The Christmastime Joy of Borrowing Children


Your child is adorable. I do not have one. It's Christmas. Please share?

It's one week til Christmas -- and I'm totally broke. It's all the little presents. The little hats shaped like animals. Countless picture books that were too adorable to pass up. Tutus, stripy tights, mittens in the shape of dinosaurs, stuffed puppies I couldn't resist. I have a problem. And I don't even have children.

But I do have a little brother. He's five. And when it comes to his Christmas, I may have put Santa to shame. But I can't help it. When you're a 31-year-old female and living on a military base, you're one of the rare few to not have a gaggle of your own in tow. And sometimes, even though you don't have one of your own, you still want to hang out with someone who really believes that Santa is real.

Holidays can be hard in general, especially when you're far from your family. But to be surrounded by dozens of happy children hyped up on Christmas cookies at the mandatory Christmas party when you don't have any of your own? And to watch every vintage Christmas special on TV wishing you had someone to share it with, or at least some other, reasonable excuse for watching it? Being childless -- especially if you want children but don't yet have them -- can seem a lot harder at Christmas than it does the rest of the year.

Because Christmas with children -- small people who don't question the magic and have real, earnest questions about how the reindeer got those silly names and exactly how one might operate a night mission with a lightbulb red nose -- seems so much more fun.

And this is why I'm always grateful my father didn't stop having kids. When it comes time for Christmas, I've always got a kid I can borrow. He's eager, adorable, and happy to be the center of my attention. And that's something his mom -- who is exhausted from actually taking such good care of him all the time -- is equally happy to let him be with me.

Here are things I have generally learned to be true from all my mother friends: They are exhausted.  Their to-do list is longer than I could have ever imagined. They consider a trip to the grocery store without eight little hands pawing at every fruit snack and cookie they see a vacation. And they might be inclined to say "yes" to a little help with the kiddos.

And this time of year, I'm happy to step in. For cookie decorating, story reading, ice skating, snowman building, holiday anything, I'm your girl. Raleigh-Elizabeth, Babysitter for Hire. Rates: Will pay all expenses for your adorable child, if I can just borrow her for an hour.

I can't wait until next week when I can spend a full day hanging out with my kid brother outside, weighing the merits of rolling our snowballs into snowmen or packing the snow in with our hands. I can't wait to debate the general usefulness of legos over duplos, hear the fascinating operational abilities of a front hoe loader, and whisper that I' just saw an elf hiding behind a pine tree in the back yard. Celebrating in his childhood with him lets us in on some of the joyful Christmas cheer we'd otherwise be missing, and that's something we can all enjoy.

As we've navigated the often-tricky road to expanding our own family, borrowing children we love from other parents in our life has been a blessing, especially this time of year. We pick out "I love Santa" diaper covers for our friends with babies, and we go as nuts over their adorable Christmas card photos as they do. We're happy to help with ideas for the elf on the shelf, and we're always ready to take the kids ice skating one more time. Because even though we're childless in our own family, we're never childless this time of year.

If you don't have kids of your own, have you found a happy way to celebrate the youthful fun of Christmas? Do you borrow little friends for some little-person holiday play time, or do you just spike the nog a little more?

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