Having an almost-two-year-old is a delight at the moment. Seriously, my daughter is funny; she hides, she dances, she waves at every ant we meet. She talks (“Snack? MORE SNACK! PLEASE!” which let’s face it is basically like my own internal voice is now happening out loud), can count (“two, two, two, two, three, four, two, two, five, two,”) and sleeps for just enough hours during the day for me to read Reddit until my eyes bleed out of my face. Better still, she goes to sleep, with usually minimal complaining, sometime around eight o’clock. It’s just dandy.
UNTIL CHRISTMAS. Because I utterly and shamelessly adore fairy lights, which as you may know, come out in force at Christmas, and as you also may know, only really work at night. Which, as you still also may know, does not occur during daylight savings until sometime after nine. Which, as the Rocket does not know, comes after eight.
WHAT DO? Am I a bad mother for keeping her up late and showing her Christmas lights? Or am I a worse mother for NOT keeping her up late and showing her Christmas lights? Is this not really a serious problem? PROBABLY.
Well, the problem was inadvertently helped the other night when Teach and I thought it was very smart to do some late night present shopping at Doncaster. It was only half smart; we couldn’t get all our presents done due to some kid who did not want to be in a pram. We took it in turns watching her at the playground while the other dashed off to find things, and as less kids were out she didn’t get bitten at the feral playground in front of Big W, which was a nice change. Anyway, a few haphazard gifts and a trip to Snag Stand later, it turned out it was nine o’clock which probably explained her rising temper. We packed her in the car, rolled out of the car park and then realised it was this mysterious thing known as “dark”. With the Rocket happily kicking the back of my car seat, we thought it was a fortuitous time to show her some lights, so we ambled over to the vaguely nearby Van Unen Court in Doncaster, which has a couple of totally amazing homes (and a website!). To my surprise, the Rocket stayed awake – I thought she’d conk straight out – but was very pleased to get out and look at everything. There were a few people happily chatting, and one house had a top window projection that showed Santa getting all his stuff together. Many inflatables, lots of flashing lights, great success.
After getting in the car, Teach thought maybe we could try and make it to The Boulevarde in Ivanhoe, Melbourne’s premier Christmas light location. We’d never been, and there are signs even on the Eastern Freeway warning of traffic jams in the neighbourhood, so I thought it was probably going to be unsuccessful and besides, I said smugly, SURELY the Rocket would fall asleep before we got there. Well, she did not. And boy, The Boulevarde is something else, not least because it’s so popular that they sell flashing paraphernalia, ice cream, coffee, and have set up a St John’s Ambulance van too. (“For all the seizures,” the teenager behind us wisely mused.) As Ivanhoe is a wealthy area, some of those house are completely nuts. Entire Christmas scenes. Moving figures comparable to the Myer Christmas windows. Endless carols. The Rocket was thrilled, and spent the whole time saying, “Wow” and “Nice”, which is an understatement but then she doesn’t have any more hyperbolic words than those just yet. (I’ll work on “amazeballs” for New Year’s Eve.) So that night, she didn’t get to sleep until just before 11pm.
The next night, we decided to go with the flow and went into the city proper, crashing briefly into and out of a Christmas party just long enough to wave at our friends and steal a can of lemonade. Outside, we decided to try the Myer Christmas Windows again – it’d been too busy when we last attended – and it remained pretty crowded, so we stood behind the queue with the Rocket on her dad’s shoulders and watched it that way. At the other end, George Kamikawa – one of Melbourne’s best buskers – was playing, and the Rocket dropped some coins into his case, then danced so much to his guitar that one of the onlookers gave her his Santa hat, which she fetched and made me put on instead. It was actually really lovely; the Rocket was stomping happily and making those around her smile, and it was a complete buzz – I made that! That little girl that’s making people smile on Bourke Street a week before Christmas! Corny, but there you have it; tis the season for ridiculous emotions, after all.
Once we had danced and clapped ourselves out, we left, returning the Santa hat to its friendly and rightful owner, and encountered a tinsel-covered fire engine which parked outside Myer and took overexcited kids on tours inside the truck. Firefighters handed out lollipops and bags of candy to the public, and I was completely happy with my city for putting on such a show. On our way back to the car, Hardware Lane had its lights up and shining, and the Rocket was awash with wonder. (And for the record, that night she went to sleep at 9:30. Tonight – the night after – she was still screaming “MORE BOOK!” at 9pm, so, only minor regrets.)
So this is a long essay that is just here to say: it was worth it, to keep my toddler awake. Seeing her blink at all the bells and shine and excitement is one of the things I’d always wanted to do as a parent, and I am so very glad we decided to go with it. Maybe she won’t remember it, but then maybe she went to sleep and dreamed about them that night. Or, maybe, she’s not as ridiculously sappy as her mother.