I usually like ‘em tall, but this guy stands at just three and a half feet. He loves trains, Legos, chocolate milk, and farting in the bathtub.

Christmas is an important time of year for me. Not because of the whole baby Jesus thing, but because I get to spend some quality time with my baby boy. (Side joke: What’s the one thing Max and Jesus have in common? During both their births, there was an ass in the room. Just kidding, honey.) After 350+ days of working and parenting and trying to ignore the voices in my head screaming “bad mommy!” and “bad wife!” and “bad daughter!”,  I need this breather. Ten days to sit around in fat pants, eat cookies, and open my eyes to the joy right in front of me – not the joy-to-the-world yuletide crap, but the joy (the boy!) that did spring from mine virgin loins. (Just go with it.)

Max is three and a half now, so we’ve had four Christmases together so far. I know that math seems fucked up, but during his first Christmas he was, in whole-number years, age zero. Eight months, to be exact. Picture a drunk midget in a crusty sweater. I tried to find a photo of him under the tree or on Santa’s knee, but all I could find was this one, taken right after sweet baby Hannibal ate his first liver.

His second Christmas, he was a tree-tipping toddler on crack. Don’t be deceived by the angelic face below. Lucifer and Danny Bonaduce also looked like this as children.

Last year, our third Christmas together, he was a bumbling two-year-old with about 20 words in his vocabulary. Just enough to be dangerous – and perpetually frustrated. In spite of his toddler angst, this ginger sure could take a great ginger snap.

This Christmas, at age three and two-thirds, he was absolutely perfect. All the holiday hoopla was finally starting to make sense to him: why there’s a tree in the living room, why we make him sit on the lap of a creepy old dude in a red suit, why he needs to be a good boy all year — so Santa doesn’t fill his stocking with coal from the quarry and leave the trains he asked for at the North Pole, of course. Yes indeed, all the lies and deceit were finally starting to come together in his wee little head. High fives.

For ten days, without work or distraction, I got to see who Max really is. And man, he is really something. I mean seriously, your kid is a total loser compared to mine. I’m kidding. Please keep reading.

Last Christmas, asking him to sit with me and write a letter to Santa was like asking a honey badger to make me some tea. This year, we cozied up together at the kitchen table and he thoughtfully dictated his letter to me. He asked for three things only, never changing his mind. Some kids’ lists are epic and change daily, those greedy and indecisive little monsters. At the end of his letter, he reminded Santa to bring food to the “boys and grills who don’t got no food.” Not just any food though – “raisin bread and suckers.” That’ll cure the cholera. He also insisted his letter be signed, “Love, Muffin.” Don’t ask.

Not so long ago, he was a rude little jerk. I’d take him to the store where some nice sales lady would grin at him and say, “Aw, would you just look at the curls!” I’d smile politely while Max scowled and darted his foot toward her face. I once took him to a clinic and when the nurse came in to greet us Max said, loud and clear, “I DON’T WANT THAT ONE.” He had been tended to by a younger, prettier nurse during his previous visit and Pervo Ginger wanted an encore. Now, he is incredibly polite. (Yes, in spite of me.) His reaction to every gift he opened this year, be it toys or tube socks, was an enthusiastic “Wowwww!” And he remembers exactly who gave him what. As I was helping him pull on his Thomas the Tank Engine slippers last night I asked him, “Do you remember who gave you these slippers, buddy?” I thought he might say Santa, without thinking. “Aunt Robin,” he said. She sure did.

There was a time when he resisted all affection. He was just too busy pulling the dog’s tail and swinging from doorknobs to hug or kiss or cuddle. Now, he is full of love and gives it away freely. Ask for a hug and before you’ve finished the question he’s halfway across the room with his arms open wide. He does a quick lipstick check first though; if your lips are bright red, fergetaboutit, hooker. When I help him out of his pajama shirt in the morning, his hands holding onto my shoulders for balance, he comes in for a hug just because he feels like it. Sometimes, mid-embrace, he softly says, “mommy…” like he has just rediscovered that I’m his mom and he’s pretty pumped about it.

He is smart. He can count to eleventeen. He doesn’t have his alphabet down pat yet and he still thinks we live in “Torbag,” but I know he’s sharp as a tack. One day when I heard him say “fucker,” I immediately scolded him: “Now mister, what did you just say?” As quick as a fox, he replied, “Sucker, I said sucker.” Yes, I’m sure you did. Working on your Santa letter, I suppose.

And damn, he’s hilarious. His latest schtick is taking off all his clothes and marching around the house chanting, “hand-some, hand-some, hand-some…” Clearly, his band instrument is the kazoo. It’s like some baby bootcamp hazing ritual taking place in our living room.

Yeah, yeah, I know every parent says their kid is the bomb and of course we’re all right. But I think it’s important for me, of all people, to declare my kid’s awesomeness because I spend so much time likening him to Satan. It’s not that I didn’t love the little devil before now. Of course I did. But up until recently, it was like loving a raving lunatic. Imagine trying to cuddle a school of capelin, or dress a huge harbour tomcod, or kiss a flatty on a prong. (Sorry – fish theme.) He was just doing what toddlers do: exploring a strange new world with all his ginger might – limbs flailing, teeth gnashing, mommy cracking. I guess you could say: I loved him completely, but I didn’t completely like him. Maybe he was always this rad and I’ve just been too busy to see it. Hard to see things clearly with your head up your ass. Or maybe I’m finally starting to forgive him for tearing me a new one.

Don’t get me wrong, Turbo Ginger has his moments. And I’m glad; where else am I going to get my material? I don’t plan to write my second book about motherhood’s rainbows and butterflies. It’ll be much like my first book where the only butterflies are the moths that took up residence in my vaginal scar tissue.

Max made this my best Christmas ever. You know, if I ignore the fact that my dad is dead, stuff like that. Funny I should mention that though because, feeling about Max as I do, I better understand how my dad felt about me. And how my mom stills does. (Let’s leave my domestic shortcomings out of this, mom.)

I’ve experienced all kinds of love. Love among friends. The love of men. Many, many, many men. Call me a cynic, but it’s never a sure thing. Shit happens. I think the love between my dog and I is pretty pure, but I also know she’d drop me like a wet mitt for a grilled cheese sandwich. This love for Max is perfect. It’s not without frustration and chaos and shit and puke, but somehow it’s perfect nonetheless. He’s perfect. And to think, this perfect little person entered the world via my trés imperfect fur biscuit. Oh the irony.

These days, I come home from work, more excited than ever to see him. I flash him a silly look and watch his lips stretch across his face, revealing every tooth in his wooly little head. His eyes narrow and twinkle, bracing themselves for the quake of his belly laugh that’s certainly on its way, possibly with a fart in tow. Oh Max. He at once picks me up and makes me fall to pieces.

One day he’ll think I’m a total dork, and run off with some beautiful girl and break my heart. So I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts. I’m going to keep hugging him and kissing him and twirling him around the living room to songs like this one, stepping on train tracks and Legos while an excited dog nips at our ankles. It’s a song about lovers, but I think it works for us too. I’m his mama and he’s my baby — the mother bloggin’ love of my life.