Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Christmas jeer

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I was sobered recently when reading a bedtime story to my son. My mother-in-law has brought him a beautiful book entitled Why I love Christmas - reasons that have come straight from the mouth of a dozen babes. "I love Christmas because we hide presents," goes one page. "I love Christmas because everyone has naps," writes another.

"I love Christmas because everyone is happy," concludes the book.

Unfortunately, having worked for almost 15 years as a journalist, I know that Christmas is not a time when all children get to be happy. It's not just knowledge a journalist has, of course; anyone who reads a newspaper knows that domestic violence and general despair sky rockets during the so-called festive season.

So much so that when I first worked for the Herald, back in the beginning of this decade, then editor Gavin Ellis suggested Christmas Eve should be a "good news" edition. There would be the key news stories of the day, of course, but there would be more than the usual quota of good news.

It was an idea that readers really liked, but it still couldn't mask the huge amount of misery around at Christmas, including the aforementioned family violence, drink-driving fatalities, and then, several weeks after, the inevitable stories about office parties gone awry.

It is true that most of these miseries are directly related to the time-honoured Christmas tradition of drinking oneself stupid on Christmas day (while also eating oneself stupid. Heart attacks are also a prominent feature of the season).

And despite the bad behaviour of adults, it's also fair to say that thousands of children do have great, or at least interesting Christmases.

They get the chance to be excited, bored or mildly stimulated by extended family. They can fill their houses with cheap plastic rubbish and enough packaging to invalidate this country's participation in the Kyoto protocol. They can eat enough sugary treats to keep dentists busy - and wealthy - for the rest of the year.

And still, and still - wouldn't it be nice to think that, for once, almost all children could have at least some fun at Christmas? Could the Nia Glassies, the Coral Burrows of the world have had at least some respite from the horror that surrounds them? And what can we all do as a society to help as many children as possible enjoy this season?

I look at my own well fed, overly-attended to children and feel so blessed that I have had the chance to grow lives, (hopefully) happy lives - lives that might go on to leave society a slightly better place than when they first arrived, which I think is enough of a brief for any parent to strive toward. If Christmas ever was about spoiling children a little bit, I'm sure they don't really need it - compared with many children, from this country and others, they are spoilt all year long.

If only every child could experience a joyous Christmas. And if they all could, what would it say about where our society was headed?

* * * *

We have relented (actually, my husband was on the phone urging me ) to buy Wiggles tickets for one of the fab four's New Zealand shows in April next year. For the record, I think it's a total extravagance, but I'm absolutely in the minority on this in my extended family. So I keep schtum, drag out my battered and bruised credit card, and stump up for the tickets (with flights and every other add-on to follow).
I just hope our toddler doesn't collapse with excitement when he meets his idol, Jeff Wiggle!

 

Dita De Boni

Pictured above: A Santa Claus impersonator signs the "Santa Clauses Code of Honor" in Berlin.  AP Photo / Franka Bruns

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