There’s No L (But There’s So Much Noel) in Greyson

Our 5-year-old has an odd, endearing, and exhausting obsession.

I’m out of the loop and don’t know what most kids his age are enamored of in 2022. But I’m guessing the list would include some video games (is Fortnite still a thing?), some Marvel superheroes (I hear that kindergartners go to PG-13 movies now?), and some toys that I’m not aware exist since we don’t have cable and thus don’t keep up with the commercial circuit.

But do you know what our Greyson can’t pry himself away from? What he has loved more than anything else for 3 full months? What consumes much of his play time, both by himself and with his little sister?

Christmas carols. That’s right. Yuletide songs. The first, second, and third noels — along with all the rest.

It’s a genre of music which is quite charming, but which most adults would strongly prefer to be sequestered to a 1-month period. Heck, some people would vote for a 2-week limit due to how these songs ruthlessly pummel our eardrums into cheerfully mandated submission during that period.

But Greyson doesn’t share that sense of restraint. He doesn’t honor holiday boundaries. He’s a Christmas universalist, if you will.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Joy to the World. Deck the Halls. Jingle Bells. O Christmas Tree. O Come All Ye Faithful. O Little Town of Bethlehem. Pretty much all the songs that begin with the old-fashioned word “O,” it O-ccurs to me. (O brother, I know.)

He knows all of those, but he also knows about obscure Christmas songs that neither of his parents (or just about anyone else’s parents) have ever heard. 18th century relics that no one but those seeking a doctorate in this realm (the realms of glory, if you will) would likely be familiar with.

Greyson is basically a graduate student in canonical Yuletide music. Is this offered as a major at any bastions of higher learning? Maybe I should encourage him to submit an application to Yale’s music department. Or to write a thesis, just for fun.

We hear these songs recited dozens of times a day, in Greyson’s sweet little voice. He sings them. He reads them in a spoken-word style. He dissects their verse/chorus structure and notifies us when a song doesn’t seem to have a traditional chorus, or when different songbooks show different numbers of verses. He verbally deconstructs the rhythm and meter, and then reconstructs them in offbeat ways.

He and Violet also like to pretend they’re going to the Christmas songbook store. When it’s closed, they go to a different Christmas songbook store. (It’s apparently a national chain that’s open year-round. Doesn’t seem like a good business model to me, but I’m no venture caplitalist.)

Our little carolers even use these songs as characters in their various stories and imaginings. We’ll hear them in the other room talking about how Hark the Herald is having a birthday party, or Joy to the World is going to Hersheypark. They’ve essentially brought these songs to life. They’re like the Victor (and Violet) Frankenstein of Christmas.

Greyson has always been a boy who is deeply, exquisitely devoted to one fixation at a time. When he was 1½, he had a car or truck in his hand everywhere he went, all the time. He always wanted to read car and truck books, and he had every single type of truck memorized by the time he was 2. When he was 2½, he became obsessed with animals. Every imaginable toy animal or animal book was his prized possession, and he would even carefully read the index at the back of each animal encyclopedia. When he was 3½, birds became his specialty. He devoted himself to learning every imaginable bird, and he grew into a bona fide expert who was known to run the table on avian-themed Jeopardy categories. And now that he’s 5½, his obsession du jour (du year?) is Christmas carols.

I know Hitchcock would warn against this, but… can we maybe invite the birds back?

Because here’s the not-all-that-surprising thing: Christmas carols are exhausting to hear for 3 months straight. For 4 decades I have loved most of the songs Greyson sings. But by about mid-February I started not loving them so much. “Joy to the World” doesn’t bring me quite as much joy as it did in December, sometimes I wish I’d never heard those Angels on High, and I have to admit: I wouldn’t mind silencing “Silent Night.” At least for the next 8 months or so.

But in my better moments, my moments of wider perspective, I remind myself that it’s a gift to have such a sweetly innocent 5-year-old. A peaceful boy who has never witnessed a violent act (other than an occasional predator/prey snack in a nature documentary) and has virtually no aggression in his body. A goofy boy who loves to sing all the high notes and has no concept of trying to be cool or relevant. A boy of simple pleasures who is ambivalent to screens, and obsessed with reading Christmas sheet music.

I have sometimes found myself saying “Greyson, stop looking at your Christmas carols and try to focus on this show! Reading Rainbow is really cool!” I never imagined that my parental struggle would be trying to get my child to watch more television.

So I’ve learned that having a Yuletide-loving 5-year-old is both a blessing and an (admittedly very minor) curse. I know that when he’s 13 and wouldn’t be caught dead singing a Christmas song to himself, I will ache for these simple days when he didn’t have an ounce of jadedness or self-consciousness. And I will ache to hear that adorable little voice singing “Fa la la la la… la la la la.”

So here at 6:59am, I will brace myself for the next round of Away in a Mangers and O Little Town of Bethlehems. Which will invariably bubble out of his mouth once he wakes up in a few minutes, we read our (thankfully non-Christmas-themed) books, and he gets acclimated to the day.

And when he belts out that first bar of Deck the Halls, I will try to be grateful for the simplicity of our kids who never, ever, ever tire of Christmas songs.

It’s almost April, and we all know that singing Christmas songs after January should be a felony.

But you do you, Greyson. And you too, Violet.

I’ll let you both off because you’re minors.

And because I love you both majorly.

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