12+ Unlike my son, born in the era of digital cameras and phones, there are few photos of me from my childhood years and fewer of me as a teenager. I have one with my mother and two brothers, taken on Xmas Day 1978 when I was a surly long-haired sixteen-year-old. It's a shock for this middle-aged dad to look at the photo and realise that my teenage son, Jaiden, is also sixteen this Xmas!
To help me cope with the shock, I thought I'd look back over the sixteen Xmases I've had with Jaiden since his birth in 2002. The following are extracts from my diaries (I'm forever grateful for my diary writing habit!) with treasured Xmas snapshots. Apart from Xmas Day itself, I've noticed a recurring theme runs through the diary entries, especially after 2004 — see if you can spot it …
December 25 2002 (Sydney, NSW)
Jaiden's first Xmas. His early waking gave us a reason to get up and open presents. Jaiden seemed to enjoy the unwrapping as much as the presents themselves — especially eating the wrapping paper (and a CD gift voucher!). Harry enjoyed chewing his present, too, a rawhide bone, before burying it in the back garden — he returned inside covered in sand, dust and cobwebs. I enjoyed our first Xmas Day walk with Jaiden and Harry in Centennial Park.
December 25 2003 (Kangaroo Valley, NSW)
Woke to a "white Xmas", our farm-stay cabin shrouded in a misty fog. It made for an eery and wet walk through the paddocks to the creek with Jaiden and Harry. The mist burned off during breakfast, and afterwards, we opened our Xmas presents. Jaiden got spoiled but soon lost interest, showing signs of tiredness. So we took a break for his morning nap. And in the afternoon, Nanny and I took Jaiden to a beach on the Shoalhaven River. Nanny's new bucket and spade got a lot of use.
December 25 2004 (Maclean, NSW)
Jaiden's big cousins woke very early and were sent back to bed at 1 AM! Jaiden woke at 6 AM, had a "good morning" chat with mum and dad and then trotted off to see his grandma. He hadn't realised the Xmas stocking sitting on the end of his bed was full of gifts, but his cousins soon educated him. All had a great time pulling out and unwrapping the goodies from Santa. And then we moved on to opening the family presents under the Xmas tree.
December 25 2005 (Orient Point, NSW)
Jaiden woke very early (it was still dark outside) and came into our bedroom to tell us there was a sack from Santa on his bed. Fortunately, we talked him into going back to bed until 6 AM. It was a (bleary-eyed) joy watching Jaiden pull presents from his Santa sack. However, as much as he seemed to enjoy each gift, he'd toss it aside and unwrap another one — it was like watching a feeding frenzy. And when he had emptied the sack, he was eager to move on to the Xmas tree!
December 25 2006 (Culburra Beach, NSW)
Jaiden was up first and raced into our bedroom with his Santa sack. Thus began another orgy of present opening, first Santa's sack and then, all too swiftly, the Xmas tree. We had planned to stretch out Jaiden's present unwrapping over a few days. But it seems Santa and mum and dad weren't as generous this year because a) Jaiden unwrapped his last present by mid-afternoon, and b) he complained his Santa sack hadn't been overflowing!
December 25 2007 (Perth, WA)
Jaiden woke at 3:30 AM (Perth time, 5:30 AM in Sydney) and wanted to explore his Santa sack. So I felt around, selected one present, a Cars DVD, and flopped with him on Poppy's sofa to watch it. Thankfully Cars took Jaiden's mind off his Santa sack until dawn. Once again, he seemed excited by Santa's gifts, as he was later when his uncles arrived and we opened the Xmas tree presents. Goodness knows how we will fit everything in our bags for the flight back to Sydney!
December 25 2008 (Culburra Beach, NSW)
Plan for a reasonable start almost worked, but Jaiden still woke early, asking me to remind him what time he could open his Santa sack presents. Eventually gave up and let him lug it onto our bed. Lovely to see Jaiden so excited by Santa's choices. In fact, thanks to Santa's thoughtful gifts, we didn't move on to the Xmas tree until after lunch. Jaiden's only grumble was about The Muppet Christmas Carol DVD (Bah, humbug!). But we still enjoyed watching it in the evening.
December 25 2009 (Perth, WA)
Woken in the pre-dawn Perth darkness by the sound of a spoon chinking in a cereal bowl. Thankfully we talked Jaiden back into bed until 6 AM. And yet, it was worth getting up to watch the joy on his face as he reached into his Santa sack (like a lucky dip). After breakfast with the family, we opened presents from under Poppy's Xmas tree. Jaiden was very excited to unwrap his Star Wars Lego and the Indiana Jones trifecta of Lego, PC game and DVD box-set.
December 25 2010 (Culburra Beach, NSW)
Jaiden kept his promise, opening one present from his Santa sack on waking at 6 AM and the rest at 7 AM — though he kept checking with me for the time! He was pleased with the haul from Santa (as we were with his response) but was still keen to open presents under the Xmas tree. Jaiden and I had fun unwrapping our surfboards in the backyard. Unfortunately, waves at the beach were dumpy, and every time we managed to catch one, we'd fall off our boards.
December 25 2011 (Culburra Beach, NSW)
Late-night Xmas Eve meant Jaiden "slept in", not appearing until 7 AM, having opened only one present from Santa, but eager for more. He plundered his Santa sack on our bed, happy with its contents. Kane from next door joined us downstairs and helped Jaiden open his Xmas tree presents. Both boys very good at guessing contents before unwrapping them — I have suspicions of some pre-Xmas poking and prodding under the tree!
