Decisions of Christmas morning

Published 12:05 am Friday, December 26, 2014

When I looked at the clock, the bright red numbers read 3:37.

I rubbed my eyes and looked again just to make sure I saw the numbers correctly.

Like the father and mother in the classic tale, “The Night Before Christmas,” my wife and I were settled down for a long winter’s nap when suddenly we were awakened by a clatter.

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It wasn’t the clicking of reindeer hooves on the roof or the sounds of Santa’s sleigh bells echoing in the cold night that jolted me from my Christmas morning slumber.

Hovering 5 inches from my face was my excited 5-year old son Gibson, bouncing up and down on the bed  — at 3:37 in the morning.

I knew he was excited. Gibson had been counting down the days for nearly a week, Since school ended, mornings began with the daily announcement of Santa’s impending arrival.

In the most recent days, Gibson spent considerable time taking inventory of the presents under the Christmas tree. The excitement ratcheted up when a couple of large gifts from his grandparents suddenly appeared with tags bearing his name.

Any other night of the year, Gibson would balk at the idea of getting a bath and going to bed. Christmas Eve was different. With the promise of Santa’s arrival, Gibson willingly and quickly prepared for sleep, even to the point of rushing my wife  and me from his darkened bedroom.

When I  kissed him goodnight and closed the bedroom door, I knew it was going to be an early awakening. Little did I know it would be at 3:37 a.m.

Barely lucid, I carefully considered my options.

I could send the bouncing boy back to his room, demanding that he go back to bed and wake up at a more reasonable hour. This option risked several trips back and forth from Gibson’s bedroom and a sleepless few hours. This worst-case scenario involved pleading, begging and crying — not the way I wanted to begin Christmas morning.

My second option was to  heed to Gibson’s pleas to get up and start unwrapping. I thought about it for a few foolish seconds, but then I considered what we would do after Santa’s deliveries were revealed and the rest of the gifts under the tree were unwrapped. What would we do with another couple of hours of darkness when most of the world was fast asleep?

As much as I wanted to see Gibson’s face light up at the sight of Santa’s presents under the tree, I also wanted sleep.

So I did what most any parent would do at 3 a.m., I played dead. I stalled in the hope that Gibson would fall back asleep. As I lay in bed listening to his pleadings, I waited and said nothing. I resisted to respond even when Gibson tried to pry open one of my eyes with his fingers. At that point, I thought getting up would be inevitable. Then, a minor Christmas miracle, I heard his heavy breathing by my side. I rolled over and fell asleep, visions of stockings to come dancing in my head.

Two and a half hours later a better-rested family opened presents by the Christmas tree. Gibson, though he wouldn’t admit it, needed those extra hours, and even stole a few more minutes in a mid-day car ride.

Here’s hoping that you and yours have had a long winter’s nap and a Merry Christmas.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at