I mean, I know it took long enough. But now that I’m 33 ½ and have two young children of my own, I think it is time to call myself an adult.
It didn’t happen when I turned 18, or 21, or when I got married. And it didn’t even happen when I became a mother. No, I became an adult when I started sleeping on Christmas Eve instead of having insomnia caused by the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning.
There’s so much build up, you know? There are weeks spent planning and decorating and baking and shopping and wrapping and, in my case, knitting. All of the preparation leads to this climactic night, this waiting for the accumulation of all the hard work to pay off.
And by all that I mean presents. It’s hard to sleep the night before you know you’ll be receiving presents. My family was always good about making the holiday about family and helping others, but still, there were presents. And I have spent many a Christmas Eve night tossing and turning and willing myself to drift off because that would only make the morning come faster.
But alas, it never was easy. I tried counting and meditative breathing. I tried squeezing my eyes shut as tight as I could. I tried putting the covers over my head. Sleep was not easily achieved, no matter what I did. I couldn’t tame the excitement, the butterflies in my stomach. And when I did finally drift off, it was only for a few hours. I would always, always wake up at an unreasonable hour and run downstairs to check out the tree. And then I would have to go back up to my room and wait for my sister to wake up – my sister who could sleep through the apocalypse easily and deeply. She never lost sleep on Christmas Eve, and would happily stay in bed past 10 a.m., which was ludicrous. This was mostly because I couldn’t touch anything under the tree until I drug her out of bed, so Christmas morning usually began with a fight. However it was easily resolved through the joy and good behavior of the season.
The past few years have been a bit more sleep-filled, however. I’ve gone to bed and fallen asleep, slept the whole night, and only woken up when I heard my 6-year-old son sneaking down the steps at an entirely unreasonable hour.
And he will yell at his sister to get up while I drag myself awake, wiping my eyes, dreaming of coffee. Of course he can’t touch anything until everyone is there, including his sister who isn’t quite as fast as he is to jump out of bed.
And I know he has lain awake at night, tossing and turning, and willing himself to sleep. And maybe he’s woken up and gone downstairs to check on things sometime in the night, sometimes even before Santa has arrived. I know he’s listened to hear Santa’s sleigh, trying to determine if that noise was a reindeer on the roof or just the wind.
And he will probably be like this for years to come, even after he learns to drive or graduates high school. Or maybe even after he gets married.
Because it is exciting, you know? The happiness and family and presents and time spent together celebrating creates something a bit magical.
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on Dec. 24, 2014.