My mother has many arcane Christmas traditions, but one of my favorites is her annual cookie-painting party, when our young relations come over to consume unlimited quantities of sugar in dough, icing, and sprinkle form. Then the kids run shrieking around the house, ripping candy canes from the Advent calendar and festively knocking things over, while Mom and I chug mimosas in the kitchen.

A palette of cookie icing, which also doubles as soup.

A palette of Mom’s cookie icing, recognized by the children as a soup tasting.

I seem to remember the cookie-painting party being less chaotic in previous years. Now that we’re training the older kids to look after the younger kids, however, Mom and I are under a mandate to do whatever the opposite of helicopter parenting is, for the sake of teaching the children self-sufficiency. You know, like they do in France. (The opposite of helicopter parenting might be champagne.)

Shortie supervises the older girls' baking skills.

Shortie supervises the older girls’ baking skills. She knows that eventually all the fruits of their labor will be hers.

Despite the rampage that ensued shortly after the disappearance of the first reindeer cookies (barely recognizable as iconic animals under their puddles of green and pink icing), Matt still managed to capture some tender moments. Then I think he fled to the garage, where my brothers were also wisely hiding from the children.

See, they don't need adult supervision!

See, they don’t need adult supervision! Kids raise themselves these days.

She might look innocent, but reserve judgment until you check her pockets for candy canes.

She might look innocent, but reserve judgment until you check her pockets for candy canes.

Mom thinks the party is proceeding calmly until she hears the crash from the next room.

Mom still thinks she’s in control, but it’s been a while since she checked the living room, where a literal circus tent has appeared, and my oldest nephew is making fervent siren noises.

If I wanted to eat a cookie, it was necessary to physically detain my competition.

If I wanted a cookie, it was necessary to physically detain my competition.

“I’ve only eaten five Christmas trees so far! That means I still get ten more!” (I love that my sister holds her bun in place with a sharpened pencil. You’d think this would indicate she’d be stricter with the icing, but no.)