The Christmas season always inspires plenty of nostalgia, and this year I’m finding myself dwelling in the bittersweet just a little more than usual. One of my kids has already asked for the Santa talk, though his twin is asking to be excluded from all Santa discussions because she wants “to keep the mystery.” A.K.A., THEY KNOW. But maybe the biggest indicator that my kids are leaving a part of their childhoods behind is knowing that this year is the last year for our read-aloud Advent calendar, at least in the format we’ve always enjoyed it in.
We started our read-aloud calendar, one of our most favorite traditions, when my babies were infants and we were living in New Mexico. That first year, I scrambled to gather up twenty-four books. Then it was such a relief when, from 1,600 miles away, my mother volunteered the Christmas books from my own childhood. It felt like letting my children play with my old friends. And the price tags… Golden Books from stores long shuttered for just .79. The days that we chanced to open one of those old books was like a brief little trip in a time machine.
We chugged along for a few years, with me stealing minutes during nap times to wrap up the books that were becoming my own children’s reliable friends, sometimes swapping in a shiny new candidate to replace a tired book that was ready to give up its career of being handled by sweet, grubby little hands.
Then we arrived in the years when peek-a-boo books and chubby board books no longer seemed appropriate. They were exchanged for longer texts that suited growing attention spans. It was sad to say goodbye, but it was also exciting to see my children developing as readers.
And now this year. Over this past year, my second graders have nearly completely graduated from picture books. We’ve read, by my own estimation, an impressively long list of children’s novels together, and, while independent reading is still developing, their ear reading comprehension rivals the high school freshmen I used to teach.
So I know that this is the last year our little Christmas book collection will be enough. I know that next year these books will seem babyish, like a step backward, like an insult to their rapidly growing abilities. They’ll insist on chapter books, as they should. The thing is, though, that chapter books don’t exactly lend themselves to the goal of daily completion.
But I’ve loved it. We’ve loved it. So much.
After I stash our collection away after the Christmas season this year, I’ll begin to think about next year, about how our read-aloud Advent calendar might evolve, might somehow grow with my babies.
This year, I’ll silently say goodbye to each book, silently say goodbye to this tradition as we know it, silently say goodbye to this particular sweet season of life.