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The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

Normally we’d be slow to start talking about Christmas in November. Or if we are talking about it, it is purely to admonish those already trying to celebrate it.
December 8 is the traditional start of Christmas. In recent years holding off until December 1 has been our target and then the build-up starts in earnest.
But 2020 is different and never have we been more in the need of a distraction, an escape, so all the typical (and warranted) criticisms of premature celebrations have been conspicuous by their absence.
So much so that as soon as the Halloween decorations came down in our house, the focus instantly switched to December 25.
The kids are a big reason for that too. Frankie is four this coming Saturday and it is the first year she is really understanding the magic of Christmas and Daidí na Nollag.
She already has her main request in – a ‘unicorn bike’. There’s a shortage of bikes this year but we managed to check with Santa Claus and he has one with Frankie’s name on it.
But only if she is good.
You play all sorts of cards with your kids to ensure compliance in terms of behaviour and eating. Every card has a use-by date so you cannot overplay it.
But the Daidí na Nollag card is proving quite the ace of hearts at the moment.
Frankie knows she can only get a unicorn bike if she’s a good girl.
So, when she is stalling on eating her breakfast, a mention of a possible call to the North Pole soon gives her a renewed appetite.
Any struggles she has with her little brother are easily offset by the mention of Santa.
Éamon doesn’t quite grasp it so we’ve to strategise differently with him.
Of course, with talk of Christmas so advanced this year, it remains to be seen if that card will still be as useful in December.
Being one step ahead of the kids is the key to survival.
We learned a few things from Halloween too. Aisling bought some brilliant inflatable characters so there was a four foot tall Frankenstein inflatable in one corner of the sitting-room and a similar sized mummy on the other side.
Both kids were fascinated and afraid of them in equal measure, especially watching them ‘waking up’, when they would go from deflated, on the floor to standing upright and ‘wide awake’. The kids would admire them from a distance but would not go within six feet of them.
You work these things to your advantage when you can so we’ve organised a few Christmas inflatables to put around the Christmas tree and our fears about Éamon climbing the tree and bringing everything tumbling down have been considerably reduced.
Of course the tree isn’t up yet … that would be a bit much.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.

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