Ah, the advent calendar. The little .99 cent chocolate filled book of love that hits shelves weeks before Thanksgiving; it’s 24 little windows all waiting to be opened in a wondorous Christmas countdown. Only, while we see the tall cardboard books in the front of the store, and quickly toss them into our cart, eager for a new season of magical faces, we forget the fretting, whining, and sugar induced chaos that these colorful books caused last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. We forget the windows that go unopened for a day or two because we’ve just gotten so busy, the chocolate that sometimes slides out of its window and to the bottom of the calendar-unable to retrieve without disrupting all of the other chocolate, or the fights over who’s calendar is whose.
This year Nonni showed up with three calendars. All smiley and proud, she handed the boys the books and told them they only get to open one window per day, after breakfast, and after mommy said it was okay. Then she let them choose their calendar.
“I got one of each color so they can’t fight over whose is whose,” she side talked to me.
She wrote their names on their calendar of choice, and then she left. She’d collected her hugs, her glory, and the kids excitement, and left her own daughter behind to die in the wake of the calendars.
I hoped maybe this year might be different. Maybe the kids were older and advent calendars would come with joy and excitement, over tears and screaming. But we all know what happens when you hope.
On Day 1 the kids woke excited and inhaled every morsel of their breakfast, in hopes of retrieving that tiny tasty surprise chocolate. I enjoyed the magical sensation of watching them look for their numbers and excitedly open their window and figure out what their little chocolate was.
Day 2 followed just as smooth. Breakfast consumed, chocolate found, and the small chitter chatter of three boys who are beginning to discuss all things Santa. But some time in the day #3 took #1 & #2 calendar down and ate Day 20 and Day 17. I didn’t see it.
Day 3 is met with screaming and yelling. 1 and 2 notice two extra windows have been opened and their chocolate is gone.
“It’s 3,” they yell, when I come blazing out of the kitchen. “He ruins all of our things when we’re at school! He ruined our whole calendar!”
I look at the calendars and assure them it’s not ruined.
“3, did you do this?”
“Yeah,” he smiles, proud that he beat his brothers at something.
“See, now we have nothing. It’s not fair,” 2 says, tears streaming down his face.
“I’ll tell you what,” I say to 2, as I wrap my arms around him. “On Day 20 you get to open 3’s window and eat his chocolate, and 1 gets to open Day 17 and eat that chocolate. Okay?”
“And 3 doesn’t get to have any chocolate that day, right?!”
“That only fair mom! He shouldn’t get anything,” 1 adds.
“Boys, let’s just deal with today. Okay. Your brother is little. Yes he ate your chocolate, but I don’t think he did it so that you wouldn’t have any. He loves you guys. You’re his big brothers. Can we try leading by example and show him how to behave instead of how not to?”
2 non-happy faces are glaring at me as I speak. I make 3 apologize and make 1 & 2 accept the apology and a hug with a smile. I head back into the kitchen and hear planning, “I say we open all of 3 chocolate when mom goes upstairs.” I drop the waffles in the toaster, march back into he dining room, and grab the 3 calendars. I place them on top the fridge, where I hope they don’t melt, and become consumed with three whining children who now stay in the kitchen crying and bugging me about their calendars. I eventually yell, and send them all out of the kitchen crying. Ah, it’s going to be a great Christmas season.
On Day 4 I use the calendars to threaten my tired children. If they don’t eat, they don’t open a window before they go to school.
On Day 5 a new competition has begun. All of the chocolates are placed strategically in the same window spaces on everyone’s calendar, per the calendar inventor, and everyday’s chocolate has a theme. 2 &3 have created a “find and tell” game, which usually leaves the loser in tears.
“Found it! It’s a christmas tree!”
“That’s not fair! I wanted to find out on my own!”
“Well then you should have been faster like me!”
“You’re ruining my christmas! I hate you. I’m telling mom! Mom….”
On Day 6th I hault the forcing yourself to eat so fast that you’ll vomit challenge and reassure all 3 that the calendars will be open together, in silence, at the same time. For some reason this apparently is meant to be cruel in their eyes.
On Day 7 I catch 1 peeking through 3’s windows, seeing if he can get an extra chocolate.
On Day 8 number 2 has a melt down because 3 ate another one of his chocolates. But, after careful evaluation, I can see that some of the chocolates have fallen to the bottom. I can’t get them, but falling and available is still better than stolen and consumed in his eyes.
On Day 9 I scoot the boys out of the house and off to school in tears. It was crazy sweater day at school, and in the midst of gluing extra candy canes onto a sweater and adjusting balls and tinsel, I’d forgotten to open a window with them. Their little faces are smeared with tears as they get into my car.
“I’m sorry guys. I promise we’ll do them when you get home,” I say.
“No you won’t. You’ll probably be mean and forget again,” 2 says.
“Yeah, you hate Christmas,” 3 proudly boosts.
I drop them off, aggravated.
On Day 10 #3 pulls his calendar out to show his dad. His dad pretends to be interested, but doesn’t watch as 3 pulls several more pieces of chocolate out and eats it.
On Day 11 #3 is in tears. He has missing chocolate pieces that someone ate.
“Yeah, you did,” 2 happily responds. “And we’re not sharing!”
“Mom,” #3 comes running into the kitchen crying. “My brothers are being so mean to me!!”
On Day 12 we drive to school unhappy again. The dog git a hold of their calendars during the night. Most of the chocolate is still there, but windows and the designed calendar itself are torn and full of teeth holes. It is my fault apparently. I never remind them to put their calendars away. It’s because I don’t want them to eat chocolate before school they tell me. They’re going to tell Santa on me, they say.
“I love you guys,” I respond. “Go to school and we’ll talk about your calendars when you get home.”
1 & 2 slump off into school, refusing to turn and wave goodbye to their mean, chocolate depriving mom.
“At least you still love me right,” I gleam at 3, whose adorably all bundled up in his car seat.
“Nope. I’m with my bwothers. I not on you side.”
And with that I drive off to preschool, reminding myself to talk to the nice, little Nonni before next year’s holiday season rolls around.