Amy and I are currently making our way through J.R.R. Tolkien’s wonderful book Letters From Father Christmas. It’s an anthology of letters and drawings Tolkien wrote to his own children (in the guise of Santa), and it’s beautiful, heartwarming, and I can’t recommend it enough. And I’m not even getting any inducements for that endorsement this time. Blimey, it must be good.
In fact this, alongside Wind in the Willows and The Magic Pudding, was one of the the first books I ever bought Amy. I wanted to pass on a sort of literary legacy of treasured books from my own childhood (I actually never owned a copy of Letters from Father Christmas, but I had it on almost permanent perpetual loan from the library).
But reading it with Amy has made me feel a little guilty. If I was a proper Dad shouldn’t I be lovingly crafting elaborate letters from Santa and weaving intricate fantasy worlds for my kids to explore?
Ok, perhaps I’m being a little hard on myself. In a battle of creativity between myself and J.R.R. Tolkien I’m pretty much always going to come in last (however he does lose a great many points for inventing Tom bloody Bombadil). The fact remains, however, that I’m not particularly good at using my creative urges for the benefit of my children.
Take art for example. We’ve been doing the majority of our Christmas shopping online this year, and consequently have been getting a fair few boxes through the post. Most have been those boring flat Amazon cardboard cartridge things, but on Monday one arrived that was almost the size of our kitchen.
Wrestling it from the postman my heart began to sink. This box was just too good to pass up. I was going to have to do something arty with the kids.
I know that will deeply shock all those creative wonder-parents out there who make twelve mobiles and fourteen pebble monsters with their kids before breakfast, but I really dislike doing messy craft stuff with my children and tend to avoid it as much as possible.
No one could accuse me of being house proud. In fact we generally ask visitors to keep on their shoes just in case our carpet gets their socks dirty. However there is something about Evan and Amy brandishing heavily laden paint brushes that brings out my inner Hyacinth Bucket.
I’m the same with other craft materials. I blame Steve Jobs. I once got told off by the man at the Apple shop for the amount of glitter secreted in the crevices of my Macbook and I’ve been traumatised about it ever since. Perhaps I should sue.
But as I say, this box was just too good to pass up. And so after school on Wednesday night out came the poster paints and the brushes and on went my calm parent poker face. After a number of heavy handed instructions about the necessity of not painting on the carpet, sofa, themselves, or each other we set to it.
And so now we have a huge multicolored box taking up about 45% of our living room’s floorspace. What’s more, because it’s the kids pride and joy we face an outright mutiny every time we suggest throwing it away.
But I have a cunning plan. I’m going to persuade Amy that if she writes her Christmas list on it and posts it off to Santa then its size and bright colors will ensure it stands out vividly against all the other children’s letters. Thus ensuring her the much coveted Puppy in my pocket pet paradise on Christmas day.
Kapow! Take that Tolkien! You might have the edge on creativity and quality, but my efforts far outstrip yours on the evil genius front.
Although there is still that Tom Bombadil thing. Curse your eyes Tolkien, you may have won again this time. But I’ll be back damn you, I’ll be back.