No, it’s not socks, a bottle of scotch or a more manly nappy bag, Stephen Corby outlines what new dads would love to see under the Christmas tree.
Christmas really should be very near the top of the list of Things That Are Much Better After You Have Kids.
You’ll recall, of course, that Christmas was almost inestimably more exciting when you were a child than it’s been for your adult years, when it becomes more of a sizzled stuff-yourself-fest, splashed liberally with the sour milk of human unkindness that often erupts when families are brought together.
Fantastically, however, when you add young children to the mix, almost all of the magic comes back to the festive season — the extreme excitement of the countdown of days, marked by calendars with chocolates inside them, the unbearable build-up of Christmas Eve and then the pure joys of children opening their presents, probably before dawn, the next morning. And the comic irony of discovering that they’re more excited about the wrapping paper than what’s inside.
It’s not all better, of course, because as much as we’re expected to spout the lie that Christmas is all about giving rather than receiving, getting presents is great and the gifts you get as a dad are about to take a detour into Dire Town.
Those cliches about socks and hankies have been propping up the Christmas specials of sitcoms forever for a reason.
Perhaps it’s a sign that people genuinely think your life is over, so they may as well buy you things that will make the downward slide more comfortable — like slippers and bathrobes — or perhaps you just need to make more noise about what you’d really like to find under the tree.
Here, then, is our helpful-to-leave-lying-around list of Nine Things Dads Actually Want for Christmas.
1. Boxing Day
It used to be, arguably, the greatest day of the year, before you had children. A long run of lazing in front of the cricket, drinking the oversupply of beer from the day before and scoffing leftover ham on toast, bread, a tower of turkey or whatever else is in the fridge at regular intervals. This was also the one day of the entire calendar when it was acceptable for a grown man to take a little nap.
Somehow, sadly, all that goes south once children arrive. Yes, you might get to see the first ball, or even the first session, but otherwise you’re expected to interact with your children, and their toys (some of which you’ll still be working out how to put together) on what should be a wholly blokey day. So, truly, more than anything else, this is what I’d like for Christmas — just give me back Boxing Day.
It’s only one day, I worked hard, and long, yesterday, taking out recycling and so forth, so can I just have this one day of the year for me? Feel free to present this as a gift voucher, stuffed inside a new stubble holder. That would be a nice touch.
2. A bigger, better BBQ
Look, this might be just me, but I doubt it. Last year, my wife gave me a big, black and utterly bonzer new BBQ for Christmas, and I loved it dearly, so much so that I didn’t even complain about having to put the bloody thing together myself.
The simple fact is that men love barbecuing, and that once you’re a parent, and thus staying home a lot more often than you go out, you’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to master the art. And if you’re willing to MacGyver the shit out of it, you can probably even heat up bottles of formula on there, somehow.
3. A massage (no, not that kind)
Look, I’m just going to put it out there — most men who claim they don’t like massages, spa treatments and even facials are either lying, or they just haven’t been brave enough to try them yet.
After a long year of long nights and wee in the face and poo under your fingernails and being mocked for not being able to put nappies on properly, it would be really nice just to get away for an hour to do something decadent.
If you’re dealing with the kind of bloke who rates around the David Boon end of the masculinity scale and derides such behaviour as “soft’, get him an extreme Thai massage, so he can tell you afterwards how brave and steadfast he was under torture.
4. A kids’ toy (for you)
Look, one of the best things about having kids is that you get to behave like one again. And, frankly, children’s toys these days are so amazing that it can make you feel a little annoyed about how deprived your own childhood was.
Fortunately, you can do something about it, by claiming that you only want some ostensibly childish toy so you can use it to play with your kids. Effectively it’s for them, not you, but you know that’s not true.
This year I’m very much hoping for one of those laser-strike kits, because the fact that you can play this truly awesome game at home these days is almost too cool to be true. In past years, I have sought (well, heavily hinted) things like a hugely powerful water pistol (actually, it’s a crossbow), so that no matter what happens in our backyard, I will always be Undisputed King of the water wars.
5. Go on, take the piss out of me
Look, you’re a Dad now, and we can all see there’s humour in that. Buying me plain, business socks or a hankie and calling this a gift from my child is not funny, however, it’s just lazy.
It’s easy enough to go the extra mile and come up with some “Sandals Socks”, which cleverly make it look like you’re wearing this dreaded combination, when in fact they’re just cleverly decorated socks. If you ever do look down and find yourself wearing actual sandals with actual socks, of course, you should seek help immediately.
A hilarious “heat-changing girls’ strip mug”, or perhaps a slightly classier one with some witty quote like “I am your farter”, or even The Very Embarrassing Book of Dad Jokes could also work.
6. A weekend away with the boys
Yes, it’s Christmas, and we’ll dream if we want to. Honestly, if you were still allowed to sit on Santa’s knee, isn’t this one of the things you’d ask for?
As discussed here at DAD, having children can not only put strain on your relationships with your mates, it can bring them to a brutal and hurtful end, but it only takes one weekend away — playing golf, fishing, sitting inside telling old war stories and singing Flame Trees — to keep those friendships alive.
Presented as a voucher, redeemable once and only once over the next year, this could well be the perfect Christmas gift for a Dad.
7. Cricket tickets (there’s a theme here)
Admittedly, this might be a big-city item, but tickets to the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, or a one-dayer in Adelaide or Sydney, really are the gift of hope. A day out of unsurpassed sporting joy that you can count down to. Sure, the live cricket experience isn’t what it was back before the fun police hired RSA officers to squeeze the fun right out of it, but it’s still pretty damn wonderful.
For those few, weird men who don’t like cricket, you can, of course, substitute tickets to some other sporting event that they would like. Or even a non-sporting event like MMA fighting, for the hard nuts.
8. Something insane (jump out of a plane)
The feeling that your wild and stupid days are behind you can be a little alarming, and more than a tad depressing, so perhaps now is the time to do something seemingly dangerous, a bit edgy and lifted from your bucket list. Just to show that the beating heart of a lion is still buried in your Dad chest, somewhere.
Depending what you’ve already done, a tandem-parachute day, a bungee jump or a trip to Spain to run with the bulls in Pamplona should work. Let’s face it, experiences make far better gifts than things do.
9. Intimacy (on any day)
Not to put too fine a point on it, but there hasn’t been quite as much of it around since the children arrived, and something like this can really brighten up Christmas Day. Or any day for that matter.
I don’t want to suggest, for one moment, that men are overly focussed on sex but show me a bloke who wouldn’t like some intimacy for Christmas and I’ll show you a goddamn liar.