunting since Halloween, making sure to snag the hottest and most desired toy for that kid who has only asked for that one thing. (And you finally found it!) "It's your fault, the kids don't need all of this!" "Uh, NO... it's your fault, you could have done this weeks ago!" "Oh yea? Well it's your mother's fault, for going over board on her grandsons and sending all these toys HERE for US to put together." "Seriously? Go ahead and take that two foot long Hot Wheels track and shove it up your arse -- I'm going to bed." Nowhere in my wedding vows did the priest say, "Do you promise to love, honor, and hold your tongue on Christmas Eve when you haven't slept for three years and your spouse just lost the allen wrench?"
3. Reminiscing: 2:00 a.m.
*SIGH. Ohhhh the peace of Christmas Eve before children, just the two of you, a roaring fire, and dinner that did not contain a nugget shaped anything. And then sleeping in on Christmas morning, like until 11, followed by lingering over coffee and good conversation, then the exchanging of thoughtful and intimate gifts. There will be recalling of your first Christmas as a married couple together, expecting your first baby, and eager to have a little bundle the following year. Remember when we couldn't wait to have a kid old enough to sit, unafraid, on Santa's lap? One that would write adorable letters to the jolly guy, and believed with all his heart the magic that is Christmas? Memories, like the corners of this coffee table we haven't seen in years because it's baby proofed. So here's to us, being awoken by said baby tomorrow at 5:00 a.m., admiring the thoughtful new hot water heater we bought each other for Christmas. Hey, what are you doing New Year's Eve? Make sure to set the alarm for midnight so we can wake up to smooch.
4. We're Done Having Kids: 3:00 a.m.
This usually happens two or three kids in, with bleary eyes and impatiently angry voices. When a hungry baby has woken up to eat, the toddler simultaneously begins crying because of a bad dream, and you have three hours more of clicking and snapping your way to the perfect little boy's workbench. You both start saying it. Her, "Don't ever touch me again." Him, "Let's have another baby you said! It will be fun you said!" Her, "Oh don't worry, because I'm never having sex with you again." Him, "How could we? They are all in our bed!" Her, "NO. MORE. KIDS." Him, "Agreed." You have two more kids anyway.
5. Acceptance: 4:00 a.m.
Conversations cease, you hunker down, and things get serious. You work like little elves, in perfect unison, grasping at any last bit of alertness you can muster, and pump out toy after toy in your garage turned Santa's Workshop. You laugh at the arguments you just had an hour ago, and instead you pause for a few minutes to be a kid again. You go outside in the cold night air and ride the shiny new red scooter, pedal the Schwinn, and play catch with some new pigskin. You write out "From Santa" on the now completed workbench, test push some trains along the track, and stuff the stockings. You grab some asleep, even if it is only for a few minutes, grateful for children that will squeal through the house with the sunrise. You've accepted the fact you are in fact actually grown ups (and parents), and you've rocked another Christmas Eve as a mom and dad.
This year, I have very few toys that will need assembling. As little boys grow into young men, chaotic Christmas Eve toy assembly marathons are getting rarer. Train tables and skateboards have been replaced by cologne and cash. This year, it will be a quiet night before Christmas, and I will look back on those insane early years with great fondness, and zero regret. Had we been duly prepared and put all the toys together early, we would have missed some of the most memorable and hilarious nights of our marriage. Nights like those are parenting rites of passage, when you find yourself ponderously asking, "How did OUR parents do this?"
This year, with all the peace and quiet I will have on the 24th, I will start compiling a list of presents for my future grandchildren. You can bet your little hex key I will be sending my sons and their wives an unassembled six story dollhouse, a bicycle in 85 parts, a three foot wide 300 piece lead free wooden puppet theatre (made in Germany), and a make your own glitter machine. Oh, and a case of moon sand. I soooo plan on being THAT grandma. Merry Christmas kids!