December 25 2012 (Culburra Beach, NSW)
Jaiden stuck to the deal on 5 AM and 6 AM presents (one per hour from his Santa sack) but forgot we didn't want status updates. I'd just dozed off again and was enjoying a pleasant dream about dear old Harry when Jaiden woke me with his Santa sack at 7 AM. He looked happy with this year's haul but still keen to start on Xmas tree presents. Remote control car proved popular — shame it needed several hours charging before he could play with it ("Dad!").
December 25 2013 (Sydney, NSW)
Jaiden up ridiculously early (again!). Agreed to one present from Santa, which kept him amused for about 15 minutes before he stuck his head in our bedroom to see if we were awake. And the next minute, he was sitting with us in bed, plundering his Santa sack. He seemed happy but was keen to head downstairs to open the HUGE present he'd seen behind the Xmas tree. Sadly Xmas Day drizzle prevented us from setting up his basketball hoop and backboard.
December 25 2014 (Sydney, NSW)
It was a very late night for Santa after our Xmas Eve flight back from Perth, waiting for Jaiden to doze off. And then he was up at stupid o'clock, dragging his Santa sack into our bedroom. "Jeez," he commented, "I must have been naughty this year. Santa's filled my sack full of coal!" Postponed Xmas tree presents until after we'd collected Jet from the dog sitter. Like dear old Harry, Jet was as interested in opening presents from under the tree as Jaiden.
December 25 2015 (Sydney, NSW)
I was up wrapping presents until past midnight – Merry Xmas! Council garbage trucks were busy (and noisy) in our street from 6 AM. Jaiden was up at 6:30 AM, playing with his first present from the Santa sack, bongo drums (stupid Santa!). Gave up trying to sleep and joined him downstairs. This year he was keen to give mum and dad his presents to us from under the Xmas tree. A toasted sandwich maker for mum and a portable "sandwich" LP record player for dad!
December 25 2016 (Maclean, NSW)
After a "difficult" Xmas Eve, it was the first Xmas when mum and dad woke before Jaiden. I went for a walk on my own, taking in calming views of the broad Clarence River and northern rivers' big skies. Surprised to find Jaiden still asleep when I returned. He finally woke and investigated his Santa sack. Unimpressed with Santa this year, Jaiden circled the Xmas tree like a carnivore stalking game until he got the okay to pounce. Gaming headphones were a winner.
December 25 2017 (Sydney, NSW)
For the second Xmas, Jaiden was not up at the crack of dawn to open his presents. Instead, he appeared from his room around 8 AM and held off plundering his Santa sack until I'd fetched Xmas coffees from our local (legend!) barista. Jaiden said he was happy with his Santa sack and Xmas tree haul. But the excitement of Xmas morning seems to have waned for him (and me). Said he was looking forward to the Boxing Day Sales!
Did you spot it?
Yes, Santa and mum and dad have spoiled Jaiden rotten over the years. We could probably have stocked a Toys R Us store with all the presents Jaiden's received in his Santa sack and under the Xmas tree — erm, on second thoughts, maybe an online toy store!
It is interesting to see how the Xmas morning "frenzy" has settled over the past couple of years, as Jaiden has got older and perhaps more discerning — or just less keen on toys and, sadly, books.
My wishlist for this Xmas is that my sixteen-year-old son enjoys the presents he gets from "Santa" and from under the Xmas tree. And that when we take a family photo, he looks (and feels!) happier than the surly sixteen-year-old me did back in 1976.
One thing's for sure: however Xmas turns out, I will be taking a photo and writing it up in my diary!
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Jaiden didn't appear from his room until 8:12 AM and flopped beside us on the sofa to open his Santa sack presents. Only a few goodies this year. But he was happy with the contents and appreciated Santa's joke of re-wrapping the unopened Lego models from last year. As with previous years, Jaiden was keen to open his presents under our make-shift AirBnB Xmas tree, especially the bulky parcel, which he knew would be his requested camping hammock.
December 25 2019 (Margaret River, WA)
Jaiden had a late night with his young adult cousins and friends, so he slept in on Xmas Day again — unlike his excited three-year-old cousin, who was up at 5 AM. When Jaiden finally woke, he found Santa had left a stocking of presents beside his hammock. I fetched a couple of chairs for mum and dad, and we unwrapped our Santa presents outside. Jaiden thought it funny mum got a Lego pen holder for her desk. "Perhaps Santa thought you could help her build it?" I suggested.
December 25 2020 (Sydney, NSW)
Joked with the manager of the local coffee shop, who has an eight-year-old son, "Do you know the difference between eight and eighteen-year-olds?" Jaiden had banned me from waking him before 11 AM! Thankfully, he appeared at 9:30. However, young adult Jaiden was more interested in Weetbix than opening his Santa sack. When we eventually started on the presents, he appreciated the "grown-up" savoury snacks, chocolates and Hard Quiz book. And then Jaiden gave me his gift to me from under the Xmas tree: the Hard Quiz board game!
December 25 2021 (Sydney, NSW)
Not the Xmas we'd planned, with COVID casual and close contacts and a confirmed case scuppering Sydney family get together. However, we still had our morning ritual of opening presents from Santa's Sack (a bottle of Bailey's proved popular with grown-up Jaiden) before moving onto the Xmas tree. And we caught up with extended family and friends on the phone and via Facebook and texts. And, as usual, there was way too much to eat and drink. So even if it was spent in isolation, it still felt like Xmas. My twentieth with Jaiden!
N.B. My Xmas Day diary entries also mention two of our dogs: Harry, who was three when Jaiden was born in 2002 and passed away in 2011, and Jet, who was two-and-half when we adopted him in 2014. We put presents for both dogs under our Xmas tree.
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Australian Writers' Centre's Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